Listening Conferences

School starts for students on Monday. Today was our Open House. For the past 21 years for me, this has been a day on which families came through to learn who their child’s teacher will be and to visit the classroom. They could also visit the school library, music rooms, art rooms, gym, and more. It is usually a one-hour to four-hour window. It is also usually chaotic and exhausting. It usually just means kids have time to say hello to their teacher and look around the classroom a bit. Parents get a brief chance to chat with the teacher as well. I’m always glad to meet my students and their families and get something of a sense of what our year will be.

My school decided to do something different this year. Our school has between 900 and 1,000 students in pre-K through 3. It’s huge. Having that many families come through is definitely chaotic, even if you have a long time period for it. So we opted for Listening Conferences instead.

Every family got a link to a sign up for a 15 minute session between 9 and 12 or 1 and 6 today to meet one-on-one with their teacher. The goal of the conference is for the teacher to learn about the student from the family. We asked questions such as:

  • What is your child good at?
  • What does your child enjoy doing in their free time?
  • What kind of environment does your child feel most comfortable in?
  • What is hard for your child?
  • How does your child handle frustration?
  • What are your biggest hopes/goals for your child this year?

I had Listening Conferences with 17 of my 23 students and their families. Many came with siblings. The kids had time to wander our classroom and check things out. Some students jumped in during our discussion. Others seemed to prefer checking out the room over talking with us. I have copious notes about my students now. I have some sense of their strengths, both academic and not. I have a picture of who they are and who their family is.

Most of my students will be at our school all year. As we have between and 30% and 40% mobility rate, that is no small thing. I feel exceptionally lucky to know that I will get to work with most of these families and students all year. I’m already attached to them.

My school is still very new to me. I didn’t know the second grade teachers families and students referred to in our conferences. I couldn’t answer what our birthday protocols are for the mom who asked as her child’s birthday is the first day of school. (I have checked on that and will email her tonight or tomorrow.) I definitely don’t know the lingo and acronyms of the military. I have much to learn and I am excited about it all.

from Flickinpicks Flickr and totally me all day today.

One reply

  1. Charlene O'Brien says:

    You’ve started your year with families in such a great way. Good job school! Good job, you! We have to get to know one another if we are really going to work together. How do we not make time to meet with families and talk about their children? We just have to do it. We get to do it. I am looking forward to talking about this more with you.

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