Student conferences provide opportunities for teachers to collaborate and communicate with their students in meaningful ways while developing trust.
In the great, big world of large class size and the need to adhere to a specific scope and sequence, teachers are not always able to forge strong individual relationships with their students. Through implementing student conferences, teachers can learn about the young individuals they teach, in addition to the specific dreams and needs of each child.
Benefits of Conferences
There are many benefits to holding student conferences, but most importantly they allow teachers to build trust. This aspect is the foundation of any strong relationship and the connection between a teacher and student is no different.
During student conferences, assess a child’s progress and examine how to help them reach their personal academic goals. While the teacher’s role is usually focused on academics, discuss the students’ extracurricular activities and how these are helping or hindering their school performance. If a child expresses interest in a particular course of study, pledge to work with them to contact organizations or clubs that will help them to pursue the subject.
If a student is struggling, the level of trust they have for a teacher is extremely important to gain insight into the causes of their difficulty with learning. Offer to help students by assigning and guiding them through extra tutorials and tools that will clarify weak points, or ask if they would like you to recommend tutors who can provide greater support.
After establishing the level at which a child is performing, plan for making progress. Outline the ways in which students can challenge themselves to benefit academic performance. Whether it’s planning more after-school study time, reading one book for pleasure per week, finding the STEM connections in a music class, or joining a new academic club, these steps can enhance a student’s in-class performance.
Reaching shy children in class can be difficult, but meeting with them during student conferences could make it easier for them to open up. Try to spark the conversation by opening the meeting with a topic they are interested in, regardless of whether or not it applies to the class. Once a rapport is established and children begin to open up, transition to a discussion regarding academics.
The Difficult Side of Conferences
While there are only a few drawbacks to student conferences, they do exist. Many teachers are overwhelmed and overworked. Finding the time to meet with each student can seem to be a strain, but once teachers examine the positive aspects of conferences, they will often see the benefits outweigh the burdens. A teacher’s time is precious, making each minute of every school day important, but finding five or 10 minutes to devote to each child can make a difference.
Where to Begin
Student conferences are only effective if they are well planned. Assign a station-based learning session to students and call on individual children one by one to meet in a quiet part of the classroom if necessary, or in the hallway if possible depending on the age and behavior of your students. Other pupils will focus on projects together, while meeting in the hallway gives privacy to each student and allows teachers to monitor the class from outside the door. Keep a meeting log, with sections to record important notes regarding every child and a schedule in the back to ensure each student receives equal time.
While teachers should consider student conferences as a useful tool during regular intervals throughout the year, whether monthly or quarterly, these meetings could also be used to prepare students for other events. Meeting with each student before a science fair, standardized tests, or student-run parent conference, will allow children to receive guidance and ask questions to work toward a greater sense of ownership of their learning.
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