It's time to chase Innovation instead of reacting to the status quo.
I Remember When...
I was a student in elementary school, and around this time of year I had a pit in my stomach. Now I couldn't define the pit, but it would come around. Parent/Teacher conferences were nearing and I was stressed out. Looking back now that made no sense considering I was a good student with no real difficulties in school.
Now the pit has returned. No longer am I worried about what my parents may or may not hear from my teacher. I am now preparing, no bracing myself for the 2 day, 24 hour experience that will leave my voice raw and my backside so sore. Now please don't misunderstand me. I am not against parent teacher conferences. I believe that they are so important for me as a teacher to understand the world my student is coming from. To get a glimpse into what life at home is like allows me to be able to help guide that student a little more. Unfortunatly the conversation that happens in my 12 minute bread crumb basically goes like this:
Me: Hello, I'm Mr. Williams your child's teacher
P: Hello Mr. Williams! We have heard ___________(insert child's real feelings here?)
Me: Before I get started, is there any questions you have for me?
P: How is my kid doing?
And there's the pet peeve question! Like my toddler standing in her crib saying "daddy" 100 times until I come to her, that question rings through our school's hallways and classrooms. The most uninformed, blanket question.
And it's my fault! I'm not communicating to my parents well enough, and the parents aren't connecting to their students to be able to have a specific conversation about their child's learning in the now 8 min we have left!
So I decided to think of a change. I decided it was time to flip the conference like I had flipped my classroom.
In working with a colleague at the school we came up with an option to have students share the information with their parents, using Google Forms, Google Sheets, Google Docs and a Sheets Add-on called AutoCrat. What this does is has students share information by filling out the google form (example assignments, summaries, goal statements, progress statements, etc.) which then creates a digital package that is emailed to the parents, providing a great deal of information about the student's learning.
The tough part is putting together everything at the beginning, but once it is created it is able to automatically send the information to the parents.
Testing worked really well with the model and add-on. I was able to create a professional letter template, import the information I needed using <<tags>>, and provide a platform for parents to pose specific questions back to me in preparation for the conferences.
What this does is eliminate the "how's my kid doing?" question and puts information into the hands of the parents. Like flipping a classroom, parents are prepared with the "lesson" before classtime has happened so when the come to "class" a.k.a the conference, they are able to speak specifically to what their student chose for them to see.
I am optimistic about this process. See the infographic I created below for the full understanding of Flipping Parent Teacher Conferences including videos on how to create your form/sheet/doc/autocrat setup.
Here is the link to the piktochart itself:
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Taylor currently serves as a Coordinator of Innovative Learning for a mid-sized school district in Texas. He is a speaker, writer, and coach for all who are in conflict with the status quo.