If you, or someone you know has attended any sort of school in the past or present you have probably encountered parent teacher conferences at some point. Typically a day, two times a year, is dedicated to teachers meeting with parents and guardians to discuss their child’s academic successes and failures. But for Hiawatha High School and several other schools around the nation this long used format is changing dramatically. The coming spring semester will bring different athletics, events, and new opportunities for students to excel, as well as student-led conferences, a system which places the work upon the students, and allows parents to listen.
Student-Led Conferences (SLCs) are a formal conference where a student, the adults they choose to present to (typically parents/guardians), as well as their advisory teacher come together to discuss several topics. This time allows for the student to take charge and share their strengths and weaknesses in school, display examples of their coursework, discuss their growth and career goals.
The success of these conferences depends upon the willingness of the student, the ability for the parent or guardian to listen, and for the advisory teacher to facilitate well. With this many moving parts one may be worried that these won’t go as well as planned, but HHS Principal Dr. Andrew Gaddis has high hopes and expectations for the SLCs, as he has experienced these conferences firsthand as a teacher at a previous high school.
“Having led these and been a part of them they have value… we are taking the control away from the parent and giving it to the student,” said Gaddis.
If done correctly, SLCs can empower students, teach them how to constructively criticise themselves, give them an opportunity to really look at their personal growth, and practice public speaking skills.
Dr. Gaddis added that these conferences don’t only give the student an opportunity to speak to their parents about their academics, but also to practice introducing people, making eye contact, and waiting for others to be seated, due to the formality of the event.
“Some students have never had a job interview or been in this type of formal setting, so this will prepare students for those types of meetings,” said Gaddis.
Teachers at HHS echo the value Dr. Gaddis places upon these conferences, like history and government teacher Brent Krauter.
“Sometimes these conversations happen at home, but not as frequently as they should, so hopefully this is an avenue where that can happen,” said Krauter.
Teachers and students won’t be the only ones benefitting from this process, however, as parents will be heavily involved as well. English teacher and mother of three Jenny Dunn sees the benefits that these conferences will bring to parents.
“It would be eye opening to see what my kids think about how they are really doing. Grades don’t always show you your child’s strengths and weaknesses,” said Dunn. “Overall this is teaching a life skill: to do your own self assessment and see how you’re doing and where you need to go.”
If you are a parent of a student at HHS, a letter will be sent out discussing your duties with grade cards in January. As for students, Dr. Gaddis gives this advice, “Don’t be overwhelmed, this isn’t a huge project.”