The Middle School leadership team has decided to establish student-parent-teacher conferences in February for grades 5-8, in place of the parent-teacher conferences that used to run during that same time.
These new conferences will continue to be held in the Farmer gym, with the addition of students. The suggestion to establish student parent teacher conferences was raised with the MS leadership team, which is comprised of 13 members, including MS Principal Mr. Pete Lutkoski, MS Assistant Principal Ms. Katie Shefren, Director of Student Life Mr. Payson Bullard, the grade level team leaders, and others who hold leadership positions within ASL or who head a department.
Last year, the MS leadership team explored the possibility of having student-parent-teacher conferences, and after contemplating the advantages and disadvantages of establishing a student-led conference, they reached the decision that they would try out this new conference approach. Following the decision, middle school grade representatives, who are parent representatives, were consulted for feedback on the suggestion. After confirming that student-parent-teacher conferences were a feasible idea, the decision was given the green light at the beginning of the year to include students in the February conferences.
The new conference format have been designed to benefit students in their learning journey. The main advantage of having student-parent-teacher conferences is to place the student at the center of the discussion regarding student learning. In order to achieve this, the MS leadership team felt that it would be very effective to have the student present during these discussions. The newly introduced conferences also serve to encourage students to take ownership of their learning.
It was felt that the traditional parent teacher conferences were an inefficient way to communicate information between the student, parent, and teacher.
Mr. Lutkoski said, “A teacher will report to a parent on the child’s progress and that usually will involve areas of success, and suggestions for next steps. We would have hoped that the student would be aware of those points from classroom conversations but then the parent takes that information back to speak with the child. We feel that it would be much more effective if we had everybody in at the same time.”
PE teacher Mr. Patrick Severjins is one of a handful of teachers who have had experience with student-parent-teacher conferences at past schools in which they have taught. “Education revolves around a triangle of trust (students, teachers and parents). The learning experience can only change when all three groups involved in the triangle of trust receive the same message,” Mr. Severjins said.
Currently, there are no plans to change the October parent teacher conferences to involve students, nor are there any plans to remove the eighth-grade student-led conferences which take place in May.
Mr. Lutkoski said that the eighth-grade student-led conference “is a way of summarizing the whole middle school experience and making a bridge to high school and ninth grade. It’s a nice opportunity for students to think about their accomplishments and their goals for the future and for parents to be part of that; so they serve a different function.”
The parent teacher conferences in October will remain the same for several reasons. Firstly, the conferences are held early in the school year. As a result, the parent teacher conferences in October serve as a means for the teacher to understand the student’s work from previous years from the parent.
The October conference serves a different purpose than the conference in February, which is solely focused on the student’s progress throughout the year. However, if after trying out student-parent-teacher conferences in February, the verdict is that student-parent-teacher conferences in October would be beneficial, then plans could change.