I sit here quietly, listening to them speak…
“I read 26 books this year, last year I read just read 10.”
“I learned that if I study I do much better.”
“I found out that I don’t work so well with my friends, so I can’t sit by them.”
They say this with downcast eyes, shy glances, waiting for the reaction. Waiting for the comments they know will come.
And they do.
“Wow, that’s a lot of books!”
“What a great thing to learn…”
“Yeah, I don’t learn with my friends so well either…”
They tell their stories in front of us, knowing that our faces can corroborate or distort their versions. They put themselves out there for us to see; teachers and parents. They gather, they practice, and they decide; what story will they share? What will their parents leave knowing? Who will they become once their parents come into these hallowed hallways and they are no longer surrounded by friends?
So I sit here grateful that I get to listen in. That I get to see the care they take. The consideration they put into their words and how their parents thoughtfully ponder and prod when needed. I didn’t know if student-led conferences would be enough for parents at the middle school level. I didn’t know if the kids could do it. I didn’t know what they would say, if they would care, if their parents would get all of the information they needed. But they did and they have. And I sit here listening to their stories and uncover the bits and pieces that have seemed to be missing for me all year. Now, I understand why a child reacts that way. Now I see how they tick. I wish I would have know that much sooner.
When our students share their stories, we let them figure themselves out. We let them decide what they need to tell, what they need to work on. We help them prepare, push them harder to uncover their challenges and embrace them rather than hide them away. When we do student-led conferences, whether completely or as part of our conference, we let the students decide how they will be known. Think of the power in that. Think of what that tells their students about their voice and the choices they make.
PS: Want to learn more about actually doing student-led conferences, go here
I am a passionate teacher in Oregon, Wisconsin, USA but originally from Denmark, who has taught 4th, 5th, and 7th grade. Proud techy geek, and mass consumer of incredible books. Creator of the Global Read Aloud Project, Co-founder of EdCamp MadWI, and believer in all children. The second edition of my first book “Passionate Learners – Giving Our Classrooms Back to Our Students” will be published by Routledge in the fall. Second book“Empowered Schools, Empowered Students – Creating Connected and Invested Learners” is out now from Corwin Press. Join our Passionate Learners community on Facebook and follow me on Twitter @PernilleRipp.