How student-led conferences changed how I see my students

By Alyssa Patel, math teacher at LEAD Cameron College Prep

This was first published by Chalkbeat Tennessee.

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We love to ask middle school students what they want to be when they grow up. But what happens when we ask them to explain how they will get there — with a volunteer they’ve never met?

Welcome to student-led conferences, something that has changed the way I think about my students.

Each January, my Nashville students flip the script on traditional parent-teacher conferences. Instead of parents and teachers gathering to discuss a student’s grades or behavior, students reflect on their behavior and gather work samples and fun facts. These portfolios serve as a starting point for students to reflect on their progress in the fall semester.

I had my doubts during my first round of these. I knew there were kids who would take it seriously. But then I thought of some of my students who struggled at school. Would they be honest? Would they even participate? How effective can it be for a middle schooler to lead a conference?

But the honesty of my students during their conferences never ceases to amaze me.

Poor grades due to goofing off in class? They’ll write about it. Lots of detentions? They’ll write about it. How they need to be more committed to completing their homework in all their classes? They’ll own it.

Read more in Chalkbeat Tennessee.

Kelli Gauthier