HSC lets students lead parent-teacher conferences

From the New Haven Register:

NEW HAVEN >> The phrase “parent-teacher conference” might draw connotations for many of feeling like an accused criminal on trial, or at least a caged animal on display, with students sitting helplessly as parents and teachers discuss their educational outcomes.

High School in the Community’s leadership has flipped this dynamic, with students presenting to their parents what they have learned, their biannual grades and the work they are doing, as an advising teacher guides the process.

“This is something we did at my last school in Brooklyn, a small school similar to this,” said Matt Brown, High School in the Community’s building leader. “We found that when students are at the center of the work, it helps them to take ownership of their work. It’s not just our community, as adults, discussing them.”

The school debuted the conferences in the fall, and held them for the second time on Wednesday and Thursday. Ashton Chandler, magnet community resource coordinator for HSC, said the school has added surveys for parents to fill out to give feedback so the school may structure the conferences to be as intuitive as possible in the future.

“This is our twist on the traditional parent-teacher conference. The student runs the meeting and takes ownership of their work,” Chandler said. “They’re instructed to show their strengths and areas for growth and to present a plan for that growth.”

According to Chandler, students leading the conference enables students to center the things they are accomplishing, instead of giving parents and teachers things to scrutinize or criticize.

“It should be about things they are doing right,” she said.

Juliana Sabin, a freshman, was among the first to lead a conference with her parents, Lia and Kevin, and her advising teacher, English teacher Ryan Hanover.

Lia Sabin reacted to various projects her daughter was completing in her class with a mix of recognition and approval.

“She’s always one for the controversial topics,” she told Hanover when Juliana pulled up a position paper on whether families should keep guns at home.

As Juliana walked her parents through projects she was completing in various content areas, her parents consistently noted that the work she was doing had her trademark devotion to political causes written all over them.

When Juliana told her parents about a mock commercial she produced on her own for her technology class, Hanover asked her whether she felt she could replicate the project using what she had learned. Juliana expressed confidence that she could.

In addition to reviewing her class projects, discussion at the conference touched upon Juliana’s commitment to the school.

“I’m coming back, because the way I’m treated here is better than I expected. I feel like I’m somebody,” Juliana told her parents.

After the conference’s conclusion, Kevin Sabin expressed that, aside from his daughter’s academic progress, he also noticed how much more confident she was in leading the conference in the span of only a few months.


Originally published at http://www.nhregister.com/general-news/20160501/hsc-lets-students-lead-parent-teacher-conferences