What Report Card Conferences Mean to me

Posted on 12.07.2013


Thinking back to my high school parent/teacher conferences I was filled with a mixture of dread and excitement as my parents went to school on those nights.  I would worry what my teachers would REALLY say about me to my parents and what they would find in my report cards and letters from teachers.  I would be concerned that teachers would speak poorly of me – accurately or not.  I would be nervous about a particular class, teacher or grade and worry about what was said or thought of while I was stuck at home.  I was also thrilled because my parents would get a taste of what I experience; they would hear about how I experience school and get a better picture of who I was as a student.  I was excited and hopeful that they would hear about my contributions in school and be proud of how hard I worked to earn every grade I got.  Ultimately, school was a place I mostly liked despite my grades – mostly B’s with some A’s and some C’s.

My parents would return and go over my report card with me and share what they heard; we’d read the narratives and then talk about it all and make a plan on how I could improve next time.

Report card conferences, on the whole, were not done poorly and were a pretty positive experience for me.  The process effectively communicated to my parents how I was doing and I was included in that process.  My teachers did a good job of communicating my progress to my parents who then did a good job of including me in the conversation and proactively worked with me to improve.  Yet, ultimately, it was about my parents and the teacher – not me.

Conferences and advisory can go a step further

I view my job as an advisor to empower my students to be their own agents of change.  I am there to make sure they feel safe enough to take risks that ultimately allow them to grow into more caring, thoughtful, wise and creative people. Ultimately, I have their backs as they take more control of their lives – to own their actions, past and future in a reflective way.  A chief goal of an educator is to provide students opportunities to take risks and grow from those experiences.

Thus, conferences are another opportunity for me to support students in this way – they lead the conference after doing careful preparation through reflection.  My job is simply to provide supports -before, during and after- for them so they can take more ownership of their learning and confront this challenge.  It is an opportunity for them to articulate that they are more than just a letter or a number grade.  It is a chance for them to own their learning in powerful ways, to reflect and then grow based upon the marking period.  More importantly, it’s a time for them to better articulate what they need and want as learners.

As I prepare for the conferences with my students, I am filled with such love and excitement that they will have an opportunity to share with their parents what they love about school and what frustrates them about it.  I’ve been trying to get students to reflect and these conferences are a time to share these reflections about how things are going.  I’m hoping that students move past what a “C” or an “A” means and talk about WHY they earned those grades – share their proud and embarrassing moments.

Ultimately, they tell a much richer story than any of us could because they know themselves best (or that’s the goal!).  Students and parents alike have put a deep trust in me to help them navigate this conversation – to help them think deeply about the past, present and future.

I am so thankful for the hard work my fellow teachers and faculty put into their narratives.  It shows and it provides just one more tool to have meaningful conversations over the course of the conferences.  It makes my job so much easier to use the narratives and student grades to help my students craft a better picture of themselves as learners.   With some structure and care students can prepare for their conferences and ultimately lead the meetings to explain who they are behind the letter grade and what they need and want moving forward.