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A Lesson in Philo-Sophie: Student led conferences shouldn’t replace parent teacher conferences

April 21, 2019

Sophie Naylor
News Editor

Let me start off by saying that the administration really does try to help students and parents. They care about students and truly want us to succeed. This is evident by their level of involvement in student life.

Now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about where they fall short. I’d hate to sound cliche, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. The administration needs to keep this in mind when trying to improve the high school experience for both students and parents. There are plenty of issues within the school that need to be addressed, but the administration seems to have its sights locked on the least likely candidate — parent-teacher conferences.

Before we continue, a definition of a parent-teacher conference is required (though it appears self-explanatory). At its simplest, it is an event in which parents speak to their child’s teachers about their grades and behavior. Such conferences help to make sure that a student’s home and school lives are setting them up for success.

For as long as I’m aware of, MHS has followed a traditional model for conferences: parents come, talk to their child’s teachers, and leave. This year, however, the school administration is further complicating the process.

In the fall, the school held an open house in place of parent-teacher conferences. Parents were told to follow their child’s schedule and listen to each teacher’s presentation on what their classes were doing.

There are a number of things wrong with this format, but let’s focus on the most pressing issue– the lack of communication between parents and teachers. Parents are rarely able to meet with teachers, and often have little to no understanding of what their children face in school. Conferences are supposed to provide parents with an opportunity to identify any issues with their child’s education and to allow teachers to communicate with parents to make sure that their student is doing what they need to be doing at home. The open house format robs parents and teachers of this necessary communication. The open house also managed to overlook the possibility of a parent having more than one child in the school.

This whole ordeal is the result of attempts to increase turnout and shorten the lines that formed at the traditional conferences. Though the lines were shorter this fall, this is only because few parents bothered to show up. You can’t compromise purpose for efficiency. What does speed or simplicity matter if you’re just going through the motions?

Those who disapproved of the open house format were reassured that the rest of the conferences would not be the same format. Unfortunately, the plan is not to revert to the old model.

The spring parent-teacher conferences will be “student-led” conferences, which eliminate the role of the teacher entirely. Students are to present two pieces of work that they are proud of under the supervision of their PRIDE teacher.

Conversations between students and parents are essential for students to succeed. The goal of student-teacher conferences is to initiate these conversations under the supervision of a PRIDE advisor in order to ensure that all students get this valuable communication.

This is not a misguided effort; though there is no guarantee that these conferences will result in constructive conversations, they at least show an attempt by administration to level the playing field for all students.

However, these student-led conferences should not take the place of parent-teacher conferences. They have different purposes, and therefore cannot be treated as interchangeable. Parent-teacher conferences provide an opportunity for teachers to make sure that a student is both making an effort at home and receiving the support necessary to succeed. Parents are supposed to be able to come to their child’s teachers and find out how they can help their child succeed. Students need to play an active role in their own educations, but sometimes it’s necessary for parents to know what’s going on in the classroom.

Communication between students and their parents is necessary for the student to be successful, and student led conferences are not inherently a bad idea. While it is true that not all families have constructive conversations regarding school work at home and student-led conferences may promote helpful conversations, replacing parent-teacher conferences with these meetings is not the solution.

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