Glancing out my apartment window, I notice large flakes of snow slowly drifting through the cold November air. How beautiful and amazing that no two snowflakes are alike. How is that even possible? Mother Nature is amazing in so many ways. I am thankful for the beauty that lies right outside my door.
On this Thanksgiving eve, I can’t help but be filled with joy, happiness, and gratitude. I am thankful for the opportunity to be alive and enjoy all that the world has to offer, both the good and not so good parts. I’m thankful for the warm smells of apples and cinnamon, and grateful that the smell of skunk rarely fills my nostrils. I’m thankful for my beautiful and amazing wife, with whom I am lucky to be on this wild adventure called life. I’m thankful for her smile and thoughtful words when I need them most. I’m grateful for the magnificent colors of this holiday season, from the reds and greens to the browns and whites. The greenish hues of an evergreen tree glistening in the sunlight are magnificent. I’m thankful for good friends, near and far, who are always there when you need them, like a security blanket. I’m thankful to be working at such a wonderful educational institution. I’m grateful for my supportive and appreciate headmaster, who makes me feel like the never-ending flame on a menorah. I’m thankful for my school’s amazing Jill-of-all-Trades, Judy. I’m not sure what mental state I might be in right now if it wasn’t for her. I’m thankful for my students and their amazing families. It’s nice to know that we are all on this fifth grade journey together. How magical is that? I’m thankful for the Hallmark Channel and the wonderfully festive holiday movies. Nothing beats coming home after a long day at work and lounging around in front of the television watching a Christmas movie in your Christmas onesie and reindeer slippers. Yah, that’s the stuff of which dreams are made. I’m thankful for great young adult books that have been erupting from the speakers in my automobile on my journey to and fro work in the past several months. Endling by Katherine Applegate was brilliant. You should totally check it out if you haven’t already, as you are in for quite a delightful treat. I’m grateful for many things these days, and am fortunate in numerous ways. Despite the hardships we all face from time to time, I am a very lucky man. So, to the snowflakes still drifting by my window like tiny angels sent from above, I say thank you. Thank you for reminding me of all the greatness that fills my life each and every day.
In this moment of thankfulness, one snapshot from recent days stands out from the rest. Picture this, it’s Parent-Teacher Conference Day at your child’s school. But, instead of the formal and sometimes contentious conferences like those from past years, you realize that this year is different. As you enter your child’s classroom, the teacher greets you with a smile and your child begins setting up. Setting up for what, you wonder. Shouldn’t it be the teacher preparing to tell you all about what your child has accomplished in school so far this year? Your child then proceeds to tell you all about their progress in school this year. They share their strengths and weaknesses, as well as their goals for continuing to grow and learn. They field questions you pose, and run the show like a boss. They seem to know themselves as a learner better than you. The teacher only contributes to the discussion to recognize your child for his or her growth and progress. This conference is more of an open and honest dialogue with your child about their process of learning in school, than a time for your child’s teacher to front load you with information about how they think your child is progressing. Imagine that, a student-led conference. Amazing, right? If only schools did that, you think to yourself. Well, no need to keep dreaming because schools around the world are moving in this direction. In fact, in my classroom, that is how we do Parent-Teacher Conferences. On Monday and Tuesday of this week, my students wowed their parents, and me, frankly, with their metacognition and ability to reflect on their progress in the fifth grade. They shared their highlights from the past few months in school and explained how they want to keep growing and developing as learners, doers, and creative problem solvers. They totally rocked it and ran the show. Their parents had very few questions, if any at all, at the end of their conferences, as the students did such a wonderful job explaining everything. I was a proud and grateful teacher, yet again.
Wow, is the only way I know how to sum up today’s entry on gratefulness and student-led conferences. No, I take that back. I received an email from the parent of one of my students after she attended his student-led conference on Monday, and I feel as though it really sums it all up nicely.
I just wanted to say how thrilled I was with today’s 5th grade conference, not because of my son’s progress, but rather, because of the way it was conducted. I readily admit, I was skeptical at first. When I first learned that my son would run the conference, the thought may have crossed my mind once or twice – what do you mean that my child will not only be at the conference but also run it?! After today, my view is completely opposite.
Today’s conference was everything that I would desire, and more, from a school conference. My son was able to articulate what he does well, as well as what he has already worked to improve on. He was honest about things he needs to do better. Additionally, he had established his own goals, and together we were able to expand on those.
As I reflected on the conference, I realized that one of the major benefits is that I don’t have to speak to him “parent-to-child” about the things he needs to improve on. I loved that I didn’t get the feeling that I was being ceremoniously patted on the back about having a studious child; there was more of a feeling of transparency all around between the three of us, and as a parent, I know that each of my children certainly have areas that challenge them. I also recognize and appreciate that it likely took exponentially more time for the teacher to prepare all of this with each student.
Many thanks to Mr. Holt for these efforts, and I heartily applaud his concept of the student-run conference.
More gratitude. I love it! Thank you, parent of one of my students, for taking the time to show your gratitude. On that note, Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and I hope you take this opportunity to reflect on the many things you all have to be grateful for in your lives.