The No-Stress Conference
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As fall turns toward winter, the school year settles in, and we prepare for conferences. Students from preschool through high school have been working for several weeks, and educators have gotten to know their students — their aptitudes and challenges, not just what to teach but how to present it to each unique child.
We don’t necessarily get the time we’d like with families. Sometimes the main person dropping off and picking up isn’t a parent, there’s never enough time, and it’s hard to ask for advice or that one question surely you’re the only one to have come up with ever when there are others around.
Conferences are often held in fall and again in spring. There’s enough time before, between, and after to see dramatic progress, and we want to touch base.
It’s natural to feel a bit, well, apprehensive. We’re so curious what our children are doing, but there are horror stories, and particularly if it’s our first conference and our first child, doesn’t it feel a bit like being called into the principal’s office? What are they going to say?! How should I prepare? What if they say something bad? They’re definitely going to say something bad. Should I take notes? What do I do with my hands?!?!
My Montessori trainer said, “[conferences] are a conversation about your mutually most favorite person in the world.”
Someone so beautifully put it in a recent parent education event, “it’s an opportunity to thank you for all the hard work you’re doing at home, and share what we’ve been able to do at school because of it.”
This isn’t a time for stress, it’s a time for celebration!
So often we know, the worry about something bad is always worse than the actual facts of the situation. There are so many wonderful things to share! They’re reading, we’re almost working on tying bows, they work with dishwashing and don’t spill a drop, their language skills are suddenly exploding. We start with all the successes and joyful moments. There are thousands of them, and we could talk about them for hours.
We talk about what we’ve been working on and what we’re working on currently, and often what we anticipate working on next. According to children, all they do at school is “i dunno,” “nothing,” and “have snack” on repeat, and we’re here to assure you that’s far from the truth. We can share a few facts of what they’re doing, where we notice their natural abilities and affinities, how they approach a challenge, what we’ve noticed about their learning style. Are we seeing the same things at school as you are at home? Can we share some magical things you might not know about?
We’re all beautifully diverse and intricate individuals, and part of that is not being perfect at everything. Where do things come easily and where is this child expending more effort to achieve mastery? Are the more challenging aspects the most exciting to them, or is it our responsibility to make sure the challenges are manageable, joyful, and appealing, and give the child the skills to be successful? Is it something cognitive, interpersonal, or physical? What tactics and tools are we using to help?
These things are not necessarily areas for concern, and certainly not a reason for worry! We are in this together, allies in supporting this child’s development, and when we work together, share information, and collaborate, a child will thrive. This is our only goal.
Finally, what are your questions. This really is the most important piece. We are here to help. Always. There is no question to big or too mundane, and nearly every time, no question that is really new. You know your child best, but educators have special training for this particular aged child, plus the gift of both care and perspective, that allows us to be sounding boards, advisors, and comrades. We are here to help. If you’re willing to ask, an answer will greet you.
And that’s it! Too soon, just as we were feeling at-ease, our time is up. There truly is no need for worry. We never get enough time to share the amazing things children are doing, to thank parents for their incredible work, to answer those questions keeping parents up at night that really, once spoken aloud, aren’t so bad, so we set aside this time and call it a conference. It could just as easily be called a Joyful Conversation, and we thank you for taking the time.
Written by:Charlotte Snyder