Professional Development: Calibrating Feaster’s MTSS in SEL/Behavior

January 19th, 2023

Objectives

  • To calibrate our understanding of the multi-tiered support system at Feaster for behavior / social-emotional learning.​
  • To reflect on our Tier 1 social emotional learning/behavior grade level data and identify the next steps as a grade level team.​

Multi-Tier Systems of Supports

  • 3 sections: academic, behavioral, and social-emotional learning
  • Universal Core Instruction: Curriculum and instruction should be highly effective, accessible to all students, and implemented with fidelity
  • Targeted Instructional Supports: For students who need supplemental support as identified by classroom data and universal screener
  • Individualized and Intensive: For students not making growth in Tier I and Tier II

Examples of Tiered Supports at Feaster Charter School

  • Tier 1 Social Emotional Supports
    • Trust Circles/Morning Meeting/Social-Emotional Learning
    • Falcon Code
    • Calm Down Corner
    • Second Step
    • CASEL Core Competencies
    • Anti-Bully
  • Tier 2 Targeted Instructional Supports
    • School counseling groups
    • Individual counseling
    • Check-in/Check-out
    • Social skills groups
    • Restorative justice circles
    • Restorative conversations
    • Home/school note(s)
    • Grief groups
  • Tier 3 Individualized and Intensive
    • Crisis response
    • SST Process
    • Replacement Behavior Training (RBT)
    • Individual therapy
    • Functional Behavior Assessments (FBA)
    • Wrap-around support
    • Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP)
    • Educationally Related Mental Health Services (ERHMS)
    • Safety Plan
    • STAARS
    • Handle with Care

Tier 1 Support Reminders

During our presentation, Ms. Haro shared that she checked in with students and ask what would help them feel supported. The students shared that the teacher checking in with students would be most helpful.

Presentation

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Feaster Charter School: Element 2 of Charter Petition & CA-MTSS Fillable Framework

This week, our staff PD was going to focus on Element Two of our Charter Petition (for a link to the blog post focusing on Charter Element One, click here) and how the CA-MTSS work with our charter and programs. Please note that the entire Charter Petition and all board documents can be found on our school’s website: feaster.cvesd.org.

Feaster Charter School & CA-MTSS Fillable Framework (by Grade Level)

During our time together, grade level and staff teams were given time to work together and reflect on our existing practices as they relate to these categories: Inclusive Academic Practices, Inclusive Behavior Instruction, and Inclusive Social-Emotional Instruction & Mental Health Support. The gallery images below show some of the responses from our Feaster Charter School teams:

Feaster Charter School Element 2 – Charter Petition 2017 – 2025 (extended due to COVID-19)

The details below are copied directly from our Charter Petition as of 2017:

Element Two

The measurable pupil outcomes identified for use by the charter school. “Pupil outcomes,” for purposes of this part, means the extent to which all students of the school demonstrate that they have attained the skills, knowledge and attitudes specified as goals in the school’s educational program.

Feaster Charter School’s educational program includes having students reach their highest potential in all areas of the curriculum. Goals for students continue to be aligned to our curriculum using national, state and local standards. Our curricular programs are research based and have proven results with students of diverse backgrounds. We also set annual goals for our English Language Learners so that they will progress at least one level a year as measured by the ELPAC (English Language Proficiency Assessments for California). The Feaster Charter School goals for improving student achievement are aligned with the intent of students being college and career ready as evidenced in our focus on data and research. We begin with our present levels of achievement and set our objectives to meet or exceed our current achievement levels. The CAASPP data below is taken from our 2015/2016 results.

  • In the area of English Language Arts on the CAASPP, an average of 56% of our students score at the proficient and advanced levels. Our goal is to increase this percentage by 3.5% every year.
  • In the area of Mathematics on the CAASPP, an average of 41% of our students score at the proficient and advanced levels. Our goal is to increase this percentage by 3.5% every year.
  • Currently an average of 32% of our English Language Learners score at the proficient and advanced levels on the English Language Arts CAASPP. Our goal is to increase this percentage by 5% every year.
  • Currently an average of 28% of our English Language Learners score at the proficient and advanced levels on the Mathematics CAASPP. Our goal is to increase this percentage by 5% every year.
  • We recognize that regular attendance is a critical component for learning. The Feaster Charter School will engage in a yearly review of attendance and engage in practices and programs to positively impact our 97% Average Daily Attendance, and reduce the 33% mobility rate.
  • Our goal is to have 100% parent participation in parent-teacher conferences for the 1st and 3rd quarters of every school year.
  • Because we believe parents are partners in student learning and achievement our Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is a vital component for student outcomes. The PTO serves as a forum for communication, involvement and training. As such we aim for a steady increase in the level of communication and participation through parent participation in regularly scheduled PTO meetings every other month, community forums based on expressed interest, and regularly calendared curriculum nights. Baseline data will be accumulated and tracked year to year to measure involvement.
  • There will be an increase in the level of parent satisfaction with school to home communication as measured by the results of the Harris Interactive Survey.

The outcomes stated above can be readily used to identity student needs and reflect on best teaching practices. The outcomes can be further desegregated by standard, target sub group, and student to create a plan of action for the school year. The outcomes will be monitored throughout the school year in the form of formal assessments such as quarterly assessments, bi-weekly assessments and yearly assessments and informal assessments, such as exit tickets, student work and student conversations.

As reliable and valid assessments are generated in other curricular areas we are committed to evaluating these and, wherever and whenever possible, implementing them for our use.

The staff and parents will review the data generated, process the data with respective groups and supervisors, and develop elements in a professional growth plan and/or school site plan dealing with identified areas of need. All plans will be shared with affected groups, and supervisory bodies.

Presentation Gallery 01.12.2023

Links & Resources Shared in this Post:

Feastergiving 2022

This week, our Feaster Charter PD was all about expressing gratitude! Our blog post this week will share the poem that was given to our Feaster Charter staff and honored guests as a bookmark:

Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire.

If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something,

for it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times,

During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations,

because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge,

because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes,

They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary

because it means you’ve made a difference.

It’s easy to be thankful for the good things.

A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who

are also thankful for the setbacks.

Gratitude can turn a negative into a positive.

Find a way to be thankful for your troubles,

and they can become your blessings.

-Author Unknown

Student Grief: Nine Things to Consider When Providing Support

Today’s Feaster Charter School PD was presented by Samira Moosavi who is a Children’s Bereavement Coordinator with The Elizabeth Hospice. The following blog posts shares the presentation that was presented to staff.

Hopes From Staff:

  • How to be tactful when a child is expressing grief
  • Being comfortable talking about death
  • What not to say

Video Take-Aways

Linked Here

  • 1 in 17 children experience death of a parent or loved one
  • Creating a supportive environment of peers who are also grieving
  • Helping kids understand that they can be themselves & that they are not alone because others understand what it is like to feel the loss of a loved one
  • It is okay to feel a range of emotions
  • The past does not define anyone
  • We are people beyond our loss

Grief is Individualized

  • The way that we express grief is “as unique as fingerprinted and snowflakes” – Samira Moosavi
  • Grief is layered
  • Approach students individually
  • Lean into the child and they will invite you into their grief process
    • When students share what they miss about having someone, that is an invitation to explore the grief by inviting more conversation:
      • “I hear that you miss ______, what else would you like to share?”
  • Consider the needs of the person who is grieving
  • “Grief hijacking” is when we use “I also” statements and deflect from their experience to share our own – this results in devaluing their experience

Honest Communication

  • Approach grief with honesty
  • Create a safe community where students can ask the questions
    • If we do not have the answers, be open about that
  • Honor the life of the person when providing grief support
  • When communicating, use concrete language like “dead” and “died”
    • Reason: euphemisms like “passed away” can be very confusing

Options & Choices

  • Create a range of ways and opportunities to express grief:
    • Creative – art, music, opportunities to create something
    • Physical – movement, dance, athletics
    • Emotional – reflecting
    • Verbal – sharing stories
  • Create opportunities to share grief by participating in what they enjoy
  • What is more challenging is when people do not acknowledge what is said to them
    • “I want you to speak his name because he still existed.” – 10 Year Grieving

Grief-Informed

  • “There is a limited death databank”
    • Any information that can be provided or help normalize the situation will be beneficial
    • Let children know that you can be a safe person
  • Coping skills are often limited in children – modeling these, sharing these, and having the share their thinking can help develop these coping skills
  • Children need to be validated and heard
  • Reframe how we can provide support
  • Empathy vs Sympathy Video
    • Sit in the darkness instead of offering distractions
  • Let children know that it is okay to not be okay
  • Grief Card for 3 months is anonymous and includes choices that describe what children can do with their grief or when the “grief monster” comes

No Timeline to Grief

  • Grief is life-long
  • “First year of firsts” – the first time that they are embarking on these events without their loved one
  • Average of 6 years before the child feels integrated back into their life after the death of a parent
  • Under 7, children may think that death is reversible and temporary
  • Over 7, children understand that death is permanent

Remembrance of Loved One and Grief

  • Grief vs Mourning
    • Grief is an internal process, mourning is public grief
    • Mourning: altars, wearing black, crying, physical indications of feelings
    • Grief: cannot always be seen
  • Dates matter, especially ones that were meaningful when the loved one was alive
  • Use the name of the loved one
  • Ask the grieving how they would like to honor their loved one

Support Systems

  • “Top factor in how a student copes after a death is due to their support system”
  • Help them identify their person on campus

Covert Support

  • Asking how they are managing
  • Check-in and see how the child is doing
  • Be specific – “I would love to be able to support you, tell me the ways that I can do that for you.”
  • Check-in consistently
  • Someone who is grieving may not be able to think about what they need, offering to do something by saying “I am going to cook dinner, tell me what time you want me to drop it off” or “I need a walk, I will be by your house at ____, if you want to come out and walk together.”
  • Grief Plan of Care – outlines what will be done to support a grieving student (similar to a 504, but not covered under Ed Code, consider what threshold and boundaries are realistic)
    • Office hours
    • After school tasks
  • Create safety by being consistent with actions, check-ins, and reactions

Students Are At Risk For…

  • Lowered academic success
  • Absenteeism
  • Running away
  • Self-harm
  • Drug/alcohol use
  • Anxiety and other related disorders
  • Depression and other related mood disorders
  • Gang involvement
  • Bullying
  • Increase in promiscuity
  • Suicidal ideation and attempts
  • Long-term psychosocial and physiological distress

Closing

  • Be courageous, take a moment to recognize how courageous it is to cope with grief – meet the child in that grief and give them the gift of your presence
  • Soft language that is free of euphemisms and focused on what they want to share is most beneficial to the griever
  • Reflection will help children feel seen, heard, and witnessed – parrot back the language the child uses

Additional Resources

Workshop Model: Part 2 – Workshop Time

Learning Goals:

  • Participants will review the role of the teacher and student during the workshop time.
  • Participants will review the role of students in independent work, partner work, and group work.
  • Participants will know the quality indicators of workshop time.

Success Criteria:

  • Participants will be able to articulate the role of the teacher and student during workshop time.
  • Participants will be able to articulate the role of the student during workshop time.
  • Participants will be able to articulate the quality indicators of workshop time. 

Presentation


Video Resources for Workshop Time:

Video Resources for Conferencing:

Types of Conferences: Research, Decide, Compliment, Teach, Conference

Creating Safe and Inclusive Schools for LGBTQ Students

A Refresher Training Session for Feaster Charter School with Dr. Vinnie Pompei

Link to Previous PD from 10.14.2021 (click here)

Urgency: Newly Released Data in 2022

  • 73% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of major depressive disorder in the past 2 weeks, including 78% of transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 36% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have been physically threatened or harmed due to their LGBTQ identity
  • 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender youth

Group Activity

Talk about the points below:

  • How old were you when you first heard anything related to LGBTQ?
  • What was the message you received?
  • From whom did you hear the message?
  • Was the message positive, negative, or neutral?

Question:

How will students know who to turn to for a positive experience regarding their LGBTQ experiences?

Resources:

Workshop Model (PD on 10.20.22)

SMARTE Goal: By June 2022, all learning spaces at Feaster will be designed to promote student independence in support of the implementation of a workshop model as evidenced by the Workshop Environment Quality indicators.

Workshop Model (30-45 minutes)

Students (Part 1)

  • Independent Work:
    • Apply the new skills by:
      • Continue with Benchmark
        • Upper Grades: Finishing a graphic organizer
        • Lower Elementary: Annotating a picture or adding images about key details
      • Independent Reading
        • Reading at their level
        • Practicing the mini-lesson skill
        • Writing or drawing images based on the skill
      • Reading Centers
        • Students add to their notebooks
      • iReady, Achieve, SmartyAnts, Imagine Learning – something that is appropriate for the skills of the student
        • Students complete level-appropriate work
        • Leveled form or digital program tracker is completed weekly
  • Partner Work:
    • Partnership Pairings – should stay the same for the unit or for the quarter to build a strong partnership: similar/different levels/needs, language triads, friendships, social-emotional support
    • Roll Out Partnerships:
      • 1. What makes a good partnership?
      • 2. Do’s and do not’s of partnerships
      • 3. Problem-solving skills
      • 4. Fishbowl – watch a successful partnership
      • 5. Provide sentence starters and response stems for partnerships
    • When Partnerships GO Wrong:
      • Temporary triad
      • Conference/small group
      • Use a partner talk rubric and have students self assess
    • Collaborative Talk
      • Homogenous groups
      • Consider language supports
      • Keep in mind social and emotional
      • Heterogenous groups
    • Collaborative Group Jobs – see the Feaster Charter Elementary OneNote for resources
    • Collaborative Tasks:
      • Create a poster as a team – use different colored pens to hold each student accountable for participating with the team
      • Routines should be well-established
      • Book Clubs/Literature Circles

Teacher (Part 1)

  • Small Group – an opportunity to differentiate with supports, building independence
    • Gradual Release of Responsibility (GRR)
  • Conferences
  • Formative Assessment – a chance to learn more about students and their needs

Two Kinds of Groups

  1. Intervention Groups (resource – iReady): students who need additional support in a specific skill
    • Identify group who needs additional support
    • Reteach lesson
    • Students practice
    • More data is collected
  2. Guided Groups (resource – Benchmark): see every week, used to practice the skill that was taught during the mini-lessons
    • Materials used will be higher than student’s independence level
    • Students have prompts and cues, but a majority of the thinking and work is done by the students

Conferencing

  • Research (0-2 minutes), not on the first meeting – connect back to a previous meeting
    • What are you working on as a reader?
  • Compliment – share a glow
    • One thing about you as a reader/scientist/ that is very thoughtful is _____.
  • Teaching point
    • Today I want to teach you one way that readers/scientists/etc ____.
  • Teach/coach
    • Let me know show you how to ____
  • Link
    • So whenever you are, ____, you can ____.
    • What is your plan as a reader when you are working independently?

Formative Assessment

  • Gather data during small groups to be used when meeting with the group in the future

Coming Up:

Part 2 of our Input for the PLC will be in November, where we will share:

  • Quality Indicators
  • PLC Timeline

Additional Resources from Mr. Samaniego

Differentiated PD from 10/11/2022 & Introduction to Restorative Practices

This week was full of professional learning! We started off this week with a differentiated professional development opportunity where teachers could learn more about small group intervention, vocabulary instruction, math workshops, and AVID philosophical chairs! We also had a speaker, Jennifer Vermillion, from the San Diego County Office of Education, who spoke about restorative practices. The blog post below will share a summary of all of our learning opportunities from this past week:

Planning & Implementing a Structured Intervention Small Group

Ms. Gates and Mrs. Medina share strategies for teaching phonics and enhancing reading comprehension. This is a recording from our Feaster Charter Professional Development held on Tuesday, October 11th.

Structured Intervention: Planning & Implementing a Structured Intervention Group

AVID: Philosophical Chairs

Several of our Feaster Charter AVID teachers walk through the Philosophical Chairs strategy. The links below also show examples of Philosophical Chairs in various grade levels.

Timecodes (see the YouTube Description for links to each timecode):

  • 0:00 Intro
  • 1:12 K-2 Example Video
  • 4:40 6-8 Example Video
  • 9:16
  • Presentation
  • 22:57 Philosophical Chairs & Q&A

Video Links:

Resources:

Philosophical Chairs

Math Workshop: Focus on Warm-Up and Mini-Lesson

Mrs. Meagan Ramirez shares an overview of the math workshops, shares a plan for warm-ups, and helps educators understand the different types of math workshop structures. 

Timecodes for Video (see the YouTube Description for links to each timecode):

  • 0:00 Intro & Why Math Workshops? 
  • 13:05 Mini Lesson Structure
  • 13:39 Number Sense Routines
  • 20:00 Number Talks
  • 21:58 Teachers do a Number Talk
  • 27:40 Math Workshop Structure
  • 35:22 Why Math Tasks
  • 36:00 Closing 

Resources:

Math Workshop

Building Comprehension through Vocabulary

Mrs. Marissa Hernandez and Mrs. Shea Macleod share several powerful vocabulary strategies with our Feaster Charter educators! The two instructional coaches refer to GLAD strategies like pictorial input charts and cognitive content dictionaries as resources for supporting vocabulary development in our TK-8th grade students. 

Timecodes (see the YouTube Description for links to each timecode):

  • 0:00 Intro & About this Presentation
  • 1:03 Research 
  • 2:41 What Does Vocabulary Instruction Look Like?
  • 9:14 Routines for Processing Words
  • 9:33 Vocabulary Strategies
  • 10:48 CCD 
  • 19:39 Input Chart
  • 22:53 Modeled Input Chart
  • 27:10 Word Learning Strategies
  • 28:22 Morphemic Analysis
  • 32:06 Selecting Words
  • 33:34 Resources, Closing, & Questions

Links to Resources:

Building Comprehension Through Vocabulary

Restorative Practices (PD on 10.13.2022)

The images below share the presentation from Jennifer – please swipe through to see all of the slides:

Every Opportunity YouTube video

Community School Conference: CS Fundamentals Roadshow, San Diego – September 26 & 27 2022

Day 1 Takeaways – What is a Community School?

Day 1 Opening Keynote

What is a Community School?

Community schools are strategies, every community is different, it is about developing and learning to reidentify what needs to be done to meet the community’s needs. Include the voices and the people who are closest to what we are doing, our educational partners, to meet the actual needs.

Community schools may have shared practices, but no two community schools will be the same.

“A strategy for organizing the resources of the school and community around student success…”

Pat Harvey, St. Paul Public Schools

“A community school is both a place and a set of partnerhsips between a school and other academics, services, supports and opportunities leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.”

Coalition for Community Schools

“Change moves at the speed of trust.”

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  • Networking resource: https://cslx.org/learn/join-our-network
  • “Community schooling is a choice the adults make.” – Opening speaker reflecting on personal hardships and what conditions would have created a better learning environment
  • “How do we create conditions that create a better living conditions for all families in this community?” – Opening Speaker
  • “You are here to summit.”
  • Creating a community school is about creating conditions for kids to thrive.
  • Beacons Program: includes ways for families to be included in the decision making
  • “Having is not a proxy for being.”
    • It is not enough to simply have and provide the things, it is about creating opportunities based on the needs of the community.
    • Our community needs _______, so we are providing _______ by _______.
  • Piece it together activity – magnetic animals are placed on tables, participants need to walk around and put together the animals

Grounding Definitions & Research

Roles can vary, people tend to go towards what they feel most comfortable with. Part of community schools’ work is creating opportunities while putting people within your school site in the right places. It is not about being told what to do, it is about creating the best practices for your community. Consider:

  • What is the lived experience of each educational partner?
  • What do those who we serve and those who we employ need most?
  • Find a way to give all kids an opportunity to get what they need

“When we have kids at the center of the conversation, we make much better decisions. Being child centered means recognizing that we impact the families. Children and families are part of a community. One way we can work to meets needs is using a core instrucitonal program, expanded learning opportunities, and comprehensive support services.”

Children’s Aid Developmental Triangle
How are the three sides of the triangle connected? What is done to connect all of these practices?

Shared Accountability and Differentiated Responsibility

Have the people and the supports in place so that everyone shares the accountability to meet the needs of each community member, but have the people in place to do the work and have the roles and responsibilities within their day to meet those needs. Considering what we need to get started, working to create a robust family needs assessment, and getting input will be crucial as we get started. See this link for an example of a Community Schools Coordinator job posting.

Capacities of a Community School

Community schools are not about adding assemblies and meetings, instead, it is about meeting the needs of our community. The students remain at the center of our programs and supports. \

  1. Comprehensiveness: whole child development, needs assessment, asset-based high-quality program development
  2. Collaboration: all stakeholders are involved in meaningful, permanent roles – including educators, parents, students, funders, community members, elected officials, providers, policymakers…
  3. Coherence: programs, services and opportunities are integrated and aligned
  4. Commitment: all partners view the CS as a long-term strategy, not a program, and sustainably planning activities are employed from the start

Community Needs Assessment

The purpose of this survey is to gather feedback and better understand the needs and wants of our community. The questions below are meant to guide us as we budget the $200,000 we have been granted to plan a community school and enhance our existing programs. See this draft Needs Assessment.

  • What do you picture when you think of the ideal school? Be as descriptive as possible.
  • What programs currently exist that you most appreciate? Select all that apply:
    • Mindlabs
    • STEM
    • VAPA
    • Board Meetings
    • Mobile Medical Unit
    • After school programs
    • Tutoring after school
    • Library
    • YMCA/Stretch
    • Food4Kids
    • FeasterU Classes with Southwestern Community College
    • Community events (Kermes)
    • Parent Workshops
    • Monthly Coffee with the Admin Team
    • Other ________
  • What do you feel that our school site would benefit from?
  • What do you need in order to better support your children?
  • What do you feel Feaster Charter School is currently lacking?
  • In what areas do you feel that Feaster Charter School is currently excelling?
  • What changes would you like to see in the next 5 years?

Day 2 Takeaways – What Does a Community School Do?

Day 2 Opening Keynote:

Enabling Conditions for Success:

  • Trusting relationships
  • Dedicated investment in comprehensive coordination
  • Inclusive leadership
  • Data-informed decision-making
  • Capacity to implement

Stages of Development in a Community School

Assessts and Needs Assessment

“A systematic process used to understand and create a profile of a community school’s resources and needs that informs and drives decision-making.”

What is an Assets and Needs Assessment
  1. Get Started – who will drive your team?
  2. Archival Data Review – look at the existing data
  3. Initial Analysis – develop questions, get team input
  4. Survey – administer the survey and compile the results, include students, parents, teachers, and board
  5. Key Informant Interviews
  6. Focus Group
  7. Final Analysis
  8. Reporting

Next Steps:

  • Meet with staff to define what a community school is, share this definition with all academic partners
  • Meet with academic partners, get feedback on draft needs assessment
  • Finalize needs assessment based on feedback
  • Share finalized needs assessment
  • Put together committee
  • Run an asset inventory/asset mapping
  • Share data from needs assessment with all academic partners
  • Use collected data to develop a 2-year planning commitment
  • Schedule regular meetings to plan programs and take on roles
  • Site visits to other community schools based on the data shared in the needs assessment
  • Look for ways to build the needs of the community into our charter renewal

Preliminary Thoughts & Potential Programs

Following a community needs assessment, we will work to answer the question, “why can’t we have a _______?” If the answer is feasible and within reach, we will reflect on our existing systems to identify ways to put these practices and tools in place.

  • After school programs
  • Parent classes
  • Before school program
  • Review what systems we have in place to connect the child, family, community, instruction, learning opportunities, and support services
  • Food4Kids
  • Technology support
  • Year around intersession
  • Tutoring
  • Vocational education opportunities
  • Home visits
  • Hotspots & technology
  • Parent fitness classes

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Quarter 1 2022/2023

In addition to the resources that CVESD has been sharing for parent-teacher conferences, Feaster Charter has an abundance of support that we can provide to our families and learners! The blog post below shares an update from a previous post about parent-teacher conferences. If you are looking for a Feaster Charter School Parent-Teacher conference template with commonly shared resources, please check out this link!

**REPOST – Updated September of 2022**

Parent Teacher Conferences

Meeting with parents and keeping them informed is a crucial piece in a child’s academic education. The tri-annual conferences can help give us gain more insights into the lives of our students before and after school hours.

In my first year during conferences, I was impossibly stressed and anxious because I knew how important it was and felt insecure about my lack of teaching experience despite years of school and a year of student teaching. I had everything set up – file folders with students’ names printed from a label maker, waters for parents, copious notes, and massive amounts of reports. Most of this was so unnecessary and quite overdone because my responses became scripted and I did not allow enough time for parents to get questions out or for students to share their learning experiences. Instead, I followed my own agenda and left students and parents feeling disregarded. Through this, I learned how important it is to build relationships with families before conferences and to make sure that there is time to hear from them and for them to hear their child’s perspective on their time in the classroom. While it may be difficult to communicate with some parents and families due to many different reasons, it is important to at least put forth the effort so that communication (positive and constructive when necessary) is at least being attempted.

IMG_0706.jpg

Hear from Parents & Students

One of the first things I always wanted to do during a conference was to hear from the families. This would help me recognize what to focus on throughout the rest of the conference. If a parent or student shared a concern about struggling in math, I would know to give more resources for at home support in math. If a parent shared that they have a concern with behavior, I would know to spend some time focusing on social-emotional learning and restorative practices.

Conferences can sometimes get off topic and parents will want to discuss other students. This can be difficult when communicating the importance of student privacy. I would always listen to the concerns and remind families that I am not comfortable discussing specifics of other students just as I would not discuss specifics of their child with someone else. I would assure them that their concerns are heard and that I appreciate them sharing their thoughts. Whenever possible, I would also explain the process that I would be taking to resolve the problem within the classroom so that academic learning is not interrupted. It is important for families to know and feel that their children’s success is kept at the center of all decisions. It is also important to bring it back to the purpose of conferences – to communicate successes and struggles so that academic growth continues throughout the rest of the school year.

Share the Positives and Areas for Growth

Of course everyone has areas for growth! It is important to show that you also recognize what is being done well! If feedback is always constructive, it will lead to a consistent feeling of failure and prevent effort from being put forth. It is important to communicate what is being done well and to share the areas of growth with a positive outlook. If a student is struggling in one subject, share additional resources that can better support them. Share what strategies you are doing in class as well in order to better support the child. Instead of simply saying that someone is struggling in ____, add what you are doing in small group and how you are holding them accountable for improving.

Take the time to also get the students’ comments and feedback on this information. This will help them own their own learning because they will better understand the objective that they are working towards and leave the conference with strategies on how to get those objectives accomplished.

Make, share, and follow up on goals during these conferences. That way, families at home are also supporting their child in accomplishing the goals that have been agreed upon.

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Have an Agenda, but be Flexible

There are definitely topics that must be discussed during conferences: academic growth, areas of struggle, character strengths, etc. These are, of course, all important topics to be covered; however, they should not be the only things that are discussed. As you hear from the parents and the students, their comments can help you understand more about what they need to feel supported and successful.

There are times when the scheduled time slot is simply not enough to get everything covered. If this is the situation, a  follow-up can be coordinated with the family. When this happens, explain that you understand there is more to discuss and will follow up with them shortly regarding their individual questions, makes sure that their concerns are still addressed and action is being taken. I would also suggest asking how best to contact them – email, note home, Class Dojo, phone call, etc.

Give Resources

Hear from them! If a student or parent is asking you for something that is going to make them more successful, make a note of it and talk to your team or colleagues and see what you can find to better support them.

We have so many classes and resources and staff members with prolific ideas that sometimes, it is just a matter of telling parents what we are offering:

Follow Up

Keep notes or reminders of what the students or parents are communicating. This can be very helpful when you see them next or when you are sharing the resources that would be helpful for them. This should definitely be individualized by the student.

Whether you are doing student-led conferences (see the next section for more on that) or parent/teacher conferences, make sure that your follow-up is relevant to everything the parents and students shared during their conference. This is definitely a time to talk with your team or some of our specialty teachers to get more resources or strategies to share!

Student Led Conferences

Student-led conferences help students take more ownership in their learning and encourages a more collaborative conference experience. When the students share what they are learning, how they are progressing academically, and their areas of growth, it gives them the ability to iterate what their successes and needs are academically. This is more powerful than hearing it from someone else because the students are closer to internalizing their academic experience when they are responsible for sharing their progress.

Resources and strategies for student-led conferences:

A Guide to Student Led Conferences A Guide to Student Led Conferences 

Student Led Conferences Resources – Edutopia 

Student Led Conferences – Edutopia

Tips for Student-Led Conferences 

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Conference times can be exciting and/or hectic, but if we always keep in mind that this is our time to hear from parents and students and communicate what is happening in our classrooms, we can be sure that they are effective and purposeful. Keeping communication and focus on being transparent about our academic procedures can make our conferences go smoothly and help develop positive relationships within our school community.

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I love this picture because it shows kindergartens just being themselves! Always a good reminder – **be yourself** – especially during conferences 

Resources:

Imagine Learning Program

Free WiFi Hotspots

Social Media for Schools Infographic

Reading Infographic:

Reading Infographic English
Reading Infographic Spanish