What we do differently at BCS is quite stark. We begin by changing the mindset of the process with a new name: "student-led conferences." Instead of the focus being on the parent and the teacher, the focus is on the student. We spend time during our Crew class (an advisory-like class that loops with teachers for four years) preparing for the event. We have a script where students discuss their strengths and challenges and what choices they have made up to this point that will justify the grades they have earned.
My role as a teacher is to guide the student to discuss these things with the parent or guardian and myself in present in the room. Oftentimes the meetings are straightforward: issues of attendance cause low grades so make sure the student has extra alarms in the morning; or maybe the student feels they have to justify why they received a 91 instead of a 95. Whatever the case may be, the student is sharing thoughts much more than I am or the parent is.
Eventually, we do get to an open dialog portion of the meeting to air out concerns, discuss next steps, and share any other important information (like upcoming class trips, etc).
The past two days have been very interesting. After working with these students for two years as their Crew leader, I know what to expect from parent reactions and I know how to focus the conversation from any deflection that might occur. At the end of sophomore year, students have a lot of data to look at and can think more seriously about the effect their GPA will have on their college options after graduation. Conversations that are redundant in a negative way are not what I am looking for so I have brought in counselors, IEP specialists, and more in order to support my students achieve success.
I only hope that over the next few months the students take the heart what they have available to them to improve or influence each other in a positive way.