Sunday, February 24, 2013

A New Perspective on Parent-Teacher Conferences

I had an "ah-ha" moment after our Parent-Teacher Conferences on Thursday night.  Three parents had signed up for conferences.  The very first thing the first parent mentioned was when she went to Back-to-School Night the previous week, she was excited to hear about the method we are now using to teach languages.  She went on to say that she couldn't believe how much her child was able to read and understand after only a few weeks of Spanish 2. (Students have had several homework assignments in which they have to read stories to their parents in English, so through this the parents are also able to watch their progression in their language abilities.)

That sentiment was repeated in the following two conferences, along with each of them mentioning that their son or daughter enjoyed the class and was planning on taking the next level.  One parent, that wasn't even signed up for a conference, stopped in to say hello and echoed the words of the others, saying how much her daughter enjoyed learning Spanish and wanted to take as many levels available at our school.  

Hearing those comments was a confirmation that we are on the right track with CI/TPRS methods of teaching languages. Students are enjoying the classes because they, and apparently their parents too, are able to see their success and progress in their language abilities.

The "ah-ha" moment came when one parent mentioned that their child felt a little frustrated with the Discovery Streaming video that we are working with in class.  It made me reflect on the pace I was using when narrating the video.  Was I going too fast and not recognizing that the input wasn't comprehensible to all of the students?  Was I determining my pacing on the students that were calling out the correct answers and overlooking those that weren't answering? That's the "ah-ha" part, not only are conferences beneficial to discuss a student's progress with their parent, but it also is a medium for feedback on whether or not I was succeeding in making the input comprehensible.  Parent-teacher conferences can help the teacher too.  Hmmm - I never looked at it that way before. I was always focused on "what can I tell the parent that will help their child succeed in class", instead of also considering "what can I learn from the parents' remarks that will help ME improve my instruction for the benefit of all the students".

The next day, my number one goal was to make sure what I was saying was comprehensible to ALL the students.  I did more comprehension checks and when I saw indications that some were struggling, I back tracked and slowed down the instruction, looked into their eyes, pointed at the words with their English translations on the board, and paused.

In my opinion, the conferences I had with the 3 (really 4) parents were successful because, 1) I was able to have a few minutes to discuss their child's progress in Spanish, and 2) I received and looked for information in their comments that could help me in my use of TCI in the classroom.  It is the students that will benefit the most from this win-win situation.

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