This past week our school participated in parent-teacher conferences. Traditionally, a conference would consist of a table of adults [teachers and parents] discussing the status of the student, and whether or not said student was successful academically, socially, and emotionally. Over the years, students were invited to conferences, although the conversation continued to be centered around teacher and parent concerns. This year, the leadership team at Rancho Minerva Middle School decided to try something different, and switch the focus from the teachers and parents to the student. Students would evaluate their learning progress and write reflections that focused on improving their performance at school. Also included in the reflections was a place for the students to share their strengths, and to communicate how parents could better help them as a student. By shifting the focus of the conferences, students not only took responsibility for their personal learning, they took ownership of the process. Comments from the kids included,”Last year my teachers did all the talking for me. But this year, I talked for myself.”
Another exciting and innovative change came in the form of technology. Thanks to Digital Promise and Verizon Wireless, every student was able to plan and present their student-led conferences using their iPads. From the start, registration instructions for students included, “Make sure you have your iPads ready to go” as every student was now the anchor at the conference table. As a result of this paradigm shift, Rancho Minerva was able to leverage students to be more successful using the iPads and implement this innovative conference format. The students became more involved in the learning process, and as a result, they owned the entire process. How exciting!