Sunday, June 11, 2006
Nearly the end of semester: reports and progress meetings
I am so glad the Queen of England and Australia is having a birthday this weekend because that means I get an extra day to write my reports. Oh, what’s that, she already had her birthday… in April? Oh well, never mind. I like the day off school any way so I can catch up on school work. Life is weird. At this time of the year there are queues of students at the Reception desk five deep before school, at recess and lunch and even after school. I wonder what’s going on, aloud. The word comes back: students handing in late work before the deadline. You see, everyone knows reports are being written this weekend. And last Wednesday and this Wednesday there are progress reports for students, parents and teachers. We talk (and listen) for hours from 2.00 pm till 8.30 pm. This year the students are leading the interviews as they are about the progress the student is making after all. They have been encouraged to bring samples of work, both ones they are proud of and ones they now know how they could have been improved. The students are aware of the process of the meeting: they introduce their parents to their teacher and explain what they have been learning about, what they have enjoyed and what they have not enjoyed. It puts the ball clearly in the students’ court. They speak about what they have learnt and what they feel they need more help in. Sometimes they leave out something I thought was really good so I can butt in and remind them, I can prompt them if they have forgotten something, I can add my point of view when the student has said what she wants. It’s interesting that you get to hear what the quiet students think, and the students often tell you and their parents, things about their own behaviour and how it could be improved that I would have had to bring up with the old way of doing Parent Teacher Interviews. The whole tenor of the meetings is more cooperative rather than adversarial, although there are still some parents who want to be that. Even the name change to ‘progress meetings’ is significant. Of course this way of doing things may well be common elsewhere, but it is a change of culture, a change that reflects the different role of the teacher, the teacher as facilitator of the student’s learning, rather than the teacher as fount of all knowledge. Another change is where the teacher chooses to sit relative to the parents and student. The tables and chairs that are set up in the hall have the teacher’s chair on one side of the table and the ‘visitors’ are on the other side of the table, almost suggesting the older style of relationships. I will be experimenting with placing my chair without the barrier of the table between me and the other members of the progress meeting. It takes time to change old habits and though other teachers in my school have been doing this, I haven’t yet tried it. But I will this coming Wednesday night. I’ll let you know how it goes.