Sunday, August 3, 2008

Parent Teacher Student Dialogs

Below is a condensed version of the opening of a recent article:

A Snapshot of a Dialog --
The Setting: High School Library. Students, parents and teachers grouped around a table at an evening school meeting are asked to answer a question as part of their introductions. The questions, in English and Spanish, are to be answered by each in turn as the group self monitors the conversation allowing everyone to share during the allotted time. The opening questions are:
Student: What is a talent or skill you have (something you are good at doing) that most students and teachers are not aware of?
Parent: What is something you have done as a parent in rearing your child that you are proud of or that you think you have done well?
Teacher: What is something you have done as a teacher that you are proud of or that you think you have done well?
After three rounds of questions, each group has a parent-student pair report to the group at large. Because some of the parents do not speak English and some of the teachers do not speak Spanish, students and bilingual adults translate back and forth ensuring everyone understands.
Results: Witness dialogs among parents, teachers and students as authentic consultation in the spirit of school accountability.
Parent-student-teacher dialogs like this can provide an accountability forum for a high school campus that has not been making adequate yearly progress. The catalyst is the campus report that highlights the student scores. The goal is to create a greater consciousness among all with important implications for everyone.
In these conversations, the students report on their classroom experiences, whether succeeding or not, in the targeted subjects. The parents discuss their role and challenges while seeking advice on how to support their children. The teachers give insight into how their job feels and how they are attempting to teach under the current pressures and focus.
No one is blamed or attacked. No quick answers are sought, nor is anyone expected to defend their position. It is an organized conversation where each can hear the other out. The meeting is the confluence of three important goals: effective outreach, new parent leadership and participatory meetings.
In writing the article I did a quick search for the most recent work of the Study Circles, a movement that has great potential. Their website is now I found a fascinating video clip on their work in one community. You can see the Many Voices, One Community video (Lynchburg, Va.) at
Student voices must be part of the conversation, especially with the revisiting of No Child Left Behind and the re-authorization of Title 1 regulations. The students, across the spectrum of grades, participation and school success, must be listened to carefully. They are the ones on whom policy and practice is carried out in our schools. Harried and stressed as teachers are, they at least already have a degree and a profession. Not so for the students, and for those to whom the rules and regulations have been most punitive, there is little hope of completing high school and much less of getting a college degree.

1 comment:

Jose Rodriguez said...

This reminds me of Student Led conferencing. We tried it in my previous school. With any change there is a learning curve and adjustment phase. I would be interesting to see how this looks in an elementary school.