Family Conferences, Greenhill Style

It happens several times each year. Students, teachers, and parents pause to reflect. How is the year going? What would you like to share? Can we set some goals for the next trimester? Let’s look ahead at next year’s schedule. Let’s celebrate your progress.

At Greenhill, we regularly schedule days devoted to student – parent – teacher conferences. For some families new to the community, there is an element of surprise that students are included in these meetings. It is our philosophy, though, that students of all ages play a role in their own learning, and we gladly facilitate the opportunity to collaborate and communicate.

Just before Spring Break, I visited with both parents and students about their conference experiences. One mom of twin first graders stated, “They are so excited to show me their work and so proud to have us in their classrooms.” Students may start out a little shy with the spotlight shining so brightly, but Megan read a story that she wrote entitled “The Mint Girl,” and Allie read “The Little Red Hen” aloud to her parents. Their confidence and comfort grew from the positive conference experience.

Two third grade girls, Emma and Grace, love to hear all the good things said about them. Grace said that the adults can get “talkative,” but she really enjoys showing off her original writing. Skilled faculty facilitate these meetings, gathering impressions from other teachers, assembling work to be shared, and identifying the high points that must be covered. Despite all the “talkative” adults, though, the students in Lower School see the conference as a positive celebration of all they are doing.

The older the children get, the more significant a role they play in their own conferences. Middle School students set goals in collaboration with their parents and advisors and develop the clear-eyed ability to self-assess without worry. Students often lead the conferences themselves, providing experience as a self-advocate and leader. Advisors use their understanding of the whole child to determine a specific course of action for the coming months and then follow up with both support and direction.

Because Upper School students retain the same advisor for four years, the ability to monitor growth over time and close advisee/advisor relationships are the norms. Conference topics can range from adjusting to high school as a ninth grader to making the very most of the senior year experience as a twelfth grader. The advisor functions as advocate and guide throughout the student’s time in Upper School, and close, family bonds are created within the advisory groups. Those final advisory photos snapped just before graduation at the Meyerson are precious mementos indeed.

Regularly scheduled conferences function as just one element of frequent communication between home and school. Conferences provide the opportunity for all of the important adults in the student’s life to be on the same page, to join together in guiding and encouraging that student through the school experience. And the student understands yet again that he or she is known and cared for and supported here at Greenhill.

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