Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Student led in High School.

This now sparks the third pair of interviews where I didn't bring any grades into any conversations with parents.  I have been asked many times how I do it, below is one experience of how I did it.

Parent: How is my child doing in your class?

Me: He is a hardworking student, seems to really enjoy hockey, and how the statistics of it relates to the course. He has, however, struggled with relating the combinations of the way teams could be arranged in a tournament, to the ideas of the course..  I believe that he has demonstrated superior knowledge in how a graphical representation of the scores of team can be manipulated through transformational change.

Parent: How does he rank with the rest of class?

Me: Well he is at the top of the class, but honestly this is the weakest class I have ever taught.

Parent looked puzzled.

Me: I am not being entirely true.  When it comes to your son's interest of hockey he has demonstrated an understanding of it far superior than any other child in the class.  See, the rest of the class doesn't share this passion and interest of hockey and finds it hard to understand the applications of it.  Jim has demonstrated a keen ability to relate this passion to many assignments, and questions we have completed in class.

Parent: Ok, but on the report card his mark is XX%, and what can he do to increase it?

Me: What mark should Jim receive?

This is when Jim smiled and he said "100%".

Me: Awesome, now what have you done to demonstrate a full understanding of the material.

Jim: Well I completed a ---

I interrupted him and asked him not to tell me but his mother who originally asked the question.

Jim: ok... (now a little shy) mom I graphed a function which shows how the Calgary flames is not increasing over time (I laugh) Quiet Mr. Martin I am talking...

And then I listened to Jim explain to his mom about what he did, what he struggled with, and how he wants to go back and ensure mastery of all concepts. 

**I do have to give credit to another teacher, who minutes before messaged me about how she is giving student led conferences and I wanted to try one immediately**

The result was amazing.  The student took control, and marks were not the focus but his passions, interests and his own challenges were. 

I then explained that I am willing to reassess him if he does truly go back and learns the material for which he struggled on earlier.


  1. I have tried this technique before, but the "grade roadblock" always got in the way. I like how you address it and then push through it in the conversation. I'm going to make a more concerted effort to model this strategy in my conferences.

  2. I am glad you enjoyed this. Infact, to digress a bit, I'm particularly happy to have visited the hometowns of Mandela, Sisilu and Biko all in the Eastern Cape and it seems to me as though there are many great leaders from this province. Anyway, I commend you for talking about Biko instead of the other 'big' names although I must say that Biko's has not faded out of South Africa's political history. He is studied in schools at various levels. I am doing a personal research on some of this leaders and would be posting some pictures on my blog too. Thanks for this review.
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