Today I began my day as I always do, blend my protein shake for breakfast, take the dog out, and fire up my laptop to check my Google Reader. As I was scrolling through the blogs I subscribe to I stopped on Franki Sibberson’s blog for The Nerdy Book Club. It was amazing; if you haven’t read it, click HERE.
I had Franki’s words running through my head as I started my day. I’ve spoken to so many teachers over the years about the benefits to conferences that I’ve lost track of the conversations. Often I’m told that they simply don’t have time to try it, or don’t see the benefit. That honestly breaks my heart. Having time to conference with students is simply the best part of my day.
Today I had conferences during my three reading classes and one writing class. These are just some of the conversations that occurred.
· A student reading the fifth book in the Amulet series talked about how she really wanted Kazu Kibuishi to draw the “Elf King” in a full page spread. Another student overheard and chimed in that he’s already been drawn. The first student talked about how she wanted him without his mask, in a flash back from the point of view of his son looking up at him. I smiled, interjected when I could, but observed most of this conversation.
· Another student and I met. She’s been struggling with abandoning books and wasn’t feeling successful in reading. We met, reviewed what happened in her book so far, and I read a little bit to her. We left the conference with the goal to finish the book tonight and I tried to build her up and tell her I knew she could do it. She read 60 more pages of the book throughout the school day and has 15 left tonight to finish her book. We high fived on her way out the door at dismissal.
· One boy came to me to talk about Sharon Creech’s Hate that Cat. We discussed that it was a departure from his usual reading diet of graphic novels. He was concerned he didn’t understand it as well as his other books. We reviewed the plot, talked about Jack and his mom, and he was on his way to finishing the book.
· Another boy was book talking N.D. Wilson’s Leepike Ridge to his friend. He’s halfway through right now and wants his friend to read it next. He asked me to join him in convincing his friend; he knew I had read it this summer.
· A conference with one boy on the differences between seed and watermelon stories. He wants to write a narrative on a football game and told me the game is like a watermelon, smash it open and he has plenty of seeds to choose from.
· Another girl and I met to discuss her narrative she started about Christmas morning, waking up to the smell of bacon but the disappointment she felt when she realized that the bacon was for a salad for lunch that day.
· A boy and I met – not about writing, but he hadn’t gotten his math test back from another teacher and hadn’t done well. I noticed it had been crumpled in his mailbox. I asked what happened. He expressed the feeling that he just “wasn’t smart” in math. We talked about how he’s extremely bright and what went wrong here. Watching his body language I could see when he finally was feeling better about himself and I let him go back to writing.
And these are just a few of the conferences I had today. One thing I know for sure, conferring leads to relationships. Meeting with my students one on one helps me tailor my lessons to each child for sure, but it is more than that. Meeting with the kids I get to know them. I know when they are happy and when they’re down. When they need a positive word or a hug. I have always believed that by knowing my students very well, they grow more in my classroom. And finally, after nine weeks of school, I can see those relationships developing. Getting to know my students, my favorite part of the job, for sure.
If you haven’t tried out conferences before, please give it a go. There is no “right way” to hold them. Sit down, grab a pad of paper (or an iPad), and ask your student what’s going on in their book or their paper. Listen, look at them. They will lead you where you need to go.