Conferencing with At-Risk Students

At some point in time, one of my fellow twitter colleagues tweeted that he was spending his day conferencing with students on the F List in his high school (and I must apologize that I cannot recall who tweeted this). This idea inspired me to do the same with my 5th graders.

I talked to teachers ahead of time about the idea and they were wholeheartedly open to the idea and thankful, because they have already been trying everything they know with these students. Before the day of conferencing I prepared a goals sheet for each student to fill out that had some questions regarding why they had an F, what were roadblocks to their success and what is their goal for the rest of the quarter. I didn’t give them this until after we already had a 1:1 conversation that included each discussion point on the goals sheet. I also shared a list of Top 10 Roadblocks to Your Success in our conversation to help them identify what their roadblocks were. I opened up myself and told each student that I, myself am a procrastinator.

The common theme I found with all of these students was no surprise–they are disconnected to their learning and all but one have no parent support at home. They each seemed surprised by looking at their list of grades (for each assignment/quiz) in the subject and seemed as if they had never seen the report before. Now, I know that their teachers print these out and send them home, but with all they have on their plates, they’re expecting the parents to review them with their child. So, note to self–we need to be having these conversations with our at-risk students and not count on the conversation to come from home. In one case I also learned details about a difficult home life for one student that we weren’t previously aware that made his behaviors make much more sense to us.

At the end of each student conference, we signed their goals sheet together and stapled it with their grade printouts to a parent letter explaining our conference. Each student went home that night and returned the letter with a parent signature the following day. By the end of the day, I didn’t know if these conferences would make a difference. When asked by their teachers about their meeting with me the replies consisted of shoulder shrugs and nonchallant replies like, “I don’t know, my grades or something.” One strong reply was, “I wish we had Principal *White* back, she was nice to me.” But you know what, my interactions with each of these students throughout the remainder of the week were them boasting to me about their recent grade on a test or getting an assignment in on time! two of these students have showed no care for school in quite some time and they both high fived me over their recent test grades!

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