A Principal’s Perspective on Being on the Other Side of Conferences

For years I have worn that hat as educator or administrator when it has come time for conferences. I typically approach each conference with confidence and complete understanding of where the child is academically, behaviorally, and socially. When the meeting starts, we get into a groove going through the agenda items and discussing student progress.

We’ve been doing student-led conferences for several years now and this continues to be a valuable practice to honor student voice, develop relationships, and ensure student ownership and accountability in their own learning. The truth is, as a principal, I look forward to conferences.

As a principal, I look forward to having children share their progress with their parents.

As a principal, I look forward to teachers making connections with families and students.

As a principal, I look forward to discussing opportunities for celebration and areas to grow.

But, As a Principal, I haven’t always known what it is like to be on the other side of the table. Even as my oldest child navigated through her early preschool experiences and K-2 school-age years, I felt prepared and empowered in those meetings. My baby girl still needed me to advocate and be her voice. I still needed the teacher to share insights of her day and academic and social growth and progress. That changed for me this year as she embarked on third grade.

Now, my independent third grader has a voice loud enough to advocate her own needs and concerns to her teacher. She confidently asks for support in school when she needs it and expresses her ideas loudly and vividly (we’re working on the loud part). Now my independent third grader has grades and assessments that are communicated through a student management portal so that I can keep track of her progress. So with the assumption that ‘no news is good news’ I walked into her 3rd grade student-led conference feeling how many parents probably felt.

As a mom, I felt anxious to hear how she was performing and behaving in class. I wanted to ensure that my perceptions and personal assumptions were accurate and that my pulse on her classroom performance was accurate.

As a mom, I felt like turning cartwheels when the teacher shared that she had found her place in the classroom and was an empathetic and understanding friend to all students in her class, even those that struggled behaviorally.

As a mom, I cringed when I heard that my daughter still puts things in her mouth during the day.

But as a mom, I had a sense of relief when the teacher had already provided gum so that my child could meet her sensory needs in an appropriate manner.

As a mom, I felt an urge to dig deeper for information and details regarding her day, but with a little voice reminding me that she is growing up and that she will share those nuances or details when she is ready or deems it appropriate. And, as a mom, that responsibility for homework and organization are now firmly rested on her shoulders and we need to work together to continue to develop skills of independence.

But mostly, as a mom, I wanted to hug her teacher and thank her for the time, energy, and emotional strength she has to tackle such a difficult profession every single day with grace and a positive attitude. I wanted to thank her for seeing my child the same way I do, as an individual with unique qualities and strengths, that is the center of our world. I wanted to thank her for pushing and challenging her to grow while honoring her current levels and making her feel valued and important.

As a principal, I look forward to the positive and valuable outcomes of connecting parents, students and teachers. As a mom, I relish the time I have to engage in conversation with my own child’s teacher and partner in the learning process.

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