Sharing learning with Parents
Last week was our school Parent-Teacher conferences. Like every school, these happen a few times over the course of an academic year. This past month I have been reading about Essentialism and these recent ideas and reflections have made me start to consider further the impact that we can have both on our student learners but also on our parent community when it comes to better understanding Physical Education and why it is such an essential part of our children’s education.
As I do every conference day, I printed out my schedule and then took notes throughout each conference. I wanted to collect data in a few different ways to see Why parents wanted to meet with me (the PE teacher). I also took count of my colleagues and their comments on PE and smiled when I was asked by a teacher friend why a parent would want to see me (as opposed to the English or Math teacher)? Why indeed? I wanted to reflect on this.
First some background information:
- I teach MS PE, and teach 5x classes of roughly 19 students in each class
- Students have PE every other day for between 75-90 minutes
- We follow the Ontario Standards and use Standards-based rubrics for assessment
- Parents received a report card with information the week of the conferences
- This report had a single PE grade (that linked to the standards we have been assessing on so far) as well as a Student as a Learner grade (looking at their Attitude/ Responsibility and Collaborative nature as a learner)
- I sent reports out that had almost every student ‘Satisfactory’ for their Student as a Learner with 6 students who were Exceptional and 4 students who needed assistance with these concepts.
- I sent reports out that had the following PE grades:
Here are some of the statistics of my conferences:
- Conferences were 12.00-8.00 on Day 1 and 8-3.30 on Day 2. Each appointment was 10mins
- I saw 53 families (some both parents; some one parent; some brought their child too)
- Looking at my notes, the themes for visiting were:
- How is my child doing (are they engaging in your class; are they responding and working the way they should with others/ are they learning and working hard in PE?)
- To address a Health concern or share information about a known health concern
- To discuss Grades – they didn’t Meet the standard in PE or Extended beyond it
- To encourage more activity beyond PE and to discuss how to engage their child in more sports or sporting activities
- Other (eg to meet me as a new teacher/ to discuss transition from ES to MS etc)
What is the biggest impact that I can have on these parents?
Data is a useful guide here and based on what I have found from this round of conferences it appears to me that parents want to be reassured that I know who their child is and that I can share observations about their child that ensure that I know their child and the way that they are engaged in their learning. I had only a handful of conversations about PE grades, and this could also be contributed to not having many grades that were of a concern; and I took time to email or discuss any grade that didn’t meet our standards with parents and students prior to reports being sent out.
I would like to prepare more fully for conferences and communications with parents in the future and take the opportunity offered to me (how often do you get to see over 50% of your parents over two days? And if all of my department had this opportunity, how could we engage with parents beyond our 10 minutes?) and so I would like to think about this. The impact cannot come at a huge time cost and should be directed in the areas that parents are showing interest. I also wondered if a pre-parent survey might be helpful, but I can see that this would also be time intensive to encode prior to discussion.
A few ideas I am considering at the moment:
- Put up a TV screen with a presentation and/or videos that show some of the key questions or concepts we have been studying that focus on the knowledge/enduring understandings as well as the social and personal interaction work that we engage in
- Unit guides (most parents were keen to see what we would study this year)
- Names/Photos so that we could be easily recognised (this was an issue for us all in one room) even with our reporting system having our photos and us wearing name badges
- Direct handouts or information relating to Seasonal sport and all sport opportunities that are offered at our school
- Business cards for the Athletic director/ Assistant Athletic Director/ Nurse/ Athletic Trainer and MS office to direct parents to the person they needed to contact based on the Health or further physical engagement they want to discuss. Possibly find out if a member of the Athletics Office could be there or have something we could hand out about sport beyond PE
- Handouts or copies of the Student as a Learner rubrics to show parents what we are doing in PE that grows their child beyond skills and strategies
There are times that I have shared videos or work from students but this has been so time intensive to make/ collate and have ready that it takes away from the enjoyment of my conversations as I feel that I have to show them this work. The data that I am collecting in my observations through Diagnosis of student learning/ taking action to intervene/challenge in some way for growth and then Reflection of this all in real time is all consuming and allows me to build up rich data about students learning and I now need to work on how I provide end-of-unit information to students as they reflect on their learning.
It is clear that as I grow as a parent of three children, and as a PE teacher that the way that I choose to make an impact in my work is changing. I am keen to invest my precious time in ways that will grow the greatest impact on student learning and from this set of conferences I feel ready to engage in greater conversations with more of the right tools for these conversations next time. I will be interested to see how others collect and use data from their conferences and/or grades that provide meaningful impact on their learners as well.