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At student-led conferences, children teach their parents

Håkan Dahlström

Parent-teacher conferences are a classic way to evaluate a student’s progress. But the teachers at South Elementary School in Jefferson City are helping students talk about their education with student-led conferences.

Emma Anderson and her classmates in Mrs. Clark’s 4th grade class have a lot to teach their parents about what they learn at South Elementary School.

“We have calendars and multiplication charts and reading counts charts and that’s where we put all of our data," Anderson said. "And then we have Proud Pages where we put our pages where we got A+’s or just missed one.”

Every February, parents visit their child’s classroom at South for a student-led conference. Unlike traditional conferences where the parent and teacher discuss a child’s improvement, the teachers at South Elementary have the students talk about their progress with their parents.

Michael Anderson is Emma’s dad. He said he enjoys being the pupil for a change.

“As parents, sometimes you miss day to day activities and you don’t really get to see that," he said. "So they get to take the opportunity to share their passion as far as what they’re learning and then you get to be the student and listen to them.”

South Elementary has been hosting these student-led conferences for over ten years. Emma’s teacher Angie Clark said student-led conferences began as a way for students to take responsibility for their education.

“It’s not the teacher and the parents just talking, it’s the kids showing their parents what they do and they’re excited about it, they want to show they’re learning," Clark said. "It’s wonderful to just step back and watch the children with their parents.”

Emma said she likes being involved in the conversation.

“Because then I don’t have to just walk around the classroom while my parents talk to Mrs. Clark.”

Mrs. Clark’s students led their families around the classroom to showcase past projects and quizzes. Emma and the rest of the Anderson family were crowded around Emma’s desk, looking on as she showed her reading comprehension skills on the classroom’s iPad.

South Elementary also hosts traditional parent-teacher conferences in the fall. Michael Anderson says the combination of both conferences gives parents a better understanding of their child’s passions and what subjects they need more help with.

“You do get basically the best of both worlds," he said. "You see it from the teacher’s perspective but you also see it from the student’s perspective. And I think what you’ll see is a lot of times it will merge and almost mirror itself, but just coming at different angles.”

Clark says South Elementary plans to continue student-led conferences in the future to keep both students and parents involved in the classroom.

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