Our fifth-grader is doing great at school, says our fifth-grader

Parent-teacher conferences have become somewhat monotonous over the years with three elementary-age kids.

We always find value in sitting down with their teachers, but the refrain is often the same: Here’s what they do well, here’s what they can do better, here’s what you can do with them at home.

And the fact that our kids attend the same elementary school my wife and I attended decades ago only adds to our sense of monotony. On Thursday, we sat with our daughter and her fifth-grade teacher in the same fifth-grade classroom I sat through class in decades ago.

Same coat rack along the side wall. Same white board on the front wall. Same corner where my teacher once rightfully reamed me for not being very nice to a kid who — unbeknown to me — was suffering the trauma of a family death.

Same, same, same. Except one thing was different Thursday. Our fifth-grader’s thoughtful teacher let our fifth-grader take the reins during the meeting.

And you guessed it: Our fifth-grader is doing great at school, says our fifth-grader.

She, not her teacher, walked us through a series of Google slides our fifth-grader created for the meeting. She, not her teacher, shared her own standardized test scores, where she fell short of and exceeded her own academic goals.

She walked us through the results of a self-evaluation she completed earlier this year and shared some thoughtful questions for everyone to consider and respond to at the end of the presentation.

It was a simple changeup, but it was meaningful and refreshing. I realized about halfway through Parlie’s speech that my wife and I were more engaged, listened more closely than we normally do at parent-teacher conferences and were more eager to ask questions about her well-being.

There’s something valuable about letting parents watch their kids take charge, get out of their comfort zone and take a risk.

And the experience seemed more meaningful for Parlie. I had the clear sense that she had come away with a better idea of and more regard for how she was doing — and how she could do better.

She understood where she stands in the class because she reviewed, compiled and self-reflected on details about her own performance so far this school year.

And it’s obvious that self-reflection is a vital part of learning. Because Parlie now knows better where she is in her learning, she has a better sense of where she can go from here.

Afterward Ms. Miskin quietly gathered a few papers up and handed them over to us. She maybe said 20 words the whole time, but she did let us know that we could reach out with any questions or concerns.

“It’s all about them,” Ms. Miskin told us before telling Parlie to “Go for it, girl.” “I want to let them take charge.”

“Were you nervous?” I asked Parlie on the way home from the school.

“Yes,” she said, “but I think it went OK. I’m just glad it’s over.”

Devin Bodkin

Devin Bodkin

EdNews assistant editor and reporter Devin Bodkin is a former high school English teacher who specializes in stories about charter schools and educating students who live in poverty. He lives and works in East Idaho. Follow Devin on Twitter @dsbodkin. He can be reached by email at [email protected].

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