Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reflections on Conferring - Part 2

This week's reflection focuses on Part 2 of "Conferring" by Patrick Allen. Thanks so much Jill of My Primary Passion, Cathy from Reflect & Refine, and Laura of Our Camp Read-A-Lot, for hosting this blog chat. What a great experience this is proving to be! I am anxious to read everyone's posts and continue the discussion,

"Conferring" is the right book at the right time. Patrick Allen reaffirms my priorities and beliefs as a teacher and gives me renewed determination to focus on what I know is best for the children in my classroom. I will be returning time and again for guidance as I hone my conferring skills and develop a recording system that works for me. It is "okay to experiment" and I am looking forward to adapting the RIP format as I meet the needs of my students.

Today's post must focus on the the portion of Part 2 that not only defines and clarifies my frustrations but gives me direction as I prepare for a new group of students. In Chapter 5 Allen discusses the relationship between the  "D word, data" and the "C word, children". I know from years of communicating with parents that Allen is correct when he writes of what parents want when they sit down with their child's teacher. I think of how I cringe (and sometimes cry) when hours of mandated professional development time and teacher effort is directed into producing mammoth directories of data to present to parents. I understand, as Allen so eloquently states, that we have to show growth, evaluate effectiveness of instruction, document progress and focus on specific points of intervention. I applaud his qualifications of doing so with wisdom and purpose, keeping the individual child in mind. In reflecting on his conference with a student Allen writes, "Our conversation gave me some of the D word, but the most rewarding and long-lasting consequence of our conference was the focus on the C word."   I am looking forward to cultivating those types of conferring conversations in my classroom - conversations that focus on the "C word"!


  1. Shelley,

    I agree with you and Patrick, that we need to focus on children. I too am frustrated with the amount of time spent on data with out getting to know the children behind the scores.


  2. Shelley,
    Like you, I am finding Patrick's book to be the right book at the right time. I have appreciated having the opportunity to think and reflect on the conferring piece of Reader's Workshop. Reading so many posts has really given me much more to think about. I look forward to sitting down beside my students in a few months to give these practices a try.


  3. Shelley~
    I am also finding this a great book to help refine my conferences and put the focus where it should be, the kids! Reading the thoughts of other readers is the icing on the cake! Thanks for being a part of this cyber bookchat.

  4. Shelley - I loved your reflection on data and children. While both are necessary it's the children and Patrick's gentle way of having these conferring sessions that will bring us peace with data, I believe. Good luck with your journey.

  5. Shelley,
    Your line, "Conferring is the right book at the right time" rang so true with me. All through this #cyberPD journey I have been thinking the same thing. Your thinking about data and kids also is right on the money. In the last 5 years (when test scores started coming home in big, fancy, glossy, sheets in Ohio) I have yet to have a parent contact me with concerns about possible weaknesses their child supposedly has. Yet I have had many, many parents thank me for helping their child love reading again. Too bad we don't collect and share data about the stuff like that.

  6. Shelley,
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful post! I love how your bring it back to the "c word." I share your frustrations with spending hours of PD time on compiling data but appreciate the need for using it to show growth. But you hit on the key to all of it... focusing on the individual child.
    ~Laura :)

  7. Shelley - love your focus on the "c" word! The children are the most important things in our room. I think a book like Conferring and our #cyberPD group reaffirm that we need to continue to look at the children, not just the numbers. Well said!

  8. Shelley,
    I whole heartedly agree with you and Patrick that we must focus on the "c" word in our classrooms. I love the fact that our school starts our year with "Listening Conferences" with each family that are designed as a time for us, as teachers, to listen to the parents' thoughts about and hopes and dreams for their children. It sets a tone for the whole school year and reminds us all to focus on the "c" word.

  9. Shelley,
    i'm the parent of one of those kids who usually has D that doesn't look that great. Teachers give me reams and reams and reams of data that really don't do much more than tell me what I already knew. Can't even tell you how many times I have come out of conferences wondering whether the teacher had noticed one positive thing about my child all year- did she know, for instance, that my child is really compassionate? Or that he is incredibly artistic? Or that even though he doesn't read that well, he really does think deeply about texts? Let's hear it for teachers like you (and me, I hope!) that choose to focus on the child!

  10. Thanks so much for the thoughtful comments. I know I will be coming back and rereading them often. Jill - I love the idea of "Listening Conferences". I always invite parents to write a letter about their child but am thinking perhaps I could give them the option of scheduling a "Listening Conference" during the first weeks of school. Thanks for sharing!!