At the Emerging Leaders Un-conference in the holidays I was lucky to hear Claire Amos discuss her experiences in the Self-Diredcted schools in Canada. A lot of what she discussed was very much secondary focused but one particular idea stuck with me and I decided to see if I could primary school-ify it and see if I could make it work in a regular New Zealand state school.
Claire talked about the flexible manner in which students at these schools decided what they were going to do and when in a normal school day. In a secondary setting this obviously brings some challenges, since students are stepping between all sorts of different subject teachers. So these schools have what they call Learning Progress Interviews with their ‘Teaching Advisor’ to catch up with students regularly and discuss their learning and how things are going. An email of the minutes of the meeting is then automatically sent home.
I thought this was a great idea and, even though I conference with kids really regularly on a 1:1 basis, these meetings are short and highly focused on a particular learning intention. There is little discussion around their skill set as a learner or any sort of pastoral care aspect to the discussion either. So I thought I’d have 10 minute ‘Catch Up Meetings with students before school and in my senior teacher release. In total I’d have 8 meetings a week, meaning students would have a chat with me about once a month. Not ideal but I don’t really have any more time for these meetings than that.
The purpose of these meetings was for students to talk one on one with their teacher about how school is going for them and discuss how they can make improvements in their skill set as a learner. For example, we may discuss time management, leadership, independence and so on. It is a chance for me to help the children to become a more effective learner and to touch base with them on a relatively regular basis. After each meeting, I email a copy of the minutes of the meeting home so parents can see what was discussed and, if appropriate, follow up at home.
The next step was to check in with the students about this. Would it me helpful? Did they want to do it? I asked the students to do the compass points thinking routine to let me know. The results of this were interesting. Students liked the idea but they were worried their parents would tell them off instead of helping them at home. The solution to this was to write the minutes together as the meeting progressed so the students were happy with what is going home.
I began having these meetings last week and they seem to be going well. I’m getting to discuss things with students I wouldn’t ordinarily and finding out a bit more about what makes these kids tick. I’m not really sure about their parents’ thoughts on this as I’ve only had one reply to my emails I’ve been sending home. Hopefully parents find this a useful insight and a way to instigate learning related conversations at home.
Students have commented that the meetings help clarify what is going well and what they need to work on; as well as decreasing their stress levels as we discuss a solution to problems they are having.
So far so good!