I had a conference unlike anything I have ever experienced in my entire career. Families in my class had a choice of student-led conferences, hybrid conferences, or traditional conferences. I was already over-the-moon because so many families had carved out time to meet with me. The conferences are the most meaningful way to share information about student learning. Additionally, I was thrilled by the willingness of so many families to take part in student-led conferences. The students were well-prepared for their conferences. I'm not sure anything could have prepared me for my 3:20 appointment.
I have a student this year who is Brazilian. His family has been in the country for approximately three years...maybe a little more. If I didn't know this, I'd never guess based on this kid's English. His spoken English is really extraordinary when you consider just how long he has been in our schools. He is an effective oral communicator who can manage the nuances of the language. He can convey his great personality and sense of humor through language. He can communicate his understanding of literature and make deep connections through the use of spoken language.
Nonetheless, he is still behind his peers, as you might imagine, in some areas like writing and reading. But let me tell you, he isn't far behind. This student also has some very real challenges with attention and hyperactivity. This taken into account, it is astounding to consider how far he has come. When you read his conference preparation, it is easy to see that this kid doesn't feel that great about himself. He is pretty candid is stating that he is not good at reading and writing.
My student showed up with his mom on time for the 3:20 appointment and asked who would be translating for his mother. I told him that he would. He smiled and came into the room. Introductions were made and we began the real conversation. We talked about how he had transitioned into fourth grade and he shared a general overview of how he was doing in class. After he finished telling his mother about his progress in reading and writing I just had to interject. I slowly explained how impressed I was with his spoken language. Then I reviewed his progress in reading and specific skills he was working on. We reviewed writing and I noted all the things he was doing well and where we were focusing instruction so that he could take the next steps with his writing. Finally, I asked my student to explain to his mom that his teachers were so impressed with his work. That he was truly SMART and hard-working. That he had made progress in the past year in our school that was nothing short of remarkable and that she should be very proud of her boy. He was glowing and his mom was too. I couldn't hold back tears as this sweet boy explained all this, in Portuguese, to his proud mother.
Now, let me share one other tidbit. This child is sweet but he is challenging to manage in the classroom. There are days that his behaviors wipe me out. He is full of energy and harnessing that energy for good (not evil) can be exhausting work. But today I saw him in a whole new light. I saw the whole child. Having this experience was something I will never forget. Never in all my years of conferencing have I been touched like this. Seeing my student in this light was a true gift. I know that the memory of his sweet voice, translating for his mother, will more than carry me through any tough day ahead. This kid has more than earned every drop of hard work I'll dedicate to educating and loving him. Today really was a gift.