We didn’t have classes Thursday and Friday of this past week in order to make time for student-led conferences. I was going to write out all the details about student-led conferences and realized that I already did that earlier this year in THIS post. Just about everything is the same except this time I revised the reflection sheet a little bit. The previous reflection sheet had them rate their behavior in every class but most students were just like ‘well, my behavior is about the same in every class’ so I replaced that part with a section where they talk about each class in terms of how they feel about the content, their peer-to-teacher relationship, and their peer-to-peer relationships. Led to a much richer discussion on the classes. Check out the previous post for more on how we prepped the students and what the actual conference looks like.
What I enjoyed the most about this is that I’m really starting to get to know some of these students really well; I’ve had half of them in my advisory for about two years now. As a few of them were sharing, I was realizing how much they had grown since the beginning of 6th grade as they are almost done with 7th grade. Many of my advisees are the types of people that I want to be friends with; thoughtful, witty, considerate, reflective. It was really enjoyable to sit and here them share how everything’s been going, their strengths, their areas of growth, etc. I’m pretty lucky too because I’ve talked to other advisors and they share stories where there are some pretty hostile conferences where the tension between the parents and child (or tension between the parents), makes for a really uncomfortable conference for everyone. I haven’t experienced that at all so that’s a plus.
In my previous school, we did student led conferences but it was as deliberate as these. We had students put together a portfolio of work they were proud of and gave them a sheet of a few reflection questions. Their parents would come during the day and the student would go out in the hall where there was a desk with two chairs. They would have the conference with their parent for 10-15 minutes and then return to class. Not a bad model and we were a public school so we didn’t have the luxury of just stopping classes for a couple of days, but it would’ve been nice to be able to sit in on those conferences as a teacher, especially since the kids were even younger (5th grade).
Students turned in their reflection blogs for our ratios and proportions unit. They have gotten much better by this point in the year. I think this will be the last one I do for the year though. They take quite a while to grade. My lease favorite part of being a 5th grade teacher was grading the writing. I thought ‘oh, as a middle school math teacher, I won’t have to do any of that!’ Granted, I’ve brought this on myself due to the fact that I know that it’s a good practice, and at least I don’t have to really worry about grammar or spelling, I’m just looking at conceptual understanding, but yeah…this will probably be the last one 🙂
So I won’t be doing a robotics video for a couple of weeks (next week we have state testing and field trips) but this gives me a chance to do some other stuff I’ve wanted to do. For starters, I just finished editing a video of a health fest that was put on at a local public elementary school by my wife’s residency program. Doctors coming in and teaching kids about healthy living. It was cool.
When people have asked me ‘would you ever want to do filmmaking as a living’ a part of me is like ‘eh, I really feel called to be an educator and I like that all my film projects are completely controlled by me right now…I don’t have to try and match the vision of anyone else.’ Then I thought of educational filmmaking but felt that part of the reason a lot of my films are the way they are is because I have a pretty good relationship with many of the students I’m filming. It lends itself to more genuine and comfortable moments. I felt I wouldn’t have that if I were just some camera guy coming into a school. But while I was at the elementary school, it reminded me of my first job as a 5th grade teacher; I forgot how easy it is to talk to really young kids. It was fun going around and interviewing the little ones.
I’m not completely ruling out the idea of doing educational filmmaking, but it’s definitely not happening anytime soon. The way I see it happening is that when we decide to move from Austin in a few years, if this is still an itch I have, I will approach some fairly large districts with my film portfolio and tell them that I can be their district wide edu-documentarian. I know many districts have a photographer as well as a media team, but I think what I’m doing is a bit different than a lot of that. We shall see though.
Here is the video of the health fest:
Also, I’m going to start making tutorial videos on all aspects of filmmaking. I think that’ll be fun.