We just made it though Parents’ Weekend 2014. Despite logistical challenges of hosting hundreds of parents from around metro Boston and around the world, I’d say it was a success. The weather cooperated, the foliage was fantastic and the MA teams played with pride. In my meetings with parents I was able to share early impressions, share student work and begin what I hope are year-long conversations.

This was a huge weekend in education, both locally and internationally. There were edcamps everywhere. Grant Wiggins’ post about shadowing students gained further traction. #SatChat and #SunChat were live, streaming and full of new and seasoned voices. In sum, I worked harder this weekend than I may all year but I feel more energized than I did coming off summer break.

These are my biggest sources of inspiration coming off this crazy weekend.

  • Parents reacted with what can only be the biggest compliment in a modern foreign language classroom: “I didn’t understand anything, but I loved it!” Parents don’t have to understand the language to see a dynamic learning environment and understand their son’s/daughter’s place in it.
  • What we teachers understand to be messages so true to be unspoken are the ones that we most need to share. Here is my favorite example, which addresses the question “How do you encourage a student whose language skills are strong but whose confidence may be lacking?” My truth in this case is a three step process. 1) He should come to class with a question from the previous lesson/homework/reading. Having  question in his pocket ensures that he’ll be involved in class dynamic/discourse but requires little commitment. 2) She should come to class with a comment from the previous lesson/homework/reading. Having  comment in her pocket ensures that she’ll be involved in the class dynamic/discourse however it requires more thought and investment. 3) He should come to class ready to offer a more spontaneous question or comment. This requires maximum investment in the material and involvement in class discussion. For more vocal students this can be step one or two, but if it’s step three for others, “Great job!”
  • Sharing students work is enormously helpful. In the “bad old days” this was all about bulletin boards. Now there are so many ways to share out student work: Twitter, wikis, WordPress, school websites. My favorite? QR codes linked to Dropbox folders full of student work and class materials. My favorite QR generator is GO QR. It’s free, simple, elegant. I put up signs that say “Interested in learning more about what we’re doing in Spanish X? Scan here for key documents, links to student work and resource pages, plus blogs about language learning.” The feedback from parents has been 100% positive.
  • I made no reference to grades in my conversations with parents. Strengths and weaknesses? Yes. Trends? Yes. Challenges? Of course. Why no mention of grades? 1) It’s way too early to be making definitive judgements. 2) I see how our middle school and my own son’s elementary school are moving towards sophisticated rubrics and standards-based grading. I am more and more curious about what this means K-12.

Do you have a Parents’ Weekend soon? Back to School Night? Are you working on standards-based grading? Please share what works and why,