Summit Teacher Gives Conferences a Much-Needed Reboot

When it came to spring parent-teacher conferences, Summit Middle School teacher Shannon DaRos-Hall took her thinking outside the box and outside the walls of the school to connect with parents.

DaRos-Hall is a sixth grade language arts and social studies teacher. During her 19 years as an educator, she said there have been many changes in education, yet the style of parent-teacher conferences has remained the same: Parents take time to visit the school for a face-to-face meeting with teachers. She felt this antiquated method wasn’t keeping up with modern families.

“Parents and students are becoming increasingly busy and cannot meet at the traditional time for conferences,” DaRos-Hall said.  “Also, with grades readily available through Infinite Campus, parents already know how a student is performing academically. To better accommodate parents, I offered them several different options for conferences, such as face-to-face, phone, meet at a time outside of scheduled conference times, or a video conference.”

Shannon DaRos-Hall works with her students during a recent social studies project.

Shannon DaRos-Hall works with her students during a recent social studies project.

By moving the traditional conference meeting outside of school walls, DaRos-Hall said parents were able to pick a method that best worked for them. Another aspect of DaRos-Hall’s conferences is involvement from the student. With the number of activities middle school students are involved in, DaRos-Hall said something was needed to show how students were learning and preparing for seventh grade.

“The conference is all about the student, their experience in sixth grade, and celebrating all that they have accomplished,” DaRos-Hall said. “Students had to complete a check sheet titled, ‘Are you ready to be a seventh grade student,’ along with their final quarter goals.  The check sheet was used for conversation between the student and I, which was filmed on their iPad. Students then sent me the finished video and I sent it on to parents.  The papers we went over during the video were also sent to the parents.  If a student’s video was too long and could not be sent via email to the parent, then the student showed the video using their iPad.  Parents were asked to contact me if there were any additional questions after viewing the video.”

For busy families, the opportunity to view the video and participate in a conference at a time that works for their schedules can make all the difference in their experience. DaRos-Hall said feedback from parents has been overwhelmingly supportive and she plans to promote the flexible options even more next year.

“I am going over the same information that the parent would get if we were in a face-to-face conference,” DaRos-Hall said. “This type of conference works for every parent because even without internet and email, parents can view the conference on the student’s ipad as it was recorded on them.”

Parents enjoy seeing an authentic view of how – and what – their child has accomplished in sixth grade.

Summit students and their teacher, Shannon DaRos-Hall, work together to solve an problem on their iPads.

Summit students and their teacher, Shannon DaRos-Hall, work together to solve an problem on their iPads.

“We loved the video conference,” said one parent. “We felt like we got to hear about our daughter and her progress in sixth grade in a fun interactive way with her teacher. I liked the dialogue back and forth between them.  We think it puts our daughter in the driver’s seat of her education which is really where we want her to be since she ultimately decides where it will take her. We would definitely do it again if it was an option.”

DaRos-Hall has created new means of connecting with busy parents, eliminating the need to take time off work or away from the home to attend conferences. She said she looks forward to continued connectedness with families in conferences to come.