#Digilit Sunday: Love, actually, is at the heart of conferring

# DigiLit Sunday is hosted today by Julieanne Harmatz @ To Read To Write To be

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This week’s topic is conferring.

Here’s the truth: I work hard and try to get better at all of the things in my teaching tool box, but I never feel I can get to where I want to be in the practice of conferring.  Julieanne is right in saying this on her post today, conferring is “the part you always wish you could have done better”.

And yet, conferring drives where and how and and at what pace we make our way through reading and writing workshop.  Conferring gives me insight into my students, to what gets in the way of their reading and writing, to how they strategize on their own to move themselves along, to the way the strategies I’m teaching them helps in this process.

Conferring also helps me see my sixth graders for the funny, quirky, inventive, and sometimes scared young people they are: they want to do better, they hope that we can help them, they want us to be on their side in this journey through school.  Even though conferring is the best way I can assess where my students are in their learning continuum, I know that it is important for me to try to make our conferences stress free…something my kids look forward to, not dread.

Last Saturday, Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan shared their thoughts about the language we teachers use in assessment in their powerful Ed Collab session:

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I’ve watched this several times over, and taken copious notes of the wisdom they so generously shared.  Their thinking leads me to want to rethink and reframe the way I approach conferring.  Here are some of my favorite jottings – their thoughts in blue, mine in black:

*We need to redefine our stance towards assessment and feedback, we need to make it a part of our every day life. My conferring notes need not be something restricted to just our one on one meeting times, they should reflect the other aspects of each student’s life – the rich tapestry composed of all I take note of during their learning days.

*The more we allow kids to see the way they crafted pathways to their own success, children come to understand that this is a part of the learning process.  We can help our kids keep track of and celebrate the steps they’ve taken to grow as readers and writers – we can make this more visible to them, a critical step in ensuring that our kids understand the arc of the learning process.

*Our kids need to know why we assess and that there is a range of ways in which we as teachers assess…kids have to see that they are part of the assessment process, that is not just something done TO them.  I listened to this over and over again to parse through its wisdom, and think about this range of assessment and how to harness what I learn from my kids for my kids.

*The big part of creating a mindset of looking at data in a positive light is that kids can own their learning and recognize that they have agency over their learning.  This is a powerful reminder that I must find ways to transfer what I learn through assessment to my students so that they have an understanding of their progress.  This understanding is really the key to  their sense of agency in their own learning.

*We need to remember that kids are  at the center of everything we’re doing and that nothing is more powerful in teaching than taking careful notice of our students as learners and as people.  Well, I teared up here, because, really, this is what it’s all about- it’s the essence of doing the work I love to do.  

Clare and Tammy have helped me redefine the purpose of conferring in this new school year…and for that, I am ever grateful.