Archer students, teachers prepare for upcoming student-led conferences

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Photo credit: Aiden Alvarez

Sophomore Maia Alvarez works on her Google Slides presentation at home for student-led conferences. While some students have chosen to create formal presentations, like Alvarez, others have decided to create talking points to discuss or use artifacts to discuss the progress they have made throughout the year.

By Nina Sperling, Senior Reporter

Student-led conferences will take place Wednesday, March 9, where students meet with their parents and mentors to reflect on their year thus far and share their goals for the remainder of the semester. Students and parents chose between in-person or virtual conferences.

This is the first year that Archer has held student-led conferences in-person in two years, so teachers wanted students to steer away from speaking about grades. Instead, they wanted students to reflect and focus on how they are emotionally and socially, as well as how they have grown during the year.

“SLCs this year are more important than ever, especially given the fact that it’s the first time that we have been on campus in two years … I think this year is especially important, given all the adjustments we’ve had to make over the last two years,” ninth grade dean and history teacher Emily Gray said.

This year, the current junior class will be completing their final student-led conferences of their high school careers. Junior Paulina DePaulo is looking forward to sharing her progress this year with her parents and mentor.

“I think it’s a little bit exciting because it’s bringing back a tradition that we haven’t really seen in a bit, but I also think it’ll give a better opportunity for students to communicate to their parents better in-person, instead of just over Zoom,” DePaulo said. “I think it’s important to communicate things that might not come up in conversation and really show a different side of yourself to your parents or guardians, and just be able to bring up things that you’re passionate about.”

We talked about really highlighting your accomplishments, patting yourself on the back, because often girls don’t do that…think about all the successes you’ve had this year so far … so let’s celebrate those.”

— Eileen Finney, math teacher

Junior Piper Rutman said that because students, parents and mentors have had to adapt to virtual conferences in prior years, their flexibility has translated back into the in-person world.

“I think people are feeling more flexible about it, and it’s less like a stiff set of directions to follow, and people are making it their own,” Rutman said.

Due to the impact that the pandemic had on students’ social and emotional lives, mentors are changing the foundations of their mentees’ SLCs by focusing on their successes and accomplishments in the past year.

“We talked about really highlighting your accomplishments, patting yourself on the back, because often girls don’t do that,” Finney said. “So that’s what we’re working on in class right now — to think about all the successes you’ve had this year so far … so let’s celebrate those.”

Each grade and mentorship is conducting their student-led conferences differently this year. In eighth grade, some students opted to do presentations, while others have chosen to prepare scripts, talking points and physical documents for what they plan on discussing.

Mentors gave their students a variety of methods for conducting their conferences. Finney said she gave the eighth grade class more independence with their conferences, as they are soon transitioning to upper school. 

The emphasis for the junior’s conferences is now on how they have helped the school or what they are looking forward to in their final two years of high school, rather than academics and grades. For ninth grade, Gray gave students an analogy of a garden to use as a foundation for their reflections.

“In ninth grade, in particular, some of their reflection questions are using this metaphor of a garden. So we’re having them think about— what foundation have they laid for themselves? How have they grown in ways throughout this year?” Gray said. We’re using weeds as a metaphor of ,like, what obstacles have you faced? And how have you picked those weeds or overcome those obstacles?”

Students and teachers reflected on the importance of processing the year so far, which Gray and Finney agreed was especially important after coming back from a year-and-a-half of virtual learning.

“The reflection is not necessarily just setting goals, but to think about how you’re doing as a learner, not to think about grades, but just as a learner, what am I doing that’s successful? And what do I want to learn more about to be more successful as a learner?” Finney said. “When we fail, let’s just begin again.”

Additionally, Gray said that having the chance to reflect in an in-depth way during these conferences is very important.

“I think it’s imperative this year. I think in general, reflection is very important. But I think especially this year, we’ve been so go, go, go since we got back in the fall, that I think it is just so important to take a beat and take some time to really reflect on all of the changes that we as a school, we as a society, we as individuals have really undergone over the last two years,” Gray said.

Finney said she is very appreciative of Archer’s efforts to let their students reflect on their progress every year, and share their improvements and challenges with their parents.

“I just am so grateful that Archer allows them to do SLCs because I never had that opportunity, and we just didn’t talk about school with our parents very often,” Finney said. “As a parent, I wish I’d had the opportunity to do it with my kids. It really would have been wonderful.”