Teacher-Student Interviews are more important to me now than they were when I initially started them. Teacher-Student Interviews may be even more important than the Parent-Teacher Interviews. Teachers spend hours preparing to tell parents how their children are doing.
Time invested with the students, covering the same material, is another teaching and learning opportunity that I’ve found to be extremely effective. They’re our one time to get together and review one-on-one with each student how they are doing. I personally try to focus on two positives and one area for improvement.
I hold Teacher-Students interviews at the beginning of each reporting period.
When I set aside a block of time (three 45-minute blocks over three days), I’m showing students that these interviews are important. When I take the time required, we can get into more detail about why certain marks are high and how to improve the lower ones.
Here’s how we structure them and made them effective in our school:
1. Challenge Goals
We start by setting challenge goals for each student for each report card period. In consultation with the teacher assistant and parents, we determine the “next step” that a student needs to work on. Is there an area of weakness that’s holding Johnny back? Is there an area where he’s not achieving his full potential?
As colony teachers, we have the same students year after year—we can use this to our advantage by challenging them to take their next step on the first day of school. Over the years, we’ve set challenge goals in areas such as the following:
- Specific marks (e.g., Daily Spelling).
- Amount of work done: (e.g., Finish Chapter 7 in Math).
- Student behavior: (e.g., Don’t talk to other students without permission).
- Improve in IPP Goals: (e.g., Speak in complete sentences).
The key with challenge goals, as with any goal, has been to make them as measurable as possible. The fourth example is a difficult one to evaluate; however, it can be done if you develop a tracking system for the reporting period. The first and second examples are easier because a number makes them cut and dried.
The reward for achieving a challenge goal is a book of the students’ choice. I try to have the students pick a book early in the report card period so that they know what they’re working for. The only danger in having a student pick out a book two months ahead of time is that they may want another book by the time the report card comes out.
3. Allow for Flexibility and Exceptions
I’ve allowed for some flexibility with these goals. For example, when two students were caught cheating, they were automatically disqualified from earning their challenge goal rewards—no matter how well they did in their specified area. On the other hand, if students excel in some other area where they previously struggled, they might earn their reward regardless of how well they did on their original goal. These are the exceptions, not the rule. There might be only one or two exceptions made throughout the course of a year.
4. Did Students Achieve Their Goals?
The Old Method: When it was time to hand out report cards, I would announce, “Johnny, your goal was to get 75% in spelling, and you made your goal.” Johnny was then allowed to pick a book and take his report card. “Sally, your goal was to finish Chapter 7 in Math, but you are still working on Chapter 5, so sorry, no book.” I tried to be as sensitive as possible as I announced those who didn’t get their books, but some (especially the younger students) still took it pretty hard.
The New Method: Teacher-Student Interviews:
The teacher and teacher assistant meet privately with each student. We review their goal and their overall marks. In this private setting, Johnny is told why he did or did not achieve his goal and earn his book.
Time is taken to go into detail about what the student has done well and what areas need improvement. Some students with 80% averages still don’t feel they’re doing their best. Talk to them. Some students with a 60% average don’t realize they’re not living up to their potential. Talk to them.
5. New Challenge Goal for the Next Report Card
The Old Method: After Parent-Teacher interviews and a few visits with the student, a new challenge goal for the next report card was set. Hopefully the teacher wrote it down; hopefully the student remembered what it was; hopefully the teacher had a way of measuring the goal.
The New Method: Teacher-Student Interviews:
During the Teacher-Student Interview, it might be possible to set the next challenge goal for the student. If not, we set up a time to meet again a week or two after they’ve received their report card. At that meeting, we set the challenge goal by putting it in writing.
6. Involve your Teacher Assistant
If you have a TA, involve them in the interviews. Even if the teacher assistant doesn’t work with the student, they still know the student. Teacher Assistants can offer feedback that the teacher might not think of. And having another set of ears in the interview can be helpful when the teacher reflects back on how the process went.