Parent Lead Conferences
This past week our school held Parent Lead Conferences. The purpose of these meetings was for teachers to listen to parents speak about their child and learn more about them as a person and as a learner. Guiding questions were provided as a starting point for parents to answer ahead of time to prepare for the meeting with teachers. Each conference was only 15 minutes long and the parents were asked to attend with their child present.
See the guiding questions below:
When we began, I felt a heightened sense of attention and found it so interesting to see the student interact with their parents.
It was during these meetings that I found myself deliberately implementing several mindfulness practices particularly related to listening. I first began to remind myself that it was time to slow down to be fully present as I listened while putting aside my internal commentary for the moment. Physically, I became aware of my seat and how I was sitting in it, ensuring that my shoulders began to soften. I aimed to sit tall but not too stiff or rigid.
Checking in with my own body language was critical as I aimed to be warm and welcoming which meant positioning myself at the best possible angle to parents and student. I began a concerted effort to soften my face and practice being truly present.
While being very aware of my attitude, I strived to bring the intentions of curiosity, kindness and patience into being as I sat attentively to listen to what the parents had to say about their child.
Slowing down with the breath to be fully present is the essence of mindfulness, so I took a couple of slow soft breaths to simply be more aware. Every step was allowing me to drop into the moment on a much deeper level.
By slowing down I was able to observe and pay attention to the non-verbal cues being given off; those subtle facial expressions, affectionate patterns of interaction and certain body language being conveyed. Each of these subtle interactions offered a window into our students’ lives, their relationships at home and how they cope and respond. This fundamental skill of listening is so simple, yet it’s power lies in its practice. Maintaining and sustaining this level of attention and energy was an absolute necessity as we had several conferences in a row lined up that day.
What I have learned is how valuable it is when you give your students and their families your full attention for just those few minutes. I believe that really increasing this ability to be deliberately present not only improves the awareness of your own body language, listening skills and level of presence but it also allows us to walk away having fully enjoyed connecting to the our students while getting to know their families a bit more in the process.
How do you ensure you get yourself into listening mode and fully present when dealing with parents and students?
Which strategies help you be more present with those you work with and teach?
In what ways can you improve upon your ability to listen on a deeper level?
Neila Steele & Andy Vasily