The Game-Changing Teaching Tool That Is the Micro Conference

Nearly every teacher I know likes the idea of conferencing with students. When we talk one-on-one with students we can clarify messages, correct misconceptions, build relationships, cultivate key beliefs, and give the students a platform to be heard.

Where the issues with conferencing often come in are in the logistics, which can be next to impossible in an age where teachers often carry 140, 150, or 160 students on their loads. Take my American Literature classes, both of which currently sit at 35 students. If I have a five minute conference with each student and factor in a minute of transition time, the amount of time needed comes to 210 minutes, which is nearly 83% of the time I have with them each week. Add in logistical details like taking role, providing directions, logging into and off of computers, etc., and it wouldn’t be hyperbole to say that each five minute conference with students requires an entire week of class time.

I have written before about my strong belief in the value of conferencing, and so despite the massive time investment, I do full conferences with students several times a semester, but this has never felt like enough for me. Continue reading “The Game-Changing Teaching Tool That Is the Micro Conference”

How I Teach My Students to Fail Forward

“The world comes into our consciousness in the form of a map already drawn, a story already told, a hypothesis, a construction of our own making.” –Rosamund Stone Zander and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility

Last week in staff professional development, an amazing art teacher in my school leaned over during a transition and whispered to me, “You are writing a book, right? This needs to be in it.” He then slid a little yellow book stuffed with margin notes and post-its to me. Its cover read The Art of Possibility.

During the mid-morning break I opened it, and I was so instantly hooked that by the end of the day, I’d used every spare minute, break, and transition to devour nearly half of it. By the time the day ended, the book was done and my mind was already thinking about how to work it into my classroom this year.

When I reflect on why the book had such a hold on me, I think part of it was the intersection of its remarkably positive message with the optimist dawn of a fresh school year. The book is awash with anecdotes reminding us that while judgment and jealousy come easy, in general we find more success when we search for people’s strengths, not their failings, and find places to contribute instead of fixating on areas where we have been overlooked. But, as I think on it now, while those messages were nice, what really grabbed me about the book is that it offered a potential answer to a problem that I have been grappling for some time:

How can I help my students to view mistakes, missteps, and failures as potential positives that can teach them essential lessons? Continue reading “How I Teach My Students to Fail Forward”