For many children, the parent-teacher conference was often among their first life experiences in worry, dread and concern. Mom, dad or both were off meeting with the teacher, without the student there to know what was being said about his or her grades or behavior, or to offer any defense or explanation on the spot.
But at South Ozone Park’s MS 297, also known as the Hawtree Creek Middle School, students are not only included in parent-teacher conferences, they’re the center of them.
“The kids just take the lead,” said Maureen Hussey, the principal of the school, which welcomed its first 95 students last September at the facility it shares with two other schools at 121-10 Rockaway Blvd. “They sit down with their parents, go over their grades, what they’ve done to improve, the steps they took.”
Parents meet with their children in their classroom with their teacher supervising, but it’s the children who take their parents through their academic record for the past trimester. Parents also offer questions or comments to their child about their education.
Hussey said the student-led conferences were initially held at the end of the first trimester last year, and her staff was really nervous about it at first.
“We weren’t sure how it was going to go,” she admitted. “But we were really happy with the response. Parents were blown away.”
MS 297, which had an official ribbon cutting last month — Hussey scheduled it at the end of the school year rather than the beginning — will accept about 100 new sixth-graders and will add students until it reaches capacity at just over 300 students in sixth, seventh and eighth grades in 2015-16. The school will also add classroom space in an adjacent hallway.
Hussey said she expects to continue the student-led conferences next year.
“I think it’s part of what makes our school unique,” she said.