Parent conferences…how to explain?

One of the challenges I've faced so far this year is explaining to parents how the class works and trying to convince some of them that this method is pedagogically sound.

The biggest question I get from parents is: "With instruction based on videos and podcasts, what do you actually do in class?  How is my son/daughter benefiting from this experience?"

This is a great question because then I get to explain that I'm not shirking their student.  What this is allowing me to do, essentially, is one-to-one tutor their student every single day.  Because I'm not standing up front and talking to some passive listeners, I can actively engage their student on a day to day basis and do some real engaging and focused work.

It really seems to get through when I give this example: in my largest class, I have 27 students.  In this class, maybe four of those students work at an advanced level, 20 of them work at the average level, and the last three may feel bogged down and lost.  In a traditional class, my time is focused on the instruction and then maybe some question and answering, trying to engage students.  Those students who feel left behind have no interaction and may feel scared to ask their questions.  In the mastery model, I spend no time on class instruction.  Those four advanced students work ahead on their own, because they get it.  I just make sure they're on task.  The 20 average students get my time split between groups, but most of the time they can work collaboratively to learn the material.  Those other three struggling students can have the bulk of my time with focused instruction.  On average, face time with the teacher during the class has increased exponentially.

Some parents are still skeptical, but it gives me an opportunity to speak with them more than I normally would have, which is another great opportunity.  I'm all the more excited after open house last night because of the support I felt from most of the parents who came.  I'm looking forward to things to come.

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