There will be no school for students on Friday, October 5th and Monday, October 8th. We all know why there are no classes on Thanksgiving Day, but why not on Friday? Again, we went to Assistant Superintendent Mark Thiesen for this explanation.
October 5th is a non-instructional day because we take into consideration the time required to complete parent-teacher (and student) interviews. Depending on your personal history, you may recall a designated day each fall, usually after a report card was sent home, when parents went to meet the teacher. There was also another interview date in March. However over time, a couple of things were realized.
First, it was difficult for working parents to take time away from work to get to the school for a meeting. School teachers and principals noted a declining rate of parents coming to these meetings during the day. Educators genuinely value the conversations they have with parents because of the impact a positive relationship can have on the education of the students. Therefore, school staff began to open up interview times after school and during the evenings in an effort to meet more parents.
Parent councils expressed appreciation for this accommodation and as time went by, the shift to evening interviews became the norm. Schedules were developed so that several evenings were used over the course of about a week or two. While this was convenient for families and the numbers of meetings rose significantly, the teachers who were at these meetings evening after evening felt the impact. Most teachers use after school and evenings to review the day, mark student work, and based on the progress made the day before, plan for the next day. With evening after evening of interviews, teachers were falling behind with their usual evening prep work. This concern was brought to the school board several years ago. In response, the board established a non-instructional day in consideration of (or in lieu of) the the time spent by school staff in evening interviews.
The second realization came during education planning discussions. School council members expressed their desire to support planning for individual students’ needs. They noted the poor timing of having an interview after a significant time had passed in the school year.
- Why meet to discuss what already happened and can’t be changed?
- Why not meet earlier to collaborate for student success?
- Why not meet to plan together instead of just hearing a report?
Why not indeed! It was then that we decided to move our fall meetings from late November to late September and early October. And the purpose of the meetings shifted from reporting to partnering.
This shift in purpose lined up well with growing knowledge regarding the power of communication about student growth and progress. The idea of ‘assessment for learning’ is centered on frequent conversation about the steps a student is making in their learning journey. These conversations should take place with the student and with the parents. This is different from just hearing the report at the end of journey. There is a great deal of educational research that points to conversations about progress as having the biggest impact on students’ final achievement.
So if you haven’t already made your appointment or had your interview, please make a point of doing so. Your involvement in student learning is powerful message to your kids. It tells them that you believe school is important, that learning is about progress, and most importantly, that they are valued. And by the way, this message doesn’t stop in junior high. It is at least as important, if not more important, for you to show your interest in their learning by building relationships with their junior and senior high school teachers.
Just for fun, here’s a short video on why Canada’s Thanksgiving Day is different from the US.