Student Led Conference Week- A Letter to Parents

“The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character – that is the goal of true education.”Martin Luther King, Jr.

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”Lao Tzu

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.”Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Dear Parents,

This is my favorite week of each school year and a somewhat notable week in the life of your child. This is the week of student led conferences (SLC).

I have just finished up my plans and we are a go for a marvelous week of learning. We will together celebrate social, academic and emotional growth in your child. I am proud of each student and I look forward to our continued learning.

We highly value differentiated instruction. That said, each child in our class is intelligent, thoughtful, witty, kind, caring, soulful, hardworking and optimistic.  Each is learning to lead and make a positive impact in society. All are reading and writing daily. This keeps me ever hopeful for their future.

My role during the conferences will be to facilitate the discussions between you and your child. I will also spend a little time with each of you conversing about the remaining school year and summer goals.

Each year at this time, I remind students to share their love of learning and not any particular test score. I remind them to share their personal growth and not their “rank” in the classroom. I remind them to celebrate all that they are. Please help your child in this endeavour.

Teaching, for me, is a sensitive and complex profession. It always has been. I work best when I remind myself that the students in my keep will remember little of my day-to-day instruction. Instead, they will remember the habits, both good and bad that I have taught them.  I am positive that I have instilled more good habits than bad and I am positive that your child has benefitted from our partnership. Your child is receiving a world-class, international school education

Enjoy your conversation with your child. Have a great week and see you at SLC.

Questions or comments are greatly appreciated.


Surviving your Teacher Evaluation Year


Having recently completed my international school‘s rigorous teacher evaluation assessment process, I have decided to jot down a few bits of advice for fellow teachers. This year, I have had more than twenty formal, informal and unscheduled “walk through” observations of my teaching. My school’s administrators have provided written and verbal feedback throughout the year and have assigned a score. My salary was determined by my score.The purpose of this posting is to promote learning and to help teachers reflect upon their own teaching practices.

I hope it helps.

Avoid negative people and stay positive

This year, I needed to focus solely on my craft. I did my best to avoid negativity both inside and outside of the school. I stated at the start of the year that I would not utter a negative word about the evaluation process and for the most part, I was able to live up to that promise.I studied meditation exercises and practiced relaxation techniques. Unfortunately, I was not able to hike, nor exercise as much as I normally do.

Plan, organize and invest

I strongly recommend that you arrive early each morning. Most of my day’s work was finished before fellow teachers had arrived at school. This helped me complete whatever needed to get done. I planned each day to the minute and made sure that I was ready for the surprise visits from my evaluators. I had special lessons planned, and on hand, in each subject area, if needed.

Much of my success is due to the hard work I put in August. My classroom organization and classroom management routines were instilled early and from that I was able to reap the benefits later in the year. I tell everyone who will listen that a productive August is crucial to a successful learning year.

For further ideas on classroom management, listen to this podcast.

Finally, invest in a smartphone. The money spent on one will pay off in saved time and an eventual higher salary. My iPhone helped me document evidence of learning, check up on emails,record literacy one on one conferences, update websites.

Differentiate and let your assessments guide your teaching

This year I made a concerted effort to “maniacally” differentiate for all lessons. Each unit began with a pre-assessment of some sort that helped me find “just right” learning approaches for each student. Essentially, I was able to produce an individualized educational plan for each of my 22 students. I made sure to document all of my data using Evernote.

Communicate with parents

My students’ parents this year were amazingly supportive of my work. This  was due to my reputation and to respectful, individualized and positive communication throughout the school year. I never had a regular newsletter. I find them tedious to write and not a good use of my time. Rather, I would email parents occasionally when I had something inspired to post. I oftentimes attached a few photos or videos of student work and would include an educational journal of some sort.

Parents appreciated the fact that I set protocols, return emails promptly and that I made myself available for Skype conferences on most Saturday mornings.

Class Meetings

My students benefitted greatly from regular, weekly class meetings. The students conducted all aspects of the meetings from setting the agenda to developing solutions to problems. This helped me foster a positive, safe learning environment and allowed the students opportunities to develop leadership skills.

I also provided student feedback forms for students to fill out if they had problems that they rather not share with the entire class.

Pace yourself and finish strong

My wife told me often that this year would be a marathon. She was so very right. She constantly reminded me to rest, recharge and relax, so that I could “run through the tape.” It was very important to me that I finish my year strong so that I could support future participants.

Are you going through a contract year?

If you are an educator, I wish you all the best. Feel free to follow me on Twitter @LarryHermanHK.

Good Luck!