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The Conferencing Conflict

Photo Courtesy of SXC
Photo Courtesy of SXC

Ed Hickson ’11
Staff Writer

Photo Courtesy of SXC

Writing papers and essays has always been a part of the English curriculum. Writing is often challenging; this is where conferencing becomes a valuable asset.

Conferencing is ultimately intended to improve all aspects of the students’ writing skills.

“Conferencing is so personal, and is tailored to the real time needs of the student,” said Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Brian Fagan.

Better grades on papers are a major factor in good grades for the overall class.

“Students do not always understand the comments teachers make. Conferences improve individual papers,” said English Coordinator Lis Comm.

According to Comm, conferences can only function properly if students prepare beforehand. They should not simply approach the teacher and ask why they got a low grade and ask how to get an A.

Instead, students should be proactive and come with a purpose. In order to get the best results out of the conference, students should think of questions prior to the meeting.

The main reason for students to come prepared is because they will have the undivided attention of the teacher. “Individual questions will be answered, with teacher’s full attention, rather than in a class of twenty kids all asking different questions,” said English teacher Jesse Bauks.

Although conferences are student-driven, more direction and initiative is taken by teachers when dealing with underclassmen. On the other hand, when conferencing with seniors, teachers strive to have the students lead the conference.

Teachers have also noted trends amongst students. Bauks explained how some underclassmen view conferencing to be “un-cool,” while upperclassmen are more motivated.

While conferencing may initially seem like meeting with a teacher to clarify a few questions, it is actually extremely essential. Students focus on analytical writing during a conference, and can also improve their mechanical skills in writing, such as grammar and vocabulary.

“Regardless of where kids go to college, they know how to write and are usually ahead than other college students,” said Bauks.

Comm also agrees with Bauks’ sentiment: “We constantly have students returning from college telling us that their papers are held up as models by their professors, that they do not feel lost with college writing as do their peers, and that they help their friends and roommates at college with writing assignments.”

Despite conferencing being such an asset, it is a rarity in high schools. “Conferencing is one of the strongest parts of our English programs. Many high schools do not have conferencing,” said Comm.

English conferencing is so vital to the extent that English teachers teach one less period than other teachers from different departments; while the majority of teachers at Staples teach five periods, English teachers only teach four. “The constant conferencing and correcting essays makes up for the 5th class they would have taught,” said Comm.

This extra period results in higher finances, but both Comm and Fagan feel that the extra conferencing period is beneficial. “If all English teachers taught five classes, we could probably hire two or three fewer English teachers,” said Comm.

“I value the conferencing opportunity very highly,” said Fagan. “If teachers taught five periods, there would be less time for conferencing.”

Conferencing is one of the biggest advantages Staples has to offer, and students should make the most of all that an English conference can provide.

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