Game Change: Principal brings alternative conference format to Hancock

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Teachers Matt Dennis (left), Chris Salani (center) and others met with parents in the gymnasium Thursday at the Hancock High School, something new at the school. In the past, parent/teacher conferences were conducted in individual classrooms, while parents waiting to talk with teachers waited their turn in the hallway.

HANCOCK — Hancock High School Principal Ezekiel Ohan introduced a new parent/teacher conference format this year, holding them in the high school’s gymnasium. A number of parents, such as Lisa Almquist, liked the new system. It was convenient to have all the teachers in one area, she said, reducing the time parents were at the school.

Jennifer Smith, who teaches English and French at the middle and high schools, said she is used to the format.

“I taught at a school in Ohio for 18 years, and we did conferences together in the gym,” Smith said, “so I’m totally used to this. So last year when we had them in our rooms, that was sort of what was strange to me. It was fine, but it was different for me. So, this is back to what I’m used to.”

Superintendent Kip Beaudoin said he, too, has worked in districts that have done it both ways.

“The advantage to the classroom piece is you get to see where your child is learning,” Beaudoin said. “The advantage here, from a time standpoint, is a parent coming in and wanting to see a teacher (winds up) sitting out in a hallway. Neither the educator, nor I, know that somebody else is waiting.”

Smith agreed, saying she thinks it’s a better set-up for the parents, because all the teachers are in one area, but like Beaudoin, she sees drawbacks.

“One disadvantage is that parents don’t get to see the classrooms,” Smith said. “I’m hoping that they are allowed to, and are encouraged to, walk around the school,” Smith said. “I hope they really do that, but that’s the only real downside for this.”

While the gymnasium format is more public, Beaudoin said there are times a parent may want a private conference with a teacher.

“Any time a parent wants to have a conference with a teacher, private conferences are certainly (available) by request,” he said. “The fact that there would be a loss of privacy may be important. Those teachers would absolutely meet with a parent.

“They’re just two different philosophies” Beaudoin added, “and each one comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages.”