By Emily Baeza, corps member at JPMorgan Chase Team at Mendez High School

“I received a __ on my report card because…”

So begins a typical City Year report card conference. During these individualized sessions, corps members meet one-on-one with every student in the 9th and 10th grade. Together, they evaluate the past five weeks and reflect how the student’s behavior both in and out of the classroom influenced his grades. Students are asked to consider such statements as “I am self-motivated” and “I received extra help from the teacher.”

My City Year team handles everything from coordinating the logistics to recruiting volunteers to making the room look and feel welcoming. Most importantly, we devise the format of the sessions with an emphasis on it being a space for conversation and reflection.

In this personal setting, students drive the discussion.  We employ open-ended statements like the aforementioned “I received a __ because…” to encourage them to take ownership of their education.

Many times students who experienced prior academic failure surrender responsibility of their grades – blaming their teachers, school administration, or personal relationships for their poor performance. However, report card conferencing allows students to contemplate the actions they did or did not take that contributed to their resulting grades.

It serves as a reality check for some, but also as an avenue to express concerns about their own performance and ability to improve. The conferences can also reveal new information to help corps members support their focus list students. In fact, one of my fellow corps members learned from the conference process that his student’s future goal was to enlist in the military. He was able to use that information to create a solid game plan for the student to not only graduate from high school, but also pursue higher education to increase his chances of military employment.

This is what can come from an 8-minute conversation and a commitment to student advocacy.

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