Parent-teacher conferences might look a bit different this year, but the goals, priorities, and basics will remain the same. These brief meetings are wonderful opportunities for parents and teachers to check in on student’s successes and areas for improvement, as well as discuss ways to support them where they’re struggling – whether it’s with their schoolwork or the transition to remote learning.
Conferences will be here before we know it, and if they have to be held virtually, here’s 8 ways you can prepare yourself for the online meeting to help the night run smoothly.
- Share a topics list or agenda with parents beforehand – Send a simple agenda to each parent, so they can be mentally prepared and add anything else they’d like to discuss.
- Attach materials you would like to go over – Gather and send parents documents for each student beforehand. This might include progress reports you would like to discuss, noteworthy assignments, or test results. You could scan and email them, that way they can have their own personal copy. Or you could always use a document camera and share your screen!
- Make sure you are comfortable with your tech tools – Be sure you’ve used the virtual meeting platform or have tested it. Double-check that each parent receives clear instructions to test their video equipment beforehand and on how to join the platform/use the interface. If there is trouble logging on, try not to waste too much time, and either reschedule or settle for a meeting over the phone.
- Make a schedule of your night(s) – Use a scheduling app like Calendly, or write down the time for each meeting along with the parent’s and student’s names, your points of discussion, and meeting passwords (you are using a platform that is password protected).
- Don’t forget to schedule in buffer time – Try to allot a little time on each side of your meetings in case one goes late, parents have trouble logging in, or a discussion needs a little extra time. If a meeting runs late and you feel like you need more time, don’t get frustrated, just schedule a virtual follow-up meeting for a later date.
- Ask questions and listen – These are tough times. Students are stressed, as are teachers and parents. Ask honest, empathic questions such as “How is your child handling this?” “Where do you see struggle and ease?” and “How can I best support you?” Really listen to their answers and try to incorporate them.
- Be prepared to get asked about teaching or studying methods – Parents are juggling a lot – working from home (if they’re able), watching kids, and wearing the TA hat. Prepare for some parents to ask you for your guidance on at-home teaching or studying methods. You could gather these tips/resources in advance and send an email with the materials to any parent that has questions.
- Post-conference communicate and follow up via email – Be sure to follow up on any items you promised you would and schedule any individual follow up meetings. It also never hurts to send parents a “thank you” for their attendance and participation.
This year may have (many) more obstacles than years past, but above all, remember that you’re all on the same team – the team that’s focused on helping each student succeed.
Also, the basics of the virtual parent-teacher conference are the same as they were for in-person meetings – for some conference refreshers from a veteran teacher, check out our article here.
You’ve got this!
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