There are many parts of the Covid-19 pandemic that parents and teachers want to forget. Some educators spent more than a year teaching remotely and trying to engage students over a screen. Parents were on the other end doing everything to make sure their kids stayed focused on the lessons.
However, there are some bright spots to come from the pandemic. Instead of asking parents to visit the classroom for a parent-teacher conference, these meetings moved online. This provided flexibility for parents to set up meeting times around their work schedules so they didn’t need to find childcare and transportation to the school.
Follow these tips to provide successful parent-teacher conferences online this year. You can also develop a hybrid model where parents can opt to visit your classroom or select a virtual call for the meeting.
1. Allow Parents to Sign Up for Times
With a virtual parent-teacher conference, you can set hours for availability and parents can choose the best times for them based on your window. For example, you might say that you are open for conferences from 4 pm - 7 pm on Monday through Thursday. A parent could sign up for a 5 pm appointment on Tuesday if it works best for them. You set the windows and the parents fill in.
Explore different calendar apps to find one that is easy for you (and parents) to use. You need a tool where you can create appointments and parents can take slots that meet their scheduling needs. You can then send out your calendar in a class email so parents can sign up on their own without requiring you to reach out directly.
This is a one-size-fits-most strategy. Make a note in your email that if none of the time slots work, parents should contact you directly for an appointment. A parent might prefer a before-school meeting or lunch conference depending on their work schedules. You might also have to reach out to a few parents if they ignore your emails.
2. Review Student Information Before the Call
Parents attend these conferences to learn how their kids specifically are doing in school. They are less concerned about the student body as a whole. Parents want to take make sure their kids are performing academically while also maintaining good behavior and friendships.
As a teacher, your virtual conference should actually start 10 minutes before the actual call. Use this time to look at the grades of this specific student, the projects they completed in class, and any notes you have on them. While you likely know most of these talking points already, reviewing them will make you more prepared.
Building prep time in-between calls can also help you pull visual aids if you complete crafts in class. You can hold up a poster of the water cycle that one child completed and then switch it with a book report poster that the next student was particularly proud of.
3. Pull Data from Online Tools and Programs
If you use online programs to teach your students, check to see if you can download individualized progress reports to share with the parents you have calls with. At eSpark, you can easily pull data on students so parents can get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Every student shines in some way, which is why we always try to build positive notes into each report.
4. Ask Your Students How They Feel
You can also incorporate student thoughts and feelings into your virtual parent-teacher conference. Ahead of these conferences, ask students to complete an online form during class where they share their thoughts on school. Consider asking the following questions:
- What is your favorite subject?
- What is the coolest thing you have learned so far?
- What is your least favorite subject?
- What do you need help with?
- What do you want me to tell your parents about your time in my class?
- Is there anything you want me to know before I meet your parents?
These questions can guide your meeting because you can highlight a student’s work and then talk about how it's their favorite subject. This last question can also help if you need to find a language translator or ASL interpreter ahead of a meeting.
5. Develop a Meeting Template
Some parents are natural talkers and could spend an hour telling you about their lives. Other parents will arrive at the meeting with a page of questions regarding their kids. Your job is to make all parents feel welcome and heard without going over the desired time on every single call.
Before your first parent-teacher conference, develop an agenda that you can follow for each meeting. You can even share this agenda in an email ahead of the call so parents know what to expect. A few things to discuss include:
- Highlights of teaching the student and their strengths.
- Samples of their projects and good work they have done.
- Items they might need to work on – academically or behaviorally – and tips to improve.
- Ideas for parents to support their kids.
- Important events and notes that parents should be aware of.
If a parent asks a question that you plan to discuss later in the meeting, you can acknowledge the question and let them know that you will answer it shortly.
6. Give Parents Time to Talk
When you develop your agenda, you don’t want to pack too many talking points that you have to rush through the meeting. It’s okay to have a lighter agenda that allows you to discuss concerns that parents have or end the conference early.
Make sure you build time for parents to talk. They will have questions. They will want to talk about their kids. If you think it only takes five minutes to review student work, allow for 10 minutes so parents can interject and speak.
By building time for parents, teachers can make sure that both parties feel heard. You will have enough time to communicate essential points while parents can feel comfortable talking to you. By the end of the call, both parties should feel better about meeting and should have a stronger relationship because of it.
7. Bring in an Administrator When Needed
Some virtual parent-teacher conference appointments are going to be harder than others. You may have sensitive issues to discuss or you may need to meet with parents who have been hostile to you in the past. If you are concerned going into a call, ask an administrator to be present. You could request the presence of your grade’s head teacher, the school counselor, or even the vice principal.
Bringing in an admin has multiple benefits. They can offer support and contribute to the conversation if you lose your footing. They might be able to explain concepts in a better way to parents. Additionally, if there is a problem during the call, you have a third person present to witness any inappropriate behavior by a parent.
Try eSpark for Easy Student Progress Sharing
The games and activities created by eSpark were developed with students in mind, but we also built plenty of resources for teachers. You can track student progress in real-time and adjust your lesson plans to focus on areas that students need help with. You can also download progress reports to share with parents and admin teams with just a few clicks.
Try out eSpark for your classroom and see how we can make teaching easier. Your students will be excited about this technology while parents will appreciate the clear view of how their kids are making progress.