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Parent-teacher conferences during COVID: 10 things to know

By Gretchen Vierstra, MA

Remote. In-person. Hybrid. No matter how kids are learning this year, parent-teacher conferences are going to be different. There will be new topics to talk about — from participation in live video lessons to challenges with wearing masks. On top of that, some conferences will be virtual. 

Here are 10 things to know about parent-teacher conferences this year. 

For families 

1. Finding time to meet may be more difficult than usual. 

You may have more to juggle these days, between your job, your child’s learning, and other family demands. Your child’s teacher is probably juggling many of the same things. If none of the proposed conference times work for you, let the teacher know. Share some times that are better for you. 

2. You have essential information to share with your child’s teacher. 

If your child is or had been learning at home, you may be seeing strengths and struggles the teacher doesn’t see. The more you share with your child’s teacher , the more you can work together to help your child thrive. 

Your child’s teacher may also ask you for specific feedback on their distance learning instruction. Be honest about what’s working and what isn’t.

3. All questions are good questions. 

You probably have questions about your child’s academic skills and progress . You may want to know what your child is expected to do at this grade level.

But you may also have questions about the new ways of learning this year — from technology to schedules. You might want the teacher to show you how to get into Google Classroom or another tool. It’s OK to ask about those things, too.

4. Building a relationship with your child’s teacher is important — even at a distance. 

Social distancing can make it feel harder to connect with your child’s teacher. This conference might be your first chance to talk one-on-one. Use this meeting as an opportunity to build a strong parent-teacher relationship

5. This is all new for your child’s teacher, too. 

Teachers are still figuring out how to teach during a pandemic. They’ll appreciate hearing about any bright spots so far. Thank them for all they’re doing during this uncertain time. 

For teachers 

1. Videoconferences might make families anxious. 

Videoconferencing can bring new challenges for families. Some may not be familiar with the technology. Or they might not be comfortable speaking on camera. (That may be especially true if English isn’t their first language.) 

It can help to send them information about the videoconference tool before the meeting. Also, be prepared to share your screen during the conference so you can show them the tools you’re using for online learning.

2. Families have information that can help you support your students. 

Families know how school went for their kids last spring. They also have information about how their child is adjusting so far this year. Ask what’s working — and what’s not working — with the new ways of learning. 

3. Consider asking the student to attend the conference.

Students may be at home with their families during virtual conferences. It might feel uncomfortable for students to know they’re being talked about in the other room. If students attend the conference (or part of it), you can all talk about how things are going. 

4. Empathy is important. 

Families may be feeling more stressed than usual. Take a moment to ask how families are doing. Listen and respond with empathy . Assure families that you’re on a team together to support their child. 

5. Small moments are worth celebrating. 

When times are stressful, it can be hard to see the positives. But it’s important to acknowledge any progress or success. Share small moments you’ve noticed, like an insight from an assignment or a thoughtful question raised in a conversation. Thank families for partnering with you. 

Looking for more information on parent-teacher conferences? 

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