Parent-teacher conferences during COVID: 10 things to know

By Gretchen Vierstra, MA

COVID-19 continues to change how families and educators communicate with each other. Parent-teacher conferences can be a good chance to connect. But they may take a little more planning — and understanding — during the pandemic.

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. 

As the pandemic changes, kids may be moving between in-person and distance learning. If your child has been learning at home, you may have been seeing strengths and struggles the teacher isn’t aware of. The more you share with your child’s teacher, the more you can work together to help your child thrive. 

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 your child is 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. 

The strains of the pandemic can make it feel harder to connect with your child’s teacher. Use this meeting as an opportunity to build a strong parent-teacher relationship

5. This is still new for everyone, including teachers.

With every change in the pandemic, teachers have to figure out how to best teach their students. They’ll appreciate hearing about any bright spots so far. Thank them for all they’re doing during these uncertain times.

For teachers 

1. Meeting during the pandemic might make families anxious. 

Many families now have some experience with videoconferencing. But meeting with educators virtually can still bring challenges for families. Some may not be familiar with the technology you’re using. 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.

If your school has in-person conferences, families might wonder about social distancing rules. They may also worry about their health. Make sure families know and understand all of the health and safety protocols for meeting at school. Offer virtual meetings for those who prefer them.

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

Families know about their child’s strengths, challenges, and interests. They also have information about how their child is adjusting to learning during the pandemic. Ask what’s working — and what’s not working — with ongoing changes and 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. 

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    About the author

    About the author

    Gretchen Vierstra, MA is the managing editor at Understood and co-host of the 

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Amanda Morin is the director of thought leadership at Understood and author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education.” She worked as a classroom teacher and early intervention specialist for more than a decade.