This year, parent-teacher conferences look a little different. Normally we would get everything ready in our classroom, arrange times, and meet with parents face to face. This year though, most teachers likely aren’t seeing any parents in person and instead are doing a virtual conference. While this is planned to keep us all safe and healthy, it does add its own challenges.
Conference time can be overwhelming even when we aren’t in the middle of a pandemic. But this year we are throwing in social distancing and technology! Don’t worry. This doesn’t mean you can’t have a fantastic virtual conference, you just have to be prepared so it goes smoothly.
You would be amazed at how helpful it can be to take just a couple extra steps to prepare for the conference. I have a specific process for how I like to do my conferences, how I address concerns, goals, and achievements, and how I make the student feel great about their hard work.
Here are my tips for a smooth, easy, and productive virtual conference.
Before the Virtual Conference
- Schedule the conferences through a digital scheduler like Calendly or SignUp Genius. Allot 20 minutes for each conference, but plan for them to take 15 minutes. This will keep you on track and you won’t feel guilty if the conference takes a quick detour.
- Before the conference, ask students how they are feeling about everything. You can give them self-perception surveys that will put everything in one place on a Google Form. You can then share this information with the parents. It’ll give them a new perspective and give your students a voice. You can check out my self-perception surveys here!
- Give parents a voice by sending home a questionnaire. This will also give you insight into their concerns and help you prepare for the conference. For my parent questionnaires, check out my resource here.
- Use a template that is one page and easy to follow for each child. Consider using a widescreen since you’ll be sharing the information on a computer or device. I’m so excited because I just added this template to my conference forms!
- When preparing your templates, consider sharing the child’s strength, weakness, and a goal for each subject. Then, share the grades. This will help explain the grades and could possibly eliminate questions.
- Organize your conference materials in the order that you have them. This will help you know who is next, etc. Make sure to write the parents’ first and last names on the conference documents so that you don’t accidentally call them by the wrong name or forget their name.
- Prepare a how-to tutorial video on all tech things and share links or QR codes with the parents. This will save you time during the conference if a parent says they don’t know where something is. Consider creating a small handout to send home for this.
Day of the Virtual Conference
1. Send home any materials needed the day of the conference so there’s less chance they’ll get lost. You may also want to send home a conference reminder in the packet.
2. Start the conference with, “How are you? What do you need from me in order to make this year successful?” This will help parents relax and it may lead to a good segway into the strengths, weaknesses, and goals.
3. Don’t be afraid to use, “I’ve got another conference after this” even if you don’t. This will help you keep on track of time, and it can stop the meeting in case it starts to run too long.
BONUS tip: Thank the parent or parents for attending. Send a small sheet of paper home and ask the parent to write their child a note explaining why they’re proud of them.
To simplify your conference organization, check out my editable conference forms here.
Here’s what is included:
- Parent Questionnaire (Paper and Google Forms)
- Pre-Conference Forms (Paper and Google Forms)
- Student-Led Conference Script
- Parent-Teacher Conference Form (Paper and Google Slide Template)
- Conference Scheduling
- Letters for Parents to Students
- Thank You Labels for Parents
- Tips and more!
These are so helpful for creating successful conferences whether they’re virtual, parent-teacher, or student-led conferences! I’ve included it all!
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For more teacher resources, check out my post here for free teacher resources to save your sanity.