Many schools have shifted to offering parent-teacher conferences virtually. While some families might prefer to meet in person, having the option to connect virtually can help families engage with teachers without the burden of scheduling a trip to school during the workday or during busy evenings. Planning for these conferences will be a lot different than in-person meetings. Here are steps we recommend taking while working on your virtual parent-teacher conference plans!
Plan the Logistics
- Save the Date: Set the date and times early so parents can make their schedules around the conferences. Communicate times and logistics for sign-up as soon as possible and in a variety of ways.
- Clear Conference Expectations: Provide a time limit for parent-teacher conferences. Share the agenda ahead of time. This helps teachers manage their conference scheduling appropriately and proactively lets parents know how much time they’ll have with the teacher. Make sure all stakeholders know what conferences will look like and how much time they’ll have with the teacher.
- Parent Sign-Ups: Create a plan for how parents sign up. Will they call the school to sign up? Will a front office manager keep track of all the conferences on a google sheet that teachers have access to? Parent-Teacher Conference Scheduling Resource Or do you prefer to have parents email the teacher directly to set up the conference? Do you want parents to fill out a survey with times they’re available and just schedule the conferences for each parent? Will teachers use an app like Calendly so parents can schedule from a variety of options that work for the teacher? Whatever way you want parents to sign up, make it clear to both parents and teachers!
- Track the Conference Schedule: Help teachers keep track of conference times. They have a lot on their plates so make sure you have a system to help them keep track of it. The resource above is a helpful way to do that!
Plan the Conversation for Parent-Teacher Conferences
- Clear Agenda: Have a clear agenda for teachers to guide the conversation. An agenda helps stick to time limits and keep the conversation focused. If you’re okay with it, teachers can adapt the agenda ahead of time a bit. Still, the agenda you provide can help teachers have a starting point. Here is an example of an effective 20-minute parent-teacher conference.
- Most Important Topics: Make sure administrators and teachers are normed on the most important topics to discuss during parent-teacher conferences. These topics could be aligned to your school strategic priorities or a focus area of virtual learning. Making sure your school has a clear goal and vision for parent-teacher conferences helps make the time with parents most effective.
- Differentiated Agendas: Think about the different student groups who may potentially need differentiated agendas. Do you want to have a separate agenda schedule for at-risk students or seniors in high school planning for college? Think about what different agenda items may need to be adapted for specific students.
- Invite All Necessary Stakeholders: Make sure all necessary stakeholders are in parent-teacher conferences. If students are in the Special Education or 504 programs, make sure the 504 coordinator or SPED teachers are invited. When a teacher feels a school administrator would be helpful in a parent-teacher conference, make sure teachers have a way to clearly communicate that to get administrator support. If a translator is needed, make sure that is taken into account before the conference.
- Leave Time for Parent Questions: Plan extra time in the agenda for parent questions during parent-teacher conferences. You can also ask parents ahead of time what questions they’d like answered at the conference so teachers can come prepared with those things. That could be asked in a parent survey or be requested from parents in another method when they sign up for a conference.
- Norm on Parents as Experts: As a school community, it’s important to have norms on what you believe about parents as partners. Going into conferences, discuss as a school team what you believe about parents. When teachers understand that parents are experts of their child and an important part of student success, conferences are much more valuable, rich.
Execute the Conference
- Send Video Links or Get Phone Numbers: Make sure all technology invites are organized and sent out to parents. If parents request a phone conference, have a place to record that request and the correct phone number. If they prefer a video conference, make sure the link and location are clearly communicated to parents.
- Delegate Action Steps For Teachers, Student, and Parents: Student success takes a team. Parents, students, and teachers should all feel ownership over the next steps from parent-teacher conferences. Parents want to know what they can do to support their students best. Teachers can get great information on action steps at school based on parent ideas and knowledge about what has worked for their child in past academic settings. Students should walk away knowing what they can do to be responsible for their academic success.
Follow Up and Monitor Progress
- Have a Clear Follow-Up With Parents if Necessary: Based on the action steps for parents, students, and teachers, planning a follow-up will look different for all situations. Plan for clear action steps and specific follow-ups at the end of your conference. One follow-up could be a phone call in two weeks to check-in and share progress on action steps. Another follow up could be scheduling a future video conference after the next unit exam to see how the student is progressing. It could even be just setting a reminder to send an email to the parent to see how things are going and give them an update in a week. Whatever works best for the situation, have a clear follow-up planned to continue the conversation.
- Progress Monitoring Plan: During parent-teacher conferences, create goals for students’ academic, behavior, or other goals. Have a plan to monitor progress towards those student goals. Examples include:
- a daily tracker that the student fills out to see progress on their goal,
- a weekly grade book check from the parent or student,
- a bi-weekly teacher meeting with the student.
Whatever it looks like, make sure you monitor their goals and keep them at top of mind for the student, parent, and yourself. Setting and achieving goals is a tangible skill students need.
As you think through the content of virtual parent-teacher conferences, planning for important logistical pieces will lead to a successful parent partnership. If you’d like support planning your parent-teacher conferences, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.