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Toolkit

Parent-Teacher Conferences and Parent/Guardian Meetings

The COVID-19 pandemic requires that educators build on best practices that strengthen home-school relationships and communication.
Published: 12/07/2020

Overview

Parent-teacher conferences and meetings, including back-to-school nights or other gatherings of student guardians, provide opportunities for educators to build relationships with parents and families. They also provide an opportunity to communicate school and classroom-related updates and other information about student performance. The COVID-19 pandemic has made it particularly challenging to use traditional methods of relationship-building and communication as schools grapple with ensuring safety during in-person events and engaging parents in a virtual setting.

Considerations and Solutions

The COVID-19 pandemic requires that educators build on best practices that strengthen home-school relationships and communication. These practices include student-centered conversations, flexibility, and cultural competency. Given the current public health crisis, here are some additional factors to consider.

In-Person Parent-Teacher Conferences and Meetings

  • Safety Protocols
    • Ensure there is enough space for social distancing.

    • Set up common locations and classrooms to support social distancing (visual prompts, remove seating, traffic flow patterns, etc.).

    • Make masks mandatory and provide masks for those who do not have one.

    • Create hand sanitizer stations.

    • Check temperatures of attendees.

    • Consider outdoor space vs. indoor space.

    • Require sick attendees to stay home.

    • Establish protocols to conduct deep-cleaning before and after the event.

  • Scheduling
    •  Consider hosting multiple Back-to-School events to reduce the number of attendees.

    • Create a pre-recorded Back-to-School Night video for families who cannot attend.

  • Needs of Families
    • Provide childcare that follows recommended CDC guidelines.
      • Points to consider
        • Group size
        • Overall safety protocols
        • Individual activities so that children don’t have to share supplies
        • Indoor vs. outdoor space
        • Collaboration with community-based organizations that can support child to adult ratios
  • Translate documents for families or provide on-site translation services.

  • Encourage educators to have more expansive conversations with parents that extend beyond academics to deepen understanding of the needs of families, including questions about technology and connectivity.

  • Provide families with information related to the delivery of special education services, 504 plans, wraparound supports, and mental health.

  • Relationship Building
    • Ask parents/guardians about their well-being and needs.
    • Listen for key phrases that may indicate a need for assistance like, “staying temporarily”, “staying in someone else’s home”, or “in transition.”
    • If applicable, ask if the family has been able to access school meals.
    • Have a list of resources ready (nutrition assistance, mental health services, housing assistance, etc.) or make note of needs and follow-up with the appropriate referrals.
    • Seek input about the child (observations, highlights, areas of need, etc.)
    • Have asset-based conversations that focus on how the child is developing and progressing.
    • Provide your contact information (email, Google voice, etc.).
    • Share how the school is currently supporting families.

Virtual Parent-Teacher Conferences and Meetings 

  • Technology
    • Consider parent/guardian access to technology and the internet.
      • Create a low-tech alternative for parents who don’t have accessible or reliable technology, like phone-based conversations.
  • Select popular, user-friendly technology platforms.
    • Choose a platform that parents/guardians may already be familiar with (ex. Google Meet, Zoom).
  • Provide directions for using video-conferencing platforms.
  • Practice using the interface in advance.

    • Be sure educators know how to share their screen, mute all participants, use the hand raising tool, etc.

  • Scheduling

    • Offer multiple session timeslots.

    • Create a sign-up schedule.

  • Needs of Families
    • Translate documents for families or provide on-site translation services.

    • Ensure that parents/guardians have copies of student IEPs and 504 plans and understand how services will be provided during meetings with teachers.

  • Virtual Experience
    • Create an inviting virtual environment.
      • Have a welcome page for participants.

      • Create a virtual background.

      • Ensure your physical background is neat.

      • Use inclusive language and background signage to communicate allyship with students of color, students in the LGBTQIA+ community, and students with disabilities.

      • Pay attention to lighting and how you appear on screen.

      • Maintain a smile and practice eye contact by looking directly at the webcam while speaking.

  • Provide an interactive experience.

    •  Ask parents/guardians questions.

    • Invite parents/guardians to share comments using the chat.

    • Use appropriate icebreakers or games.

  • Relationship Building
    • Ask parents/guardians about their well-being and needs.

    • Listen for key phrases that may indicate a need for assistance like, “staying temporarily”, “staying in someone else’s home”, or “in transition.”

    • If applicable, ask if the family has been able to access school meals.

    • Have a list of resources ready (nutrition assistance, mental health services, housing assistance, etc.) or make note of needs and follow-up with the appropriate referrals.

    • Seek input about the child (observations, highlights, areas of need, etc.).

    • Have asset-based conversations that focus on how the child is developing and progressing.

    • Provide your contact information (email, Google voice, etc.).

    • Share how the school is currently supporting families.

Additional Points to Consider

  • Involve families in the planning process.

  •  Establish relationships with parents/guardians in advance (phone calls, safe home visits,

    etc.).

  • Provide documents in advance.

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