Virtual Family-Teacher Conferences

The May 2021 newsletter is all about preparing for and conducting family teacher conferences. In the newsletter, we provide a number of strategies to consider when holding virtual conferences, but there is so much to consider, we want to share more ideas here. If you find yourself preparing for virtual conferences this year, keep these things in mind:

  • Accessibility – Webinar and online meeting providers are all a bit different. Check with the tool your program uses to see if they have features such as closed-captioning. Some programs may allow you to create a transcript of the meeting as well.
  • Showing children’s work – Practice holding children’s work up to the camera in a way that gives families a chance to see the work and the detail you are describing. Some programs may have access to an overhead camera that pieces of work can be slid under for viewing. If you do not have access to something like this, hold the item steady and make sure it displaying in the frame correctly. You might consider sending scans of the items you know you want to share to families ahead of time. That will limit the number of pieces you are showing that could be shaky, out of focus, or out of frame.
  • Screen-sharing – Sharing your screen may be an option for showing documents via the camera. This only really works for the preplanned documents you want to share, such as a developmental checklist or a specific work sample you want families to see. Be sure to practice switching between the camera view and sharing your screen. Confirm that the family can see your screen before proceeding. Also, if you are going to be in screen-share mode, be mindful of the files you have open and your desktop background.
  • Speak slowly and carefully – Virtual meeting tools respond differently depending on the speed of your connection. Be sure to speak slowly and carefully. Refrain from speaking over the other members of the meeting. Watch body language closely for signs that you have cut out or have been misunderstood. This is much harder to do in an online meeting than it is in face-to-face meetings.
  • Recording – Many virtual meeting tools have a record function that will make documenting your conversations that much easier. Decide whether to make the recordings available to families.
  • Limit distractions – Distractions will likely occur on both ends of the virtual conference. On your end, find a location that limits the chance you will be interrupted. Encourage families to do the same. Be flexible and recognize that you might need to reschedule the meeting, rather than pushing through a situation where anyone on the call is distracted.
  • Allow more time – By the time that everyone is logged in, dialed in, and dealt with common technology frustrations, 5 minutes of your precious conference time could be gone. Consider adding 5 minutes to virtual meetings to ensure you have the time you need to address the needs of the child and the family.

As you learn new virtual meeting tricks, be sure to share them with your teammates. Together you will make it through family-teacher conferences without a hitch.