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March 18, 2021

Private Virtual Conferences

When I heard we were moving to a virtual classroom I was so nervous about not really knowing my students. That was my biggest fear. How would I be able to recognize them, to get to know their quirks, to love them?

It hasn't been hard like I thought.

The second week of school I sent home a Sign Up Genius link to my parents.  I'm used to using Sign Up Genius because that's what we do for Parent Teacher Conferences. I get the time slots available, send out the link and it's first come, first choose...

I figured that if the parents were choosing their child's time for conferences that perhaps they would mark it on their calendars and remember to remind.  

It's worked pretty well this year.  

I chose 10 minute conferences with each kid.  You can do a lot in 10 minutes.  Enough time for some intervention if needed.  Enough time to talk about books, enough time to check in about life, and for them to ask questions.  Enough time to go over a test... Enough time for a last minute parent, student, teacher conference if needed...

So I put these options on a Sign Up Genius and most of the families chose their own time. I gave them a few days, then sent personal messages on Class Dojo for the rest of the families, then I finally asked the last few students to choose their own time.  I'm really good at nagging. :) 

I don't do conferences on Wednesdays since those are our staff meeting afternoons, but I do have a weekly Class Chat from 1-1:30 that day.  

This schedule still gives me time after conferences are done to tackle the rest of the paperwork... like grading and planning... and if for some reason a kid doesn't show up to their conference I just use that time to grade.  I can also keep responding to all the other messages that students are sending me in their private channels with their questions.  

I meet with the students in their private channels.  I just start a meeting, and if needed I can add things to that specific conversation to add to their channel's files.  When the mic or camera hasn't worked, it works to just type in the meeting chat as well.  It's just a little more private since they are the only ones that can see what we talk about.  

I do send a reminder (that I just copy and paste) into my student's channels on their meeting day.  "It's Conference Day! Can you join me?" They RSVP yes or no.  It's made it a little easier to not feel trapped in front of a computer screen if I need to get up for a moment.

I give them 5 minutes to show up to the conference.  Usually they are ready right away, but other times they aren't... so I send a little message at the end.  "Missed you at our conference, hope you are okay." Then I add the specific things we were going to talk about, and they answer me on their own time.  Like "How are you doing? What's new? What you are reading? How has the character grown in the story? How is math going? What is the difference between multiplying fractions vs whole numbers? Could you resubmit that one homework paper since I know you can do better? Do you have any questions for me?"

I've been trying hard to work to contract this year for my own sanity.  So come 3:30pm I am trying to switch from teacher hat to mom hat. My own kids still need me to help them (aka taking my own teenager out for driving practice), I need time to do something for me... whether it be going outside for fresh air or curling up with my own book... then there is housework, dinner prep, and laundry, and all that other fun stuff.  This year I'm learning about balance...

Back to Private Conferences.  I think, no I KNOW, that it's because of these private conferences that I really know my students this year.  I know them.  The barriers come down during these private meetings.  We've talked about fears and celebrations.  We've been silly.  We've had some tears. 

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