COVID Didn't Give Us Much to Celebrate, But We Need to Keep Virtual Conferences

Nov 12, 2021 12:00:00 AM


Parent-teacher conferences are a critical component of every school year. This is an opportunity for teachers to share with families the areas of success for their students and areas where there is an opportunity for growth. This is also an opportunity for parents to ask questions and to learn how they can support their children at home. 

The pandemic had an impact on many areas of life including conferences. To limit the spread of the coronavirus, conferences were moved to the virtual setting. Although students are now learning in person across the country, many schools have kept virtual conferences. When the pandemic ends, virtual conferences should continue to be an option.

One of the biggest complaints of teachers is a lack of parent engagement, which includes frustration with parents not attending parent-teacher conferences. [pullquote]Just because parents may be absent from traditional conferences, it does not mean they don’t care or don’t want to attend conferences.[/pullquote] Virtual conferences provide more options. Parents can attend from any location. They can use a break at work to chat with their children’s teachers—especially if they don’t have hours available to take off work. Virtual conferences also eliminate drive time, which would have to be factored into the amount of time some parents would have to take off to attend.

Virtual conferences are also beneficial for teachers. Instead of collecting a hard copy portfolio of work, teachers can easily share their screen and show their students’ work to their parents. Teachers or staff who are bilingual and interpret at conferences can move from virtual call to virtual call instead of trying to dart from classroom to classroom.

School staff should not complain about parental involvement when multiple options for parents to connect with teachers are not available. Hopefully, the day will come for in-person conferences to come back which also allows parents to look at their children’s classroom, desk, and locker. But if a parent cannot come in person, virtual conferences should still be an option.

Shawnta S. Barnes

Shawnta (Shawn-tay) S. Barnes, also known as Educator Barnes, is a married mother of identical twin boys. She navigates education from not only the educator’s perspective but also the parent’s perspective. She has been an educator for nearly two decades. Shawnta works with K-12 schools, universities, & education adjacent organizations through her education consulting business Blazing Brilliance. She is an adjunct college professor, supervises student teachers, Indy Kids Winning Editor-in-Chief, Brave Brothers Books Co-founder, & CEO, and Brazen Education Podcast host. She holds five education licenses: English/language arts 5-12, English to speakers of other languages P-12, library/media P-12, reading P-12, and school administration P-12, and she has held a job in every licensed area. Previously, she has served as a school administrator, English teacher, English learners teacher, literacy coach, and librarian. She won the 2019 Indiana Black Expo Excellence in Education Journalism Award. In 2023, she completed her doctorate in Literacy, Culture, and Language Education with a minor in Learning Sciences. She is an urban gardener in her spare time and writes about her harvest-to-table journey at To learn more about Shawnta, visit

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