Teachers in BPS share their thoughts on this year’s virtual conferences

Parent-teacher conferences moved to online-only last year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bellevue Public Schools opted to keep that format for the 2021-2022 school year. 

Bellevue West English teacher Megan Flynn said that with grades being available online through PowerSchool and work being available on Schoology, planned conferences might not be as necessary.

“I think communication is important at all times,” Flynn said. “I don’t necessarily think we need a designated time to do that.”

Eighth-grade Lewis and Clark Middle School teacher Gary Mercer said that when he set up conferences he would first contact the parents of his students and set up a date and time. However, he said sometimes the conference is unnecessary.

 “The other thing you have to remember is, if I already have a problem with a student’s behavior, attitude or grades, most teachers have already contacted the parent,” Mercer said. “So conferences should not be a surprise to parents.”

According to fifth-grade teacher Beth Dawson, LeMay Elementary School gives the option for parents to choose an in-person conference, though she contacts parents on a regular basis.

“I typically send out a parent email once a week,” Dawson said. “This email is to inform them of topics that we are studying, test dates, special activities going on and sometimes fun photos of their child.”

Mercer said he noticed a difference in the number of people signing up for conferences this year.

Right now, the numbers are less than they were last year, and way less than they were when we had traditional conferences,” Mercer said.

According to Dawson, although October conferences might not be necessary for all students, it’s still important for parent-teacher relationships.

“I think conferences are beneficial in October because it helps to build relationships with the parents you don’t know,” Dawson said. “It’s a time to reconnect with parents you’ve had in past years.”

Bellevue West business teacher Pat Hinkle said she still believes that having conferences is important.

“I think keeping those lines of communication open with the parents [is important],” Hinkle said. “Even though, as teachers, we communicate and talk to our students on a daily basis, it’s important that the parents are in the loop as well.”

Third-grade Bellevue Elementary school teacher Janet McDonald said that she finds virtual conferences more difficult not only because both the parent and teacher can’t have all the paperwork, but also because of distractions.

“It’s always easier face to face, sometimes it’s easier just because there’s no siblings running around and the parents can focus,” said McDonald.

According to Hinkle, some teachers like to do conferences differently, but she prefers to have more adaptability.

“I think it’s just more convenient for the parents to give them a little bit more flexibility where they don’t have to come here and just stand and wait in line,” Hinkle said. 

Flynn shared one thing she does in each conference to make each student feel valued.

“No matter who the student is, I always make sure I communicate positives so that each student knows that I see them in class,” Flynn said. “That they are a valid and important part of the class environment, no matter what their grade is.”