Parent-Teacher Conferences Held Remotely

Spanish teacher Neil Callahan on a Google Meet. Photo taken by Kaoutar Wakaf.

Malden High School’s parent and teacher conferences were originally held in the cafeteria. However, since the pandemic started, the school decided to virtually connect teachers and caregivers through Calendly and Google Meet. The first parent and teacher conference of the school year was held on November 18th.

Principal Christopher Mastrangelo said “we did it in this [virtual] format last year and the teachers loved it because parent-teacher nights can be a mess.” He went on to say that “we have all these parents converging at the school at once, and I’m sitting there talking to Ms. Marquez, and there’s twelve people behind me, so it creates a little stress for [her] and everybody else.” 

As a result, the school utilized this format last year through the app Calendly where each caregiver would be given seven minutes. Mastrangelo further added that the app enables the teacher to “know exactly which caregiver is coming in when, so it allows them to really be prepared.” Due to the great feedback that was received and the strict policies around allowing people in the building, “we decided a long time ago to follow the same format,” he said. 

The teachers at MHS had mixed feelings about the format for the school’s parent teacher conferences, and the fact that teachers were required to come into school to join the virtual meetings. Neil Callahan, a Spanish teacher at MHS, liked this arrangement because “it worked out for [him]” and “it ended up helping [him] because [he] got lots of good work done.” 

Math teacher, Arielle McCoy, said she would have preferred having the choice to be within the school for the virtual conferences. “The benefit of being within the school allowed me to pull students’ tests and look over them as I was talking to the parents” and she was able to give the parents more information. 

She also added that having to come into the building just to get on a google meet didn’t make much of a difference for her because she lives nearby, but she said she would have wanted to be comfortable at home since the conferences were from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM and she had to stay at school the whole day since she gets here around 6:45 AM to 7:00 AM on average, and she had to stay until 7:30 PM. For McCoy “that’s a really, really long day.”

Paul Degenkolb, a French teacher at MHS, expressed that he had a mixed reaction to the fact that teachers were required to come into school just to join the virtual meetings. Degenkolb explained that he did not mind coming in, but it was not convenient for some of his colleagues who live farther away or have children at home.

Rachel LeBlanc, an English teacher, said that besides some “shaky internet,” the conference was fine. “If I have to come into school, I’d rather meet the parents in person because I don’t think you can replicate that on a video call.” She also remarked that she met with more parents than usual.

Callahan added that he would not mind having another opportunity for conferences. “I only got to speak with eight parents total and I have over 100 students. So if it were spread out over a few days, I think that would have been better.” Since it was harder for some parents to attend, Callahan thinks that “having more days or having to be more spread out would be a little more accessible.”

McCoy shared similar views to Callahan. “Some parents were unable to meet with us in-person at night, because maybe they’re on their way to work or they have other commitments, or they don’t have access to internet connection or internet at all.” 

Degenkolb stated that “it would make more sense to do things differently” and thought that in the future, they “have to change the way [they] do conferences completely because the virtual works pretty well in terms of the quality of the discussion, but you can only have so many appointments in that small amount of time.” And due to this, “a lot of the parents couldn’t join.” 

To solve this issue, Degenkolb suggested changing the school calendar so that parent-teacher conferences are built into the calendar. This would allow parents to know in advance, and have enough time to make adjustments to their schedules in order to attend the meetings. 

He added that the sole purpose of the conference days would be for teachers to meet with parents, that way more parents would be able to participate. 

Degenkolb also mentioned  that “right now, [the parent teacher conferences are] always rushed” because “every year, people say, ‘we know this isn’t ideal, but it’s just the best we can do,’” however, he believes that it’s not the best we can do.  

Degenkolb expressed that “we could actually . . .  come up with a plan,” but “the problem is that most of the teachers have these ideas, we just don’t have any power.”

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