Tag Archives: #Zoom

Setting online norms for faculty meetings

We find ourselves in a new frontier, suddenly in each other’s homes with online faculty meetings. Now that we are here, how can we make sure to continue to build community, plan, coordinate remote learning, create resources, while upholding some boundaries and norms?

Here are some ideas for online norms for faculty meeting that might be helpful, and recommendations for teachers meeting with students virtually, all in the spirit of setting and protecting healthy boundaries and trying to keep everyone safe and comfortable.

Be flexible: with guests

So, with all of the best laid plans (your designated meeting place), your child, or your pet, will likely find you. Everyone understands this and will say a quick hello. Honestly, we all could use that distraction and quick bit of humanity. It will take some practice to figure out what works best for you and how to manage this.

Know you are not alone in this struggle! I spend the first part of every Zoom call just incredibly grateful to see the faces of my colleagues, and then moving my cat, who really wants to be a part of the conversation.

Be flexible: with differing technology skills

Before all of this, some jumped into technology, used it daily, and felt quite comfortable with this format. Other folks have been picking up skill by skill and find this whole shift completely overwhelming… with all levels in between. 

Did your first first meeting go like this, or some version of it?


So support each other with clear steps for how to do things!

Talk folks through it, step one, step two.

When we first called my mother-in-law on FaceTime, she held the phone to her ear. This makes total sense! It is how we have answered phones since Alexander Graham Bell. A new practice gets adopted forever once practiced a few times.

Be gentle on your colleagues that are making these new practices work in a short amount of time. 

The mute button is your friend

Not talking during the meeting? Mute your mic! We love your dog, but it is already hard to concentrate around here. This helps everyone focus. And if you are ready to say something, you can hover over that mic with your mouse, ready to click it and jump into the conversation at the right time. 

Let your family and/or housemates know you are meeting.

While your dog might not get the memo, your family and housemates should probably know there’s a professional gathering happening somewhere in their home. If nothing else, it will make them think twice about just what they yell when they stub their toes.

Stick with your regular schedule and agenda as much as possible.

Folks — adults and kids — find routines comforting. We of course need to make adjustments but we are teachers, we know what to do. Teaching is our jam. So try to shift your mindset to being about helping maximize learning and human connection and the faculty meetings are there to support you with this. 

Consider the regular school day, and regular meeting times. Teachers will need time away from their computers to be with their families and handling their own personal needs. They are not available 24/7, so while we are in this new frontier, consider, how to help teachers set professional boundaries for their work. Otherwise, this could consume their every waking hour, which is not healthy. 

Bring in the joy

Everything is hard right now. How can online norms for faculty meetings encourage wellness, reflection, and joy? It has always been a challenge to do this in faculty meetings, but this even more important now. How can you promote joy, wellness, and connection?

Maybe a simple prompt at the beginning or end of each meeting:

  • How are you finding joy today?
  • How have you moved your body today?
  • What was the best part of remote learning today?
  • How will you care for yourself today?

And finally, accept two things.

One, we’re all still learning. Every day, something new, something challenging, a button toggled by accident, an intensely weird virtual background deployed through honest mistake. Still learning!

And two, this is a time of unprecedented change, challenge and anxiety, and the people who show up to your meetings — yourself included — may be in flux. They may be struggling, or experiencing loss. But they showed up. They’re still here. And they’re doing their best.

Just like you.


Switching to online student led conferences

We had been preparing for spring student led conferences for months. Feedback had been reviewed. Plans had been coordinated. Schedules were created. And now? Poof. Everything changed. One option is switching to online student led conferences.

Okay. Deep breath.

Change of plans.

We got this!

At some schools, this means a pivot to distance conferencing for this week. There are several ways to do this and still put students at the center.

The Google Hangout Conference

Tried and true, Google Hangouts are probably the easiest way to do online student-led conferences. Assuming you have a gmail account and domain, which most schools do. Here’s how it would go. You can use the calendar feature, or call someone directly.

  • Calendar appointment:

You can reach out to families with a conference time via email. Once that time is agreed upon, set up a calendar event in Google calendars. Here is how to do that.

Then, invite the family to the conference using their email address. When it says “send invitation” say yes. And the family will be notified of the calendar event. See this link  for more specific information on how to do this.


  • Directly through email:

In Gmail, you can open up the chat feature, and type in the family’s email address and send them a message. Something like, “Hello! I am hoping to set up an online conference with you. I would like to use Google Hangouts for this. Please accept an upcoming invitation to Google Hangouts, and thank you so much! Looking forward to talking with you.”  If they haven’t used Google Hangouts before, it will send them an invitation, which they can accept, then you can video call them at an agreed upon time.

Conference via Zoom

Zoom is an online video conferencing tool that’s a lot like Google Hangouts: you can have a speaker present and screen share while seeing all the other participants.

FYI – Zoom has offered free conferencing during this time of social distancing. Zoom is a low-entry tool that requires you download their software and create an account in order to *host* meetings. To join a Zoom meeting, however, all you need is the virtual location of the “room”. Getting up and running hosting Zoom meetings is relatively straightforward.

Structuring your online student-led-conference

The online conference structure can be what you had planned for to begin with! *But before that*

These are difficult times. Check in with the family. See how they are doing, what might they need. Point them to helpful local resources. And resources to help them stay healthy, and if they are sick. Offer up connection, empathy and support.

Have the student and parent/guardian sit closely together. If there is only one computer, the student can reduce the Hangout screen to take up half of the screen, and their reflections or portfolio to take up half of the screen. If there are two computers to use for this at home, one can be connected to the hangout, and the other can be used to have the student share their work and reflections.

Need a new structure? Try this one:

Possible outline:

  • Welcome! How are you? This is so hard! What do you need?
  • Student presents work.
  • Family asks questions.
  • Teacher asks questions or makes comments.
  • Celebrate student progress
  • Ponder next learning steps together.
  • Close with gratitude for everyone.

Useful tips & tricks

  • Mute your microphone when you are not talking.
  • You can share your screen at any time. If you (the teacher) wants to show an assessment, or anything, see the three dots in the right hand corner. Click share screen. (Note: make sure you really want to share your screen! Your entire screen will be shared. You can reduce that recipe or playlist if you want). You can hit “stop sharing screen” at any time to return to the live Hangout camera.

Bandwidth an issue? Keep it analog.

Schedule a group phone call.

If using a cell phone, the family can put it on speaker and sit together. If the student has a device, they can still share verbally about their work, and show the parent in real time. You could use the above format, but via phone on speaker.

If the student doesn’t have a device home, they can still offer up a powerful reflection that is more than a regular parent-student couch chat. They can reflect on questions like:

  • What are you most proud of from this semester/trimester and why?
  • Where do you think you’ve shown the most growth?
  • What is a goal for the next semester, where do you think you should focus on next?
  • Are there any transferable skill going well for you (and please share and example)
  • What transferable skill do you want to focus on improving?
  • How can your family and teachers better support you?

You might only get to some of these! And leave some time for family and teacher questions. You might also have the student jump off the call (or Hangout) to talk privately with the family member. And that is okay! Use your judgment to figure out what is right for the situation.

Okay. We are pivoting. We are doing *hard things*. What are your questions about this? How can we help support you with this shift?