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Virtual Parents Conference

Meeting the challenges together
New York Teacher
Evelyn Edwards

Evelyn Edwards of the UFT Teacher Center leads the session for parents titled Google Classroom: A Student Experience.

The Power Of Words

Parents use Zoom to attend a workshop about The Power of Words: How to Close the 30-Million-Word Gap. 

Five hundred public school parents across the city joined the UFT’s virtual parent conference on Nov. 7 to discuss remote learning and parenting during the pandemic. 

The union has hosted parent conferences every fall in each borough for the past decade but, due to the pandemic, the UFT decided on a citywide event this year.

UFT President Michael Mulgrew summed up the coronavirus experience. “We still have a lot of challenges,” Mulgrew told the attendees. “We have frustrations with the Department of Education and frustrations with parents’ inability to get the support they’re looking for.”

The conference workshops were designed to help provide some of that support.

After hearing from Mulgrew and keynote speaker LeRoy Barr, the UFT secretary, participants were sorted into Zoom rooms for the workshops they had signed up for ahead of the event. There were 45 workshops in two sessions, covering a diverse range of topics, including Making a Home a School, Financial Planning in the Age of COVID-19, and Stress Management for Parents and Guardians. Two workshops were available in Spanish.

Manhattan parent Daphney Rodriguez attended a workshop on Mental Health for Children in kindergarten through 5th grade.

The presenter, she said, talked about how much of what’s going on in the world can be frightening for children and then described “how we can go about explaining it to our children and the resources that are available to us.”

Some of those resources are available without leaving home. 

“I learned there is a place for kids and adults to get therapy even over the phone or Zoom,” Rodriguez said. 

The Positive Learning Collaborative, a joint UFT/DOE venture that employs restorative practices to change student and adult behavior and transform school climate, presented a workshop on parenting in the pandemic. The workshop gave parents tips about managing behavior and building positive communication with children while taking care of themselves given the stress and confinement during COVID-19.

Another conference workshop discussed how to identify and deal with anxiety in children, which has been exacerbated during the pandemic.

Lena Jiggets, whose child attends PS 176 in the Bronx, appreciated hearing other parents’ feedback during the conference. “Most of us were in the same boat in terms of our concerns,” she said. 

Jiggets also appreciated the learning opportunity the conference provided. “It was really informative,” she said.