• Tips for Successful Virtual Meetings

    Posted by Angie Balsley on 10/23/2020 7:00:00 AM

    I simultaneously love and hate virtual meetings. I miss the personal connections that are only possible when the team is in the same room. Even when others in the meeting have an available webcam and enough bandwidth to use it, I still struggle to interpret non-verbal communications. On the other hand, virtual meetings are an efficient use of time and resources. I’ve been able to meet with people in a variety of locations within the same morning thanks to ease of connecting virtually. The reality of our situation has led me to ponder how I can make virtual meetings more successful. 

    Forbes published  12 Tips for Making Virtual Meetings More Professional. Their suggestions include:

    Create a professional remote office

    • Work from a quiet, carpeted room
    • Use a neutral background
    • Create good lighting 
    • Use a laptop, not a phone

    Ensure technical setup is sound

    • Test the technology
    • Place your webcam at eye level
    • Use a good microphone
    • Position the conference window near the camera

    Make virtual meetings feel real

    • Dress the part
    • Turn off notifications
    • Look at camera, not screen, while talking
    • Avoid multitasking

    The Progress Center at the America Institute for Research recorded the webinar Tips for Facilitating Successful Virtual IEP Meetings During the Pandemic and Beyond. The Center also provided  Virtual IEP Meeting Tip Sheets. Information from these resources stress the importance of being creative to ensure that parents of children with disabilities are able to meaningfully participate in their child’s case conference meetings. Some of their tips include:

    Before the meeting

    • Connect with parents to become familiar with their access needs and potential barriers for their participation
    • Inform parents of how they can share information and documents in advance of and during the meeting
    • Have a back-up plan for connecting the participants

    During the meeting

    • Use video when it is available
    • Pause often and allow enough time for participants to ask questions and provide feedback
    • Display the IEP or other documents being discussed on the screen
    • Discuss and agree upon a method for obtaining signatures

    After the meeting

    • Conduct a follow-up call with parents to answer any questions or concerns and debrief how the meeting went
    • Provide parent and team members with a finalized copy of the IEP

    Just like Natalie, Jo, Tuti & Blair from the Facts of Life (80’s sitcom), “we’ll take the good, we’ll take the bad, and there we’ll have the facts of life.” Virtual meetings are a fact of our lives which I believe will last far beyond the pandemic that spurred their wide-spread use. In the meantime, I’ll apply some of these tips to ensure the success of my virtual meetings.


    Dr. Angie Balsley, Executive Director

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  • Understanding Our Needs

    Posted by Angie Balsley on 8/21/2020 7:00:00 AM

    The 20-21 school year is underway. First and foremost, I want to say thank you for what I’ve seen and experienced over the past five months. 

    • Thank you students for your resilience and adaptability. 
    • Thank you parents for your grace, understanding, support, and communication.
    • Thank you teachers, therapists, support staff, and administrators for your tenacity and exceptional problem-solving. 

    This spring, the Council for Administrators of Special Education outlined four priorities for special education during the COVID-19 pandemic. These four priorities have been a keystone for my decision-making. 

    Four Priorities of Special Education

    With these priorities in focus, Earlywood remains committed to our mission, vision, and guiding principles. One of our principles is about collaborating  and being responsive to the needs of those we serve. My one piece of “back to school advice” is for everyone to share your needs and understand the needs around you. Keeping open communication about our needs and working together with understanding, compassion, flexibility, and grace will be critical to a successful school year.  

    This will be an exceptional year in many ways. We will face exceptional challenges and we will respond with exceptional solutions. I look forward to learning your needs and working together to make the 20-21 school outstanding.


    Dr. Angie Balsley, Executive Director


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