A stressful business?
Parents' evenings are useful but can be very stressful, especially for new teachers. Occasionally parents/carers are aggressive, but more often they are grateful for what you do and rather nervous about coming to see you. Mostly you'll leave feeling bouyed up by a wave of positivity from parents. Hopefully.
It can be useful to:
- try seeing things through the eyes of parents/carers of pupils in your class - they want to be reassured that their children are in safe hands, and their knowledge and opinion of you will be based largely on what their children say and what contact you have.
- do your best to get parents/carers on your side by making friendly but professional comments in reading folders or homework books and whenever you meet.
- be proactive by ringing parents if something has happened rather than letting them hear their child's version of events.
Preparing for the meeting
The parents/carers' meetings need careful planning. Here are some tips:
- Be clear about the purpose of the meeting and convey this in the letter you send asking them for appointment times. Some evenings are simply an opportunity to meet, others are to look at work and others are to discuss annual reports.
- Parent/carers with children on the special needs register will need to discuss individual education plans.
- Make notes on each child so that you are clear about what you want to say. Be positive but honest, and have concrete examples of what you mean to hand.
- Plan the timetable of appointments carefully, giving yourself breaks where possible. Try to coordinate your appointments with other teachers so that parents/carers with other staff to see are not kept hanging around or cause delays.
- Organise your teaching for the day and the day after to be fairly easy going: you won't have the time or energy to do marking or planning after a parents/carers' evening.
- Make sure that parents/carers know how long they've got with you they and you will often want to talk for longer.
- Keep a clock or watch on the table so that you and they can keep to time. Trouble will brew if people are kept waiting too long.
- Have a list of your appointments and tick people off when you have seen them.
- If you know that certain people might be difficult arrange for another member of staff to be around. If they become difficult during the meeting, suggest that they go to the head teacher or make another appointment to see you.
If you can predict what issues parents/carers might raise, plan some answers.
Make sure your personal presentation does you credit you are being judged on this front as much as they are.
- Ensure that marking is up-to-date and everything looks organised, with labels as appropriate.
- Have a supply of drinks and nibbles to keep you going.
- Make brief notes using the format above about who you have seen, and any action points that need addressing.
It is useful to think about a structure for the meeting that makes best use of time and keeps the agenda firmly with you. The following can be useful:
- Introduction: 'Hello, you must be Y's mum
'(Try to avoid names since their name may not be the same as the child's).
- Headline: 'Y has settled in very well and is making good progress overall
- Strengths: 'I'm very pleased with
- Areas to work on: 'Y still needs to work on
- Ask the parents'/carers' view: 'How do you think Y's doing? Do you have anything you want to talk to me about?'
- Parental help: 'Could you make sure Y practises
- Conclusion: 'Thank you for coming!'
Good luck! You will feel a great sense of achievement when the evening is over!