After 11 years I have mixed feelings about parents evening – sometimes I love them, sometimes I dread them. Parents evenings are not something which you train for, during your training year you will probably observe a parents evening and if you are lucky you may get to speak at one. I recommend if you get the opportunity in your training year, take the bull by the horns and get involved.
Here are my top tips for surviving parents evening.
- Formalities – Parents will be at times as nervous at meeting you as you are them. Their children will have told them all about your lessons (the good and bad). Parents will already have a picture of what you will be like from these conversations. First impressions count, I always stand and shake their hand, arrange an extra chair if extra siblings arrive and make them feel at ease straight away by introducing myself with my first name.
- What do they want to hear? – They want to know how their child is getting on and if they are making progress. Make sure you are fully prepared and write notes on the name sheets if needed, if it is not a student you know well.
- Who starts? – So there is not an awkward silence, if the young person has arrived as well, I start with them. I ask how they are getting on? Are they enjoying the subject? Do they have any concerns? Students tend to be braver with parents and carers with them and you quite often find out a lot of “hidden” information.
- Take it to the ‘rents! – Once the young person has had their say, I ask the parents if they have any specific questions. After this I sum up what I know about the child. There are 5 types of parents that arrive and sit in front of you.
- The I want to get out of here before the rush parent – they have no questions. In fact they know their child is going to get a glowing report, they are here because they feel they have to and to give their child a bit of a boost
- Let me just read the last report The parent has no questions but feels they should ask something and will get a copy of the last report to read. They will decide upon a question after reading it
- The prepared list in a notebook You know you have your hands full when this happens. A list of questions to test your knowledge on their child and what you have sent home in the form of reports.
- I have no Idea who you are This parent has often appeared solo without their child and keeps looking at their bit of paper to remind them of your name and what subject they teach. They will spend half the time asking questions about the teacher they are meant to see next.
- The teacher that wants to know about progress!! You always know when you have a teacher sat in front of you, they either tell you straight away , have there staff ID around their neck or ask about levels of progress or throw in other edu buzz words. It feels as if they are scouting out the school.
- Don’t bother with books – back in the day I used to bring the students books in to show parents work. Unless there is a very specific reason for this (good or bad) I would not bother. It does not really add to the conversation.
- Get an assessment done in time– Linked to the above really. I always like to make to make when possible to have some relevant and up to date assessment data I can talk about. This can help answer the question I get asked the most. “ what do they have to do better?” / “ how can they improve”. I always pass on a target either academic or personal. This shows you know the student and ultimately care.
- What can we do at home? Another question I am asked a lot – so I am now prepared for this question. I bring with me a print out of relevant revision websites (Seneca, bitesize) and log on details for the school on line text books. This always goes down a treat, and is a real winner in my eyes.
- What do they need to revise? Again a question I have heard a lot at Y11 / KS4+ parents evenings so I now bring with me a list of topics to hand to the parents and also retrieval practice questions (and answers) they can use to test their children.
10 strategies to involve parents in retrieval practice
9. Data, Data, Data – I have to hand a print out of my excel markbook which has information about homeworks and assessment scores. I makes for a good comparison and it is always interesting to see what students remember about their test scores and if they told parents and carers about them. If there has been a homework set over the parents evening period, I also try an bring a few extra sheets in as well to hand out as and when needed.
Using Plickers to assess for Mastery
10. Rubrics – If like my reports you give a qualitive grade for attitude to learning, I bring with me the rubric matrix for the criteria. IE what it means to be excellent, good, needs improvement etc.
Following these ten rules means I enjoy parents more and I hope parents feel their 5 minutes have been productive and not a waste of time. Of course parents evenings can be very frustrating, the parents that you really want to see, do not book in and you hear yourself repeating what you have written in the latest report. You get the parents that talk down to you and have a dig, but mostly 99% of the time the parents are really supportive and behind you.
If you are not leaving parents evening feeling it has been worth while, you really need to change something. Hopefully one of the ten ideas above will reenergise these evenings.
If you have any thoughts and ideas, I would love to hear them.Follow @TJohns85
Check out these relevant blogs
How To Solve A Problem Like….Homework
Top Ten Tips To Train To Teach: advice for student and newly qualified teachers
The image was taken from this blog on a similar topic from teacherhead