Parents’ evenings can be daunting for both new and experienced teachers.
The sheer number of parents each expecting your full attention, detailed answers to complex questions and an in-depth knowledge of how their child is doing. It can sometimes feel like you’re the one sitting the exam!
Here are a few things to focus on to keep your appointments to the point, relevant and useful.
Minimize the data
Most of the data we have, parents don’t need to hear. It’s for us to know what our students need to do to improve – not prove our worth their parents. In fact last year I did a year 7 parents evening and made a point of not even talking about it – I wanted to talk about how my students FELT about our lessons.
If you are talking about data, forget the numbers and focus on what it means
Do parents know the difference between grades 3, 4 or 5, or the difference between extensive, ambitious and judicious? I’m not sure I would if I wasn’t an English teacher. Tell them what the data means instead – “they’re on course,” or “they’re a little behind, and here’s how we catch up.”
How can they help?
Lots of parents come to parents evening because they want to help their children in any way they can – that sounds obvious I suppose. So have something ready you can give them which does that. For me, as an English teacher, this is often reading (as we know that has a massive impact). But it could be a list of revision guides, websites to visit, or a timetable of afterschool revision sessions.
Lead the conversation and keep it focused
Remember, you’re in charge of the conversation, they have come to see you because you are the expert. Keep the conversation firmly about the child they’re there to see – I’ve had meetings with parents before who tried to discuss another child of theirs I taught – now is not the time for that. Keep it relevant, be firm but polite if needed.
Separate difficult students
Don’t book your difficult students near each other on your appointments list – if you have the ability to do this. Give yourself a rest with some easier parents to talk to between the difficult ones. You’ll appreciate it on the night!
Short and sweet
If you don’t have much to say because a student is doing well – then that’s ok. Don’t feel like you need to fill the time. Tell the parent they’re doing well, thank them for coming and move on.
Never be afraid to say you don’t know
No one expects you to know everything (except for your students!) If you don’t know something it’s fine to admit that – whatever stage of your teaching career you’re in. Take the parents e-mail address and contact them the following day with an answer.
See the positive
Ultimately parents’ evening is a great occasion to meet the parents of the young people you’re working with. You can always learn so much about your students and it’s great to see parents come back year after year as their children grow. I wrote about the good points of parents’ evenings here.
What do you think is the best thing about parents’ evening?
If you are parent, what do you like to hear from your child’s teacher?