So back into the swing of it, spring term well and truly started. The first few days were a bit gruelling, picking up momentum again, but if I’m honest it feels good. The dark days, I think, are over as dawn and dusk are now drawing out again and it is a lovely thought not always arriving and leaving work in the dark.
So with my sprightly spring step I plan to share my experiences of my first official experience as a qualified teacher of parents’ evening. I have a combination of advice that I have been given, some great examples, and my own successes and failures.
So to start: how to prepare myself? It is vital that, whatever the booking system is, whether paper or electronic, you book them on, don’t lose the list, and stick to it on the evening. Over-running causes issues for other parents and teacher appointments as well as adding pressure on yourself to “rush” through each interaction. At my school, appointments are five minutes, but if you can book them 10 minutes apart it gives you some flexibility to pace yourself. When you are a veteran you can consistently deliver what you need to in five, but if you’re a novice like me you should make life easier for yourself.
Prepare what you wish to say or show parents, have examples of class work, home learning, mark book and assessments to hand to show how credible your comments are.
Stand in their shoes too. I have found this useful – I have my own children and I know what language I would be happy to hear about my children. Whether it is good progress or points of concern/struggle, these issues can be professionally described. Also vital is having some ideas and solutions ready to suggest as to how issues can be improved or resolved.
Keep parents on side and keep interactions short, sharp and direct, and progress and attitude-based.
Ensure you can share something positive about every pupil and have targets for every child, not just the “problem” ones. Remember parents swap notes and they want to be treated like all the other parents. If a pupil comes along, get them involved, ask them to share their opinion, explain a key concept or “best bit” of a lesson to give them the opportunity to shine.
For some children they may not have opportunities often to show parents what they know and how they are maturing. Demonstrate the rapport you have with your pupil as this will show how credible and approachable you are as their teacher.
For parents too this can be an intense evening, hearing up to 12 teachers talking about their child. Avoid jargon, whether it is subject or teaching based, explaining clearly if you need to but no waffling. Don’t be too bland either, their Cuthbert or Jemima are their pride and joy so find something unique to them and share ideas of how the parents can support their learning. Make sure whatever you share is useful, there should be no shocks! If there is something significant you should have rung them at the time.
My experience last week was a good one, I had the chance to show off how well I know my pupils and took the opportunity to explore and understand my learners further by meeting their parents/carers, which was a real privilege.
Finally, here are a few of the questions I was thrown, which may help you out when preparing.
Does my child try hard enough/try too hard?
What is my child finding difficult? How can I help with this? Can you show me examples?
Does my child’s attitude/behaviour give any cause for concern?
Has my child made sufficient progress since his/her last report?
Does my child join in classroom discussions/ group work?
What are my child’s strengths/talents?
SecEd’s NQT diarist this year is a teacher of sociology and philosophy from a school in the South of England.