Parent / Teacher meetings – nervous times?

Now that children have been back at school for a month or so parents are likely to be getting invitations to Parent’s Evenings or Parent /Teacher consultations. These are the formal meetings usually held at least twice a year when parent and school can get together and discuss progress so far.

What is surprising is how both sides feel about these meetings. I use the word ‘sides’ because that is how it appears to each protagonist. For the teacher, it is the time when parents could come in and complain. They could ask awkward questions that the teacher fear they may not know the answer to. During the day of the meeting, the classroom is probably tidied, books scrupulously marked (they are marked anyway but this is a double marking!), cloakrooms cleared of all that lost property and the teacher is on tenterhooks hoping no major incident happens before the end of school.

For parents, this is the time that they are expected to go in but many do it with great reluctance. It may bring back bad memories of their time at school. Ghosts of strict teachers and school bullies can come flooding back. For some, they feel in awe of the teacher. After all they have been to University so are bound to know far more that someone who is ‘just a parent’.

So the time of the meeting arrives and both parties sit either side of a table each waiting for the other to start proceedings. Once they get going, things usually go reasonably smoothly. The ‘test’ results are shared, praise or concern is passed on and thanks for attending is expressed. Then it is all over! Sighs of relief from both camps!

This scenario may be a little farfetched but not by much and what a waste of opportunity it is. Teachers need parents to engage with their children’s learning so having them in school should be used to explain the work, extend an invite to get involved as well as answer questions. Parents you need to take advantage of some ‘quality’ time with your child’s teacher to find out about learning and how you can help your child’s progress.

In a short article for the Parents Portal,  I have described this relationship as a triangle with school, child and parent forming equal sides. It is a nervous relationship though with no-one really knowing the ground rules and this often means opportunities for really good communication is lost. You are all coming from the basic same position which is the welfare and progress of children. Try not to see it as a battle because it isn’t – you both want the same thing!

Perhaps it is the formality of these meetings that causes the grief?  In a really informative article ‘Today’s’ Lesson: Communicate’ Gary Fisher explains a reasonably new forum for links between school and home – parent forums. Do go and have a read!

In the meantime:

Teachers:- How do you feel as you prepare for parent’s evenings? Are they a waste of time?

Parents: How do you feel about parent’s evenings? Do you attend and what are your expectations from them?

Headteachers: How can you make the links with parents more of a collaboration and less like a confrontation?

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14 comments

  • I quite enjoy parents evenings. There is often so much good news to share! I always start by asking the parent how they feel the child is getting on – breaks the ice and also flags up any surprises – eg if you think child is happy but actually they are going home not so happy, you can discuss this whereas if you start off saying everything’s fine etc it could a) discourage parent from disagreeing or b) make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about! Also, it is very hard work being in conversation for 3 hours nonstop after an already very busy day! So in general my opinion is: very worthwhile but extremely tiring!

      

    • Anonymous

      As a HT I would be the coffee & tea bringer! I was always aware that the next day would have to be a normal one with no great events to help staff recovered from the marathon! Thanks for popping in!

        

  • I quite enjoy parents evenings. There is often so much good news to share! I always start by asking the parent how they feel the child is getting on – breaks the ice and also flags up any surprises – eg if you think child is happy but actually they are going home not so happy, you can discuss this whereas if you start off saying everything’s fine etc it could a) discourage parent from disagreeing or b) make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about! Also, it is very hard work being in conversation for 3 hours nonstop after an already very busy day! So in general my opinion is: very worthwhile but extremely tiring!

      

  • I do not like them. (I do though hate waiting and waiting)

    I have one kid who does well, another who has issues but I would expect a call from the teacher in real time when their are issues and not to wait for the meetings.

      

    • Anonymous

      I’d hope that you would get that too Susie. I think the idea is that there is a differenrt focus for these meetings – more overall progress. Great to see you here BTW!

        

  • I do not like them. (I do though hate waiting and waiting)

    I have one kid who does well, another who has issues but I would expect a call from the teacher in real time when their are issues and not to wait for the meetings.

      

  • From the point of view of a parent and a teacher, I enjoy them! I think communication between parents and teachers is really important, I don’t take my kids to school because I work so parents evening is the only chance I get to talk to their teachers. At my school, our pupils come in on buses, so again it’s the only chance I get to meet the parents, just briefly meeting a parent for 5 minutes can explain so much about a child!

      

    • Anonymous

      I know exactly what you mean Sarah! Sometimes, it explains everything you’ve been concerned about! 🙂

        

  • From the point of view of a parent and a teacher, I enjoy them! I think communication between parents and teachers is really important, I don’t take my kids to school because I work so parents evening is the only chance I get to talk to their teachers. At my school, our pupils come in on buses, so again it’s the only chance I get to meet the parents, just briefly meeting a parent for 5 minutes can explain so much about a child!

      

    • Anonymous

      I know exactly what you mean Sarah! Sometimes, it explains everything you’ve been concerned about! 🙂

        

  • Dughall

    I have been on both sides of the table and think they are essential. As a teacher, I would put up the brilliant Allan Ahlberg poem ‘Parents’ Evening’ outside my room for all to read:

    Parents’ Evening

    We’re waiting in the corridor,
    My dad, my mum and me.
    They’re sitting there and talking;
    I’m nervous as can be.

    I wonder what she’ll tell ’em.
    I’ll say I’ve got a pain!
    I wish I’d got my spellings right.
    I wish I had a brain.

    We’re waiting in the corridor,
    My husband, son and me.
    My son just stands there smiling;
    I’m smiling nervously.
    I wonder what she’ll tell us.

    I hope it’s not all bad.
    He’s such a good boy, really;
    But dozy – like his dad.

    We’re waiting in the corridor.
    My wife, my boy and me.
    My wife’s as cool as cucumber;
    I’m nervous as can be.

    I hate these parents’ evenings.
    The waiting makes me sick.
    I feel just like a kid again
    Who’s gonna get the stick.

    I’m waiting in the classroom.
    It’s nearly time to start.
    I wish there was a way to stop
    The pounding in my heart.
    The parents in the corridor
    Are chatting cheerfully;
    And now I’ve got to face them,
    And I’m nervous as can be.

    (From Heard it in the Playground by Allan Ahlberg)

    On the plus side, parents supporting their child’s learning and being informed (face to face) about that learning is brilliant and for many, Parents’ Evening is the only way this can take place.

    On the down side, I always felt sorry for those parents who’d wait til the end (when, despite my best efforts, I’d be between 10 and 30 mins late) only to get me at my second best because my brain would be shot and frazzled and my voice croaky from up to 3 hours consultation after a full day teaching.

    Still wouldn’t change it though.

    (A bit rushed as past my bed time – hope my point is made).

      

    • Anonymous

      Excellently made Sir & thank you for sharing that great poem. The timing of these meetings does make it a marathon for the teacehr & parents at the end of the list! Thank you so much for stopping by!

        

  • Dughall

    I have been on both sides of the table and think they are essential. As a teacher, I would put up the brilliant Allan Ahlberg poem ‘Parents’ Evening’ outside my room for all to read:

    Parents’ Evening

    We’re waiting in the corridor,
    My dad, my mum and me.
    They’re sitting there and talking;
    I’m nervous as can be.

    I wonder what she’ll tell ’em.
    I’ll say I’ve got a pain!
    I wish I’d got my spellings right.
    I wish I had a brain.

    We’re waiting in the corridor,
    My husband, son and me.
    My son just stands there smiling;
    I’m smiling nervously.
    I wonder what she’ll tell us.

    I hope it’s not all bad.
    He’s such a good boy, really;
    But dozy – like his dad.

    We’re waiting in the corridor.
    My wife, my boy and me.
    My wife’s as cool as cucumber;
    I’m nervous as can be.

    I hate these parents’ evenings.
    The waiting makes me sick.
    I feel just like a kid again
    Who’s gonna get the stick.

    I’m waiting in the classroom.
    It’s nearly time to start.
    I wish there was a way to stop
    The pounding in my heart.
    The parents in the corridor
    Are chatting cheerfully;
    And now I’ve got to face them,
    And I’m nervous as can be.

    (From Heard it in the Playground by Allan Ahlberg)

    On the plus side, parents supporting their child’s learning and being informed (face to face) about that learning is brilliant and for many, Parents’ Evening is the only way this can take place.

    On the down side, I always felt sorry for those parents who’d wait til the end (when, despite my best efforts, I’d be between 10 and 30 mins late) only to get me at my second best because my brain would be shot and frazzled and my voice croaky from up to 3 hours consultation after a full day teaching.

    Still wouldn’t change it though.

    (A bit rushed as past my bed time – hope my point is made).

      

    • Anonymous

      Excellently made Sir & thank you for sharing that great poem. The timing of these meetings does make it a marathon for the teacehr & parents at the end of the list! Thank you so much for stopping by!

        

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