Parents evening can be a scary time. Like an observed lesson, it can at times feel like the spotlight is on you rather than the students. Teachers of both old and new can dread parents evening but this does not have to be the case. With a few simple strategies parents evening can be a time to celebrate all your hard work.
Fail to prepare, prepare to fail
Preparation is key to a successful parents evening. Usually you will have a set amount of time with each set of parents so it is vital you are concise with your information. Have examples of work and marks to hand to help justify your point rather than blabber on without any evidence. I have my mark book on an excel spreadsheet which means I can quickly make visual graphs showing my students progress.
Parents should not be given any surprises
Forming positive relationships with parents is a vital part of a teachers job. This can not be done over a parents evening maybe twice a year. Communicating with parents continuously throughout the year helps to build this relationship. This is not as time consuming as it seems. A simple email to parents every now and then about negatives and positives keeps parents in the loop. Parents evening then becomes a time to continue this discussion with no surprises. I even find that a lot of parents don’t see me at parents evening as we already have a running dialogue.
Mix up your seating
Sitting across a desk facing someone immediately gives an intimidating presence. Try sitting to the side of your desk nearer to the parents. When you are looking at work or marks, it helps to give the impression of collaboration. It will also help to put the parents (and yourself) at ease.
Honesty is the best policy
It is difficult to give parents bad news. Sometimes you just want to avoid a hard/long conversation by not talking about some of the key issues with the pupils. This may give a short term relief but in the long run it is not worth it. Parents are a key part of students learning and both the students and parents, need to know they are fully included within this loop. Students are less likely to respond to feedback if they believe you will not include their parents, and parents will likely get very cross if they feel you are not telling them everything. If you have followed the above steps the parents should not be surprised about what you are going to tell them anyway.
Make notes during the meetings, not after
I can easily have over 40 different conversations during parents evening. Trying to remember every detail of the conversations is impossible. Write yourself clear notes to remind yourself the next day about anything discussed to ensure it does not get forgotten about. It does not look good when a parent has to remind you a week later about something you had promised to do the next day!
Set targets for the future
Parents evening is all about moving forward and improving the education of the students. Setting clear targets helps to sum up everything discussed and gives it meaning. You do not want all the time and effort that has gone into preparing and delivering parents evening to go to waste. Both parents and students will appreciate having a clear guideline on what can be done to improve in the future.