Now it’s October, lots of schools will be getting ready for parents’ evening. This can be either an absolute joy or stress central. Either way, you are probably facing some extra late nights and preparation. When I was teaching I actually really enjoyed my parents’ evenings overall. Of course, there were some appointments that were difficult, and it is disappointing when you have parents who can’t come and aren’t interested when you offer them an appointment at another time.
However, they are a really great opportunity to talk about your fabulous pupils. You have a chance to make that parent feel proud, and that is a really special thing You can reflect on all the progress their child has made and share how proud you are too. Therefore, my first piece of advice is try looking forward to parents’ evenings rather than dreading them.
Don’t forget to smile. This may sound obvious but when you are really nervous, especially if it’s your first parents’ evening, it can be easy to show it. If you act confident with a brave smile, it helps you feel more confident. Being happy and friendly makes you far more approachable, so make sure you welcome them warmly e.g. “Hello Mrs Smith, how are you? Come and take a seat. Thank you so much for coming in.”
Give the conversation a direction
When I had parents’ evening appointments I adopted a trick from my teaching training mentor, I always started every meeting by saying something like, “Before we start, is there anything in particular you wanted to discuss or any concerns you wanted to share?” This is a useful ice breaker and it gives the conversation a direction. If you let the parents start the conversation, it shows you care about their concerns. If they respond with something like “No, not really” then I recommend starting with something personal about the child e.g. “Adam is so lovely to have in class, he’s always really helpful.” Although some parents may only be interested in their child’s academic achievements it’s really important to talk about the whole child.
When you talk about attainment try and keep it simple and choose your words carefully. Be prepared to explain what interventions and support you have in place for children who are not on track. This shows you are being proactive in helping their child and not letting them fall behind. Talk about key things the pupil can do really well and what their next steps are e.g. “In Writing, Melissa is on track for Year 2. She uses imaginative language in stories and has really improved her spelling. She just needs to work on using conjunctions like because to add more detail.”
Consider what you really want to talk about.
Is their child not reading at home? Are they consistently late to school? Is there behaviour a concern? You should raise these concerns but be mindful. If you are taking to a parent about something like a child’s behaviour it shouldn’t be a surprise (unless it’s only happened on that day!). There should have been a conversation at some point before now, otherwise they will be upset that you waited until now to communicate that issue. I know it can be hard to keep parent’s in the loop about behaviour, particularly when some pupils attend breakfast and after school clubs, but make time to phone parents or write them letters. Consistent communication is key.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the time!
I know some parents are chattier than others and some parents don’t always want to leave but you need to be as prompt as possible. If you run late it just gives a bad impression to the next parent who has been waiting. It’s very easy to run over by a few minutes but don’t push their patience, especially if you know some of your parents have some serious concerns about their child. If it comes to the end of your time with a parent and you know there is more that they want to discuss invite them to speak with you at another time. Remind them that you are here before and after school, if they need a chat. Additionally, make referrals if you feel this is appropriate e.g. a meting with the school SENDCO.
Give SLT a heads up.
If you have a parent who you know may be difficult to communicate with or you are concerned that they may be confrontational then let SLT know ahead of time. That way they can be around to support you if needed. The same goes for parents who don’t want their appointment to end!
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