Q. I am a newly qualified teacher about to have my first parents evening. Please could you offer som
Parents’ evenings are great opportunities for teachers to build relations and feed back to parents all about their child’s progress and accomplishments. The key to a successful parents evening is to be prepared and organised. This will help you to feel confident and relaxed around the event. In order for you to manage the time slots allocated to each parent as effectively as possible you will need to have a clear idea of the main areas you would like to discuss in advance. It is therefore vital that you prepare notes on each child beforehand. It is a good idea to have a template for parents evening notes. This way all of the notes from the parent’s evenings that take place across the year can be kept together, helping them to be easily accessed, referred to and reflected upon. Ensure that the notes are concise and outline an agenda of the topics you wish to cover. It is important that the notes are personal to each child and provide an overall picture of their development and achievements within each of the curriculum areas. Any areas of concern you would like to highlight should also be summarised within the notes. This way you can carefully word the way you would like to deliver these issues. Whether the focus is academic, behavioural or other you will need to provide examples of how you have been supporting their child in school to overcome any challenges.
This is also an opportunity for you to ask the parents about their approaches and to provide suggestions for further support at home. If it is an issue that you feel needs a more in depth discussion than allowed by the time restraints of parents evening, then arranging a more in depth meeting another time would most likely be a better and more sensitive way to deal with it. In the meantime make sure that you have followed any internal procedures that your school has around children of concern to ensure that any support available and needed is in place. Within your template it would also be helpful to include an area to write notes during and after the evening, so that you can record any important issues raised.
Parents evening can be a long and tiring evening, ensure you keep your energy levels up by eating beforehand and remaining hydrated. This will help you to stay focussed and on task. Being as organised as possible will encourage the evening to run smoothly. Have the timetable of the evening in front of you so that you know which parent to expect next, this way you can also keep check on each of the time slots helping you not to run over. Staying within the times assigned to each parent can be challenging. Something we do in my school is to blank out a time slot midway through the evening in advance, this gives you an opportunity to catch up if you are overrunning. It also provides time for toilet breaks and for you to quickly extend on any notes whilst fresh in your mind. Arrange your notes in order with your first meeting at the top and your last at the bottom so that you’re not rifling through papers for the corresponding notes at the start of each meeting.
Parents evening is also a time to celebrate and bring to parents attention children’s individual achievements, interests and talents that you have observed. This also demonstrates to parents that you really know and understand their child. Parents want to know that you care and are fully committed to helping their child achieve their full potential whilst under your care. Building trust and a good relationship with parents is important. Having an effective flow of communication provides a greater chance for you to be able to work together and to provide consistency in approaches at home and school.
Most parents will see their children in a very different light than you do as their teacher. They don’t generally see them in an environment where they are one of many other children the same age, where they have to do things and make decisions for themselves, be sociable, consider others, effectively communicate and solve problems. Informing parents of their child’s ability to cope within the setting and to independently do things, is as important as reporting to them about their child’s academic attainments. In Early Years this is of particular importance given that PSED (Personal Social Emotional Development), CL (Communication and Language) and PD (Physical Development) are the three prime curriculum areas. Remember that parents aren’t trained teachers and will need you to break down the importance of these areas and the impact they have on their child’s overall learning, day to day happiness and capabilities in school. Again this is a chance for you to provide examples of how parents can further support these areas at home.
Parents evening is a wonderful time to converse with parents and learn even more about the children you teach. Together you can celebrate what makes each child unique and provide opportunities and the support they need to help them flourish.