Parents’ evening approaching?
How can a trainee teacher/NQT prepare for parents’ evening?
Teachers’ Standard 8, Fulfil wider professional responsibilities!
Is this the hardest part of the role? It is often one of the hardest standards for a trainee teacher to evidence. A hard one to get to grips with but less than one year later the trainee teacher is now a NQT and running their own parents’ evening with little, if any previous experience, how does the said NQT cope? In the ‘sub-standard’ they have to ‘communicate effectively with parents with regards to pupils’ achievements and well-being’. Well often for many schools this encompasses, school reports, parental meetings, phone calls home (both positive and cause for concern), in primary school there is the valuable playground drop off and/or pick up, technology permitting some schools have an app so parents have regular updates throughout the day/week, with some schools using it effectively as a communication tool. Some trainee teachers may not have had the opportunity to attend a parents’ evening, and yet they will be expected to lead their own parents’ evening within their NQT year.
So, what do you need to know to help you run an effective parents’ evening?
Respect and relax
P-Preparation. Parents’ evenings often take place afterschool. Whatever the format you are going to be talking for a long time, so make sure you have plenty of fluids on hand. Also consider the time of the day, will this be in the sports hall after hours without heating? Parents’ evening is often held at the end of a school day, and hunger can start to creep up on you. Some schools offer a snack before a parents’ evening, but if this is not the case for your setting (ask and find out) remember to take food and refuel before your evening begins. Also take a little ‘you’ time before the parents’ evening, that book can be marked in the morning, it is more important at this time that you have some rest, some time to wind down. If you are comfortable, rested, refuelled and hydrated you are more likely to present yourself well and engage the parents. First impressions count-make sure you look smart.
A- Attainment: Know your children, this is so important, the parents need to feel you know their little cherub and that their child is not simply another name on a list. Primary schools do this well allowing parents to look at their children’s books, but in secondary this is not always possible. If you are not good at remembering names take a memory aid to assist you with name recall. A photographic register, (as often you know the child’s face if not their name), some key headlines about achievement (this can be data linked). Don’t over face the parents with complicated data sets used by senior leaders to track progress, use data, feedback and terminology that helps the parent to understand if their child is performing at expected, exceeding or below the expected standards. Avoid jargon, do not assume the parent has the educational understanding of the grading systems established within the school, even if the parent works in education assessment ‘without levels’ means that your data and your reporting system needs to be universal so everyone can understand the progress made. Ultimately parents want to know, if their child is on track to meet the expectations for their age phase and if not what you are doing
R – Respect and relax. Often when you work in education it is easy to forget that not everyone understands the current education system beyond what they may see in the media. Also be mindful that some parents may have no recent knowledge of the education system. Coupled with this don’t assume a level of parental academic education, not all parents will have the language skills you might expect. Consider the cultural background of the children within your setting, dilemma, do you shake hands or not? best advice take this lead from the parent! Out of respect I would stand, welcome the parent, offer them a seat and if they offer a hand then I would kindly accept. If you have to consider EAL often the child might act as an interpreter, or an older sibling/other family member might play this role. However do not forget to engage with the parent, offer eye contact after all it is the parent you are updating regarding their child’s progress.
E-Engage the parent(s) by starting with a positive, every parent needs to hear a reassuring comment first and this can help to set the tone for a productive meeting. However do be honest about the child’s progress, their attitude to learning and their behaviour for learning. Homework is often a topic for discussion with parents often not knowing when homework is set etc so share this. Allow the parent time to ask questions, do not stick to your script, shift your mind set ‘I have five minutes and I need to say this! Whilst having a script is useful, this is “parents’ evening” and therefore parents should have a voice and time to ask questions.
N- Noise level. Beware of your surrounding audience, as teachers we like to be heard, we have spent time developing our tonal range and ‘teacher voice’. However where possible try not to talk too loud, you are likely to be in a crowded room or classroom with the door propped open and as they saying goes ‘walls have ears’. Make sure the detail you share is not of a confidential nature, remember with GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) it is important you do not stray off topic and refer to other children in the class. Other parents and children are likely to be within ear shot!
T- Timing. Stick to your time, yes easier said than done especially as some parents like to ask questions to fully understand how their child is progressing. From the start set out your stall, introduced yourself, don’t forget secondary teachers to remind the parent of the subject you teach, and then highlight they have a five minute appointment slot.
“hello, it is lovely to meet you my name is [insert name] and I am [insert child’s name] teacher of [insert subject]. Thank you for taking the time tonight to meet with me, just to let you know each appointment is booked for a five minute appointment slot”.
Lastly, enjoy yourself, and enjoy the evening. Parents’ evening really is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the children that you teach. If there are any issues your Head of Department or SLT should be around to help! Good luck!