It’s a bit like Supermarket Sweep – you’ve only got 5 minutes to cram as much information as possible into your brain about each subject and how your child is doing.
While the new ‘online’ format for parents evening is saving a LOT of waiting around, it really does mean 5 minutes. And that’s it.
So, how do you make the most of them?
Before you arrive
Ask your child if there are any particular subjects they’re worried about, or anything they want you to bring up.
This is a great opportunity for you to ‘rescue’ them from a chatty/distracting neighbour in class.
Rather than your child asking the teacher if they can move seats (students rarely do this themselves), it can be done subtly, out of the classroom and the prying eyes of all their mates, at parents’ evening.
(You can’t go in and demand your child be moved, but you can explain why it would benefit them to move. Odds are, the teacher isn’t aware of the issue and will be more than happy to accommodate a change of seating plan.)
If your child tells you they have a problem with a particular teacher, the worst thing you can do is to confront that teacher within your appointment – especially if your child is there.
I can promise you that (although there are some exceptions), it’s extremely unlikely that a teacher has just ‘decided’ they don’t like your child and is treating them unfairly.
That said, if there has been an issue, it might be useful to arrange a proper meeting. You aren’t going to be able to discuss and fix it within 5 minutes!
As an ex-teacher, I can unfortunately confirm that this cartoon pretty much sums up what many teachers face each parents’ evening. While yes, it’s their job, the old saying ‘you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink’ applies here. If your child isn’t putting in the work, there’s a limit to what difference a teacher can make…
What’s your child like in class?
First up, each teacher will take up the start of each appointment with the standard ‘how your child is doing’ speech.
These usually come in 3 flavours.
“Your child is wonderful, and I’d like to clone them and fill my classroom with them.”
(This is good news.)
“Your child is doing well, I’m happy with their progress, but I’d like them to ask more questions in class.”
(This is ok, but means your child doesn’t stand out. If they’re quiet and they just ‘get on’, then it often means they go unnoticed on the occasions where they don’t really understand something.)
“I’m worried about your child / I have some concerns”
(Usually code for ‘your child is causing problems in class…*”
*This shouldn’t be a surprise though – any issues should have been communicated before!*
There are lots of reasons that your child might not be behaving as expected in class, but the best way to resolve this is to work together with school. Your child’s teacher is just as keen to get your child learning happily as you are, trust me!)
It’s worth listening to this part carefully – we noticed a change with our own daughter who was always a ‘wonderful’ at primary school, and since starting secondary school has become a ‘quiet’. It tells me she’s not feeling confident in this new world yet.
Their grades and attainment
The important thing here is how they’re doing. Not how everyone else is doing. Comparison isn’t usually helpful. The only person they should try to be better than is themselves!
It’s all about whether they’re on track.
Questions you should ask
- Is my child on track?
- Are there any websites or apps they could be using at home? Do they have the logins & passwords?
- What one thing could they do more of at home to help them make progress?
- What can I do to help as a parent?
- (Yr10+) Do you have any past papers they could do? (Schools often have filing cabinets full of spares… ?)
Seriously. After 8+ of these appointments, they’ll all have blended into one big blur.