How to Prepare for Parents’ Evening
There’s more than one way to scare a teacher, but these two words are a great place to start. Parents’ evening is a momentous occasion every term, both for teachers and parents, as it can be incredibly valuable for either side of the table. Teachers get to showcase progress, strengths and areas of improvement. Parents gain a quick insight into the wonderful world of teaching, gaining treasured information about their child and voicing any concerns. So, what’s there to worry about?
Parents’ evening could be the only impression you make. For this reason, a bad impression could have drastic consequences. You only have 5 minutes to discuss the pride and joy of those sitting in front of you, and you must answer their questions with answers that mean something. You’ve also got to remember names, shake hands and smile when you’ve just had a long day at work. Parents’ evening is taxing on veterans and first-timers alike, and for this reason, it’s important to prepare, plan, and practice.
For that reason, we’ve got 5 key points to consider when preparing for parents’ evening. There’s no need to worry, as every teacher goes through what you’re going through now. Grab your smartest clothes and practice your handshake, it’s time to meet the parents.
No, we don’t mean push-ups and jogging. Parents’ evening is the end of a long day at work, so you need to prepare.
First things first, clothing. Now, unless you know where you’re sitting, you won’t know if you’re close to the exit or right in the middle of it all. You don’t want to be a sweaty mess and you don’t want to be shivering your socks off.
It’s best to bring a change of clothes to ensure that you’re comfortable, and always bring a bottle of water to remain hydrated, no matter the temperature.
You also need to prepare something for each student, which will make your life much easier. Compile notes, bring textbooks and grab attendance records.
You may also want to bring a spreadsheet of student names to avoid embarrassment. (Don’t worry, we’ve all forgotten names at some point.) This spreadsheet will be doubly handy, as you can tick student names off as you go!
Last, but most definitely not least, bring some form of timer. Whether you use your phone or a stopwatch, it’s extremely important that you stick to allocated times. Both for your sake and for the parents too!
Go to your happy place and stay there. We’re only partly joking. Parents’ evening is mentally taxing, as you’ll probably be saying similar things to each parent, with slight variations depending on the student.
No matter the situation, we can’t stress the importance of being polite. Always greet each parent with a handshake and always thank them for their time.
They want to know how their child is doing, but being negative isn’t the right attitude. We’ve found that it’s always best to start off with a positive before listings areas of improvement. You should end on a positive too, but always get your point across.
Practice if you need to! Rehearse your hellos and your goodbyes, practice making points in 5-minute intervals or simply try on your clothes and get into character, You need to remain professional throughout, even if some parents are having a bad day. Ultimately, you may sit down with a parent that is annoyed about something, so a courteous approach is always recommended.
Split Your Allocated Time
Usually, parents’ evening is split into 5-minute intervals, which isn’t a lot of time. You may have questions, the parents will definitely have questions, and queues may form if parents are late. In that regard, it’s best to split your time into manageable sections.
The first minute should consist of the subject. What has the student covered so far? Why are you teaching them this? What’s next? This is the easy part, as generally, it’ll be quite similar for each student.
You should talk about progress during the second and third minute, with examples if possible. What are their strengths? How are they doing? Try to make this section unique to each student, as it shows that you care about their progress.
The fourth minute allows you to discuss areas for improvement. Don’t make it look like a weakness, and make it known that you’re helping them achieve their goals. End this section with a positive if possible.
This then leads to the final minute, which allows parents to ask questions about your points or about your subject. It’s important to mention that this is simply a guideline, and your 5 minutes may play out very differently. Be prepared for questions throughout.
Look at Previous Reports
If you’re short on preparation time, previous reports are a godsend. Having access to them is one thing, but if you do, then you’re halfway there. Look through them to jog your memory, make a note of previous areas of improvement, and mention these during parents’ evening.
Comment on how the student has improved, or if they still have a ways to go. It’ll look like you’ve remembered past comments, even though you simply examined past reports.
Getting hold of these reports can be tricky, which is why organisational skills are so important in the teaching profession.
Hopefully, you’ll have them digitally filed in the correct place. If not, ask around, or dig out physical files if your school still has a literal paper trail. Even if you have adequately prepared for parents’ evening, you should still make time to glance at previous reports to show direct improvements.
Prepare for Awkward Questions
There are plenty of opportunities for awkward questions during parents’ evening.
How does my child compare to the other students? Or to his/her best friends? My child told me that you said this to him/her, why did you say that? Honestly, we’ve heard them all.
The possibilities are endless, so it’s best to prepare some answers to these in advance.
Remain calm and never fight fire with fire. If they want to compare, ask them how they think their child is doing. Mention that you can’t reveal the details of other students, but say that they’re on track. (Or mention improvements that could be made.)
If confronted about something that you said, refrain from offering excuses and show the progress that the student has made. You’ll be surprised at the change in tone once they realise that you’re doing your job well. As previously mentioned, remaining calm is the key.
Remember, You’re the Professional
This is exceptionally important. No matter what is said during the evening, you’re the professional. The parents always want what’s best for their child, but you get to decide what ‘the best’ is.
As long as you complete some form of preparation, you should be fine. If you’re still worried, ask your fellow teachers for advice. You’ll be happy to hear that we’re all in the same boat!