Getting the most parents’ evening takes more than just turning up and being talked to. Teachers very much want it to be a good use of their time as well and will often put a lot of preparation into this. Time is often limited and therefore to get the most of it, like a meeting with any other professional, it is worth preparing for it.
In this article, you’ll learn how to get the most out of parents’ evenings and suggests questions to ask during parents’ evenings. It is worth remembering that teachers often look longer term for pupils, maybe looking at exams in 3 years times rather than small regular tests. They will aspire to your child to be an independent learner and see small failures as stepping stones to this.
7 Tips for a Productive Parents’ Evening
Parents’ evening is a chance for you to ask questions, and teachers are obligated to tell you about your child’s progress. Below are eight tips to make the meeting as productive as possible. As a teacher, I love parents who treat it as a business meeting. We have an unspoken agenda, how the child is doing and what they can do to improve? Then, as a team, what can we do to support them. I do not feel awkward if people are frank or ask difficult questions. If I am going to give up my time, I want it to be productive. I can socialize somewhere else!
- Have an idea of how your child is doing before you go. Spend some time before looking though your child’s books. In a five minute slot it might take two minutes just to recap work that done. If you have already looked through the books and read the comments you will already have the key takeaways. This means the bulk of the conversation can focus on how to move forward.
- Involve your child in compiling discussion points. Your child is the reason why schools insist on parents’ evenings. And since the child is the one who does the schoolwork and attends all these classes in school, they might have one or two talking points to add to your list. Make sure you ask them if there’s anything they’d like you to raise at parents’ evening.
- Make notes about questions and discussion points. Avoid the trap of trusting your memory to remember all your questions and points of discussion. It is also useful to do this with your partner so that there is a continuous theme rather than talk over each other. It also stops you straying away from your main points. Parents’ evening isn’t the right place to push for school policy changes so it will make sure that you don’t go off talking about your child.
- Decide whether to take your child or not. Depending on the child’s age, most schools wish the child to be there. It allows open communication, which means that nothing is lost in feedback, and the pupil can be held to account. If you want to have a particularly awkward conversation with a teacher, and not one that you may want your child to hear it may be best not to have them there. “Having your child with you can be distracting and get in the way of an honest dialogue between you and the teacher” says John Coe, an Honorary Fellow at Oxford Brookes University and chair of the National Association for Primary Education.
- Be open-minded. During parents’ evenings, you may hear something about your child from their teacher that might trigger defensiveness. You must fight the urge to become defensive by reminding yourself that teachers generally want the best for your child. That they’re trying to find solutions with your help. And that being defensive will get in the way of that. Instead, be open about your child’s behavior at home, what they’re good at, and what needs improvement. Additionally, you can tell the teacher how your child has been finding their subject and any comments from their tutor. These are some things your child might be too shy to say to their teachers at school.
- Ask about your child’s relationship with others. Talking about anything apart from your child’s schoolwork can feel like a digression during parents’ evenings. So you might be tempted to just focus your talking point on your child’s schoolwork and nothing else. But fitting in socially influences how well your child does at school. Therefore, you need to ask the teacher whether your child fits in properly. If not, parents’ evening can be an opportunity to find a solution for your child’s social situation. We have a series of articles here on friendships and how to support your child.
- Fill your child in afterward. After parents’ evenings if your child was not there don’t just leave your child guessing. You need to sit down with your child and debrief them. Start with the positives first. Let the child know all the things their teachers have praised them for. Then follow up with where their teachers feel there could be improvements and then suggest strategies that can help. Your child needs to feel that you and their teachers are on their side. We have some suggestions to having difficult conversations with your child.
Some Questions to Ask During Parents’ Evening
To help you prepare for a productive parents’ evening, here is a list of possible questions to ask your child’s teachers below. Some won’t be questions per se, but suggestions on how to phrase the concerns you may have.
- How is my child getting on?
- Does my child interact well with others?
- How is my child doing socially?
- How is my child getting on in relation to classmates?
- Is my child an active or passive learner?
- Does my child contribute to class discussions?
- Does my child join group activities?
- Is my child where they should be in terms of progress predictions?
- What are my child’s strengths and weaknesses?
- What is the school doing to support my child in their area of weakness?
- What can I do at home to support my child?
- I’m a bit concerned about … please may I share this with you?
- Could you let me know about … ?
- What’s the most significant change coming up for my child?
Don’t Forget to Follow Through
After each parents’ evening, you will come away with the knowledge of your child’s strengths and weaknesses. You and their teachers will typically come up with solutions during the session. You must implement those solutions and provide any extra support teachers have recommended.
However, you shouldn’t focus on the negatives alone, forgetting your child’s strengths. You need to let the child know their strengths according to their teachers. Compliment those strengths and encourage the child to lean into them more. Finally, don’t forget to follow up with your child’s teachers afterward. They need to update you on your child’s progress following parents’ evening.
Final Thoughts on Parents’ Evenings
Parents’ evenings can be informative and useful or a complete waste of everyone’s time. A good teacher is a professional like a doctor. If you were to go to a doctor’s appointment you would think beforehand about how you would explain your symptoms and what sort of outcome you would want. You would also listen to what they would say in their expert opinion realizing that time is limited. If you treat parents’ evenings the same you won’t go far wrong.