How to make the most out of your parents evening

By Ross Arnone Friday, October 31, 2014

Parent’s evenings are a key opportunity to gain an insight into your child’s school life. However, you often only get a few minutes with each teacher and knowing how to best utilise this time is crucial to progress your child further and give them any support that’s needed.

1. Talk to your child before attending

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and speak to them in some depth before attending. Discuss what your child enjoys at school; What subjects they feel are their strongest? If there’s any particular work they want you to see? Make sure you also ask about the negatives; are there any subjects that your child doesn’t enjoy? and are they struggling with any subjects? Is something happening outside lessons that the teachers are unaware of? It will also be helpful to have an understanding of your child’s work. Discuss the particular topics they are learning in each class, along with understanding your child’s current grade in comparison to the average for his/her age group.

2. Go prepared.

Make some notes in advance, prioritising them to make sure you cover the most important points first. You may actually find that a lot of your questions are addressed before you have a chance to ask, but going into parents evening with well-prepared questions will ensure you don’t miss anything out. Try keeping to around 3-5 questions for each teacher as you probably wont have time for more. It also doesn’t hurt to bring your child’s latest school report with you.

3. Arrive in good time.

Getting to parents evening early can really give you a great insight into the school and the output of your child’s efforts. Most schools will showcase your child and other students work for parents to browse whilst waiting. So take this opportunity to put yourself in your child’s shoes, appreciate the work they have produced and you may even get some time to talk to the head teacher who is often present.

4. Be patient.  

Parent’s evenings are notorious for running behind schedule, especially if you have one of the later timeslots. Keep calm, revise your notes and try to understand that the teachers have also had a long day!

5. Teachers are on your team.

It can feel slightly intimidating having an audience with your child’s teacher/s, but many teachers feel the same about parents. Particularly the newly qualified or younger teachers. So remember that it’s a partnership and you both have the same goals and good intentions. So use this meeting to strengthen the parent-teacher bond that exists, which will inevitably bring benefits to you child.

6. Be positive.

Remember that the teachers you speak to are on the same side as you and want your child to make as much progress as possible whilst being happy. So always work with the teachers, trying not to focus on the negatives or play the blame game. It’s unfair to leave the teacher feeling vulnerable or to blame. If you have a particular or wider issue, it’s more worthwhile to arrange a separate meeting with a more senior member of staff.

7. Give each teacher an insight into your child.

Teachers only know your child in the school environment, which every parent knows is very different from home life! The teachers you speak to may find it useful to understand these differences. For example, is your child quiet in school but very vocal at home? It’s also worth sharing any advice you have about motivating or even punishing your child.

8. Confidentiality is important.

Teachers won’t discuss details of the other children in the same class as your child, so don’t expect them to. If there is an issue with another child feel free to mention it, however don’t expect the teacher to list who is in the same Maths group as your child.

9. Be realistic.

Each child is different with varied strengths and weaknesses. Every parent has high expectations of their child and wants them to achieve, but comparing them to older siblings or classmates isn’t always a useful benchmark. Try to treat your child as an individual understanding that everyone has space for development.

10. Focus on your child.

If you want to discuss wider school policies such as the school uniform standards or the homework procedures, don’t do this on parents evening. The individual teachers have very little or no authority to impact wider issues and you will need to contact the head teacher or school governors to get these matters addressed.

11. Treat problems immediately.  

If your child is experiencing problems at school, such as a personal issue or if they’re struggling with Maths, don’t wait for parents evening. Contact the school as soon as these arise and deal with them immediately. This will avoid any surprises on parents evening and allow you to focus on making improvements rather than fixing a problem.

12. Consider and discuss extra tuition

The number of students receiving tuition outside the classroom is growing and services such as Maths Doctor are proven to achieve results. Whether your child struggling with a certain subject, or is aspiring to reach the top grades, tuition could actually be the solution for you. In the UK, classroom numbers are growing and it’s becoming very common for students to receive private tuition at every level, from primary to university. So don’t be ashamed or try to cloud the fact that your child has a tutor, embrace this fact and discuss it with the teacher. You will likely find that the teacher is more than happy to give you some advice, or will even go the extra mile to assist you in some way.