I am going to be a bit controversial in this blog post, but am going to be completely honest with you.
At Primary School, there were a small number of teachers per class, and as a parent you got the impression that they understood your child fairly well. The feedback that they gave was useful and measured. This completely changed, when my kids entered Secondary School. Now I find most Parent Teacher Evenings a bore and largely a waste of my time.
Let me explain why. All of us poor parents are called in for a couple of hours, to see our son’s or daughter’s teachers (10 or more) for 5 – 10 minutes at the most. The teacher spends the first couple of minutes trying to work out who your child is amongst the hundreds that they teach, then try and persuade you that they actually know what they are like in their class – and what they see as going right and wrong. I wonder how many parents they give exactly the same messages to?
Don’t get me wrong, some teachers do this really well – particularly if they have small class sizes or have prepared for the evening. But most leave me feeling like this has been a gigantic waste of time for me and them. What feedback you get is limited, and you are left with the distinct impression that many of them don’t know your child at all.
Parent teacher evenings, which are few and far between, should be an excellent opportunity to catch up and find out how you can help your children obtain the most from their school years.
Rather than let the teacher follow their usual patter, why not go in prepared and take control of the short amount of time you actually have.
Follow these tips and hopefully make the most out of your meeting with your child’s teachers:
- Ask how your child is doing in each of his subjects. If they are breezing through and seem bored, is there anything the teacher can suggest to keep them stimulated and motivated? There are a myriad of excellent resources available and teachers usually know all the best ones for your child’s age. If your child is having difficulty with a particular subject, keep your mind open and ask the teacher what they suggest for improvement. You need to identify the problem – is your child simply bored in class? Do they lack the basic knowledge required by more complex subjects and tasks? Are they enthusiastic about any subject in particular? Parents often marvel at how well teachers know their children. Teachers can identify the same strong and weak points that parents do and this can be a very comforting thought for parents who are truly committed to helping their child progress.
- Find out how your child is doing socially: One of the keys to a happy life, both in one’s student years and afterwards, is having the ability to build strong social connections. Ask your teacher if your child interacts well with others, has close friends and (in the case of younger children) tackles issues like sharing and taking turns, well. Some problems, like shyness, can be resolved by gently exposing a child to new social situations (you might head for a park for a few minutes a day after school to encourage your child to meet new friends or sign them up for a sporting activity). Others, like stubbornness or a temper, will need another kind of strategy altogether. The most important thing about parent teacher evenings is the opportunity they offer to discover something crucial you may not have known about your child. This is the first step towards guiding them through a successful academic and social life.
- Find out if there are special classes/ activities your child can take part in: If your child is an able learner, or talented at music or the arts, ask their teacher if there are any extra-curricular activities they might be interested in. On the other hand, if your child is finding a particular subject difficult, find out if there are classes or tutorials dedicated to helping students find their way through particularly thorny areas.
- Ask the teacher if they can think of any general tips that would benefit your child: Your teacher may feel, but be uncomfortable to say, that your child should spend more hours studying or that they are not setting high enough personal goals. It is vital to have a non-defensive attitude when speaking to teachers. When they feel they have your cooperation and support, they are more likely to be honest with you and share opinions and advice that may just help your child achieve the most they can.
We hope that you have found these tips on how to get the best out of parent teacher evenings useful. Please feel free to tell us about your experiences of parent teacher evenings in the comments section below – we would love to know what you have to say.
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