As a teacher…
It’s always fun to meet students’ parents, sometimes the resemblances are so blatant that I can guess whose mum or dad has just sat down in front of me before the child slinks round the corner. It’s often in the gestures or the way people sit or write that we can see similarities as well.
It’s good to have the opportunity to explain how I teach and what I expect from my students; in that respect it’s a pity that we can’t have these meetings earlier in the school year. However there’s a lot to be said for waiting a while so that I can get to know them and the way they learn better.
Sometimes it is hard to see what parents want from these meetings, I describe my lessons before talking about their child and his or her work and attitude, before finally giving suggestions on possible improvement. These suggestions are more for the students than the parents, which brings me to my next point – it’s extremely important that your child can come to parent’s evening, after all it’s their learning we are talking about.
The down side of these evenings (apart from the fact they take place after a long school day and I get home after dinner twice a week for two months!) is when we have to deal with difficult cases or very specific questions and issues from parents. This is really not the place to do this, as a teacher if I have something specific or very important to tell a parent then I will contact him or her before the meeting and meet them separately, and it’s a good idea if parents do the same; not only do such discussions eat into time allotted to other parents but a prickly discussion with one particular teacher will spoil the whole evening and make it hard to get an overall impression of your child’s progress.
Another negative point is that sometimes it seems that we only see the parents of children who are doing really well, whereas those with more specific issues such as behavior problems miss the meetings, a question of preaching to the converted.
As a parent…
I think parents’ evenings are a waste of time –isn’t that awful? I already know how my children are doing, I follow their results and dinner-table talk fills in plenty of gaps. I know if there was a serious problem the school would have already contacted me, and that this is not the time or place to ask if Johnny could have a different dessert on Tuesdays. I only go so that the school knows I’m behind them and keeping a close eye on my child’s education. If I didn’t go I would look like a bad parent and then the teachers would really want to talk to me, by going I ensure them of the contrary, so they don’t really have anything to say to me!
Added to which, I’m exhausted after a long day, apparently the teachers are too, we still have homework to get through when this is over and there’s something about being sat opposite a teacher that brings out the nervous pupil in us all – even us teachers!
To compound matters, as a parent of bilingual children in a French speaking school I’ll have to have that awkward conversation with their English teacher who is uncomfortable speaking English to me (more so when she finds out I’m a teacher too!) and who has only just realized that the child in question is English-speaking as they tried to hide it behind a put-on accent for six weeks to avoid being singled out in class!
The secret is for both sides to listen carefully to each other, and also to realize that whatever your position and view, the other party knows the child pretty well. Even if as a parent you think you know your child well, remember we all behave differently in different settings – you aren’t the same at dinner with your boss as at dinner with your best friend are you?
The secret is for both sides to realize that we are on the same side – that of the child.