Dreading parent teacher meetings

(35 Posts)
Cleebope Tue 23-Feb-16 18:01:47

How does everyone cope with post primary parental consultations? I dread them and find them completely exhausting. In secondary we teach 7 different year groups so that's 7 evenings a year. Each one lasts about 3 hours. I teach English and I have massive queues especially with junior classes. Some years I teach 2 classes in a year group- that's 60 parents waiting anxiously. I never even get a toilet break. I often lose my voice at the end. Some parents are v demanding and query every wee detail or ask challenging questions. If I try to be vague it never works! Any advice for how to make them less awful?

KinkyDorito Tue 23-Feb-16 18:24:14

What sort of questions are they asking you?

I tend to throw the 'read widely' at them. Be prepared with book suggestions, but also direct them to the opinion columns in quality press. More able students should certainly get used to accessing broadsheet journalism as quickly as possible as it helps them with both reading and writing non-fiction.

ChalkHearts Tue 23-Feb-16 18:25:59

Why don't you try answering their questions and telling the truth?

KinkyDorito Tue 23-Feb-16 18:26:08

Also, don't fully book yourself: allow 10 minutes for a toilet break and take it. Be VERY strict with timings.

If a parent goes on, say you are pressed for time but invite them to get in touch and book an appointment to speak in depth later.

almostthirty Tue 23-Feb-16 18:29:11

Not secondary but I use a stop Watch that beeps when time is up. If the patent wants to continue to talk I book an after school catch up appointment. I also blank out slots so I can go to the loo and get a drink.

Cleebope Tue 23-Feb-16 18:48:19

Unfortunately parents don't book slots except for sixth form... They just sit in a queue and are often grumpy by the time they get to see me! I have a 3 hour consultation tomorrow and I know I will be shattered for the rest of the week. How do other schools help teachers to maintain a sense of well being and to manage these more effectively? My school is a grammar and parents expect As or above in nearly every subject!

BoneyBackJefferson Tue 23-Feb-16 18:52:30

ChalkHearts
Why don't you try answering their questions and telling the truth?

"The truth, Some parents can't handle the truth" (paraphrased)

moonface1978 Tue 23-Feb-16 18:54:37

Our department makes up a standard sheet which covers FQAs and which you can fill in recent assessment marks etc before hand and have to hand out to each person. It's also important to remember that no parent will end the discussion - you have to do that. So I tend to open the meeting by handing them the sheet, asking them if they have any specific questions straight away so don't waste any time giving them info they don't want and focus on giving them the info they do want, if they don't have any questions give an overview of how pupils is doing in each of the core elements of the curriculum, ask if there is anything else, then thank them for their time.

If they have specific questions and it is taking too long explain that your appointment slots are only 5 minutes or whatever and arrange a time/ date for a telephone meeting later.

noblegiraffe Tue 23-Feb-16 19:03:14

Why on earth don't your school do appointments? That's bonkers. My school do them on Thursdays so you only have to get through Friday.

Parents evenings are long, exhausting and you will lose your voice, that's just how it goes so make sure you plan an easy day of lessons the next day - reading or essay writing or whatever doesn't require you to teach.

I'm awesome at sticking to time, I don't know what other teachers spend their time waffling about! Always start with a positive, I then talk about test results and where they are in the class, how their homework is, behaviour and attitude. If behaviour is an issue I discuss that, or Y7 I talk about settling in, Y8 is waffle about setting, Y9 starting GCSEs, y10 and 11 predicted grades and revision. Then smile, say any questions? If they want areas for improvement I look at my homework marks, if how to work at home I have a website to recommend. And wave them off. If you throw loads of info at them, they usually have nothing to say.

Cleebope Tue 23-Feb-16 19:23:45

Yes, obviously need to be more assertive. Over on Aibu is a similar active thread from the parents' perspective... I think parents and teachers dread these events in equal measure!

EvilTwins Tue 23-Feb-16 19:30:42

I'm also very good at sticking to time grin

The biggest issue we have is that parents make appointments and then don't stick to them. If I have no one in front of me, I can hardly say "your appointment time is at 6.40. It's not 6.40. Go away" Wish I could though.

Badbadbunny Wed 24-Feb-16 12:19:59

The biggest issue we have is that parents make appointments and then don't stick to them. If I have no one in front of me, I can hardly say "your appointment time is at 6.40. It's not 6.40. Go away" Wish I could though.

Hard to stick to appointments when some teachers are running late. At our son's school, the appointments system is a joke. All it means is that all the parents are allocated a five minute session so in theory it'll work out in the end. Always starts out well, but then you end up waiting in a queue because people in front are waiting due a teacher running late, so you have to miss out a teacher or two to catch up and then go back later which means you're well outside of your time slot. Made worse because the teachers are spread out all over the building meaning most of the evening is spent by parents walking up and down corridors and staircases.

I can imagine it is hard for teachers to cope with, but it's also exhausting and stressful for the parents to try and keep to the timetable. Some teachers actually refuse to give an appointment for parents of children they don't want to see, which I think is an excellent idea, as if there aren't any problems, it's a waste of both the teacher and the parents' time to go through the motions for no reason. It would be better to have a slot with the form teacher if the pupil has no problems, just for a general chat rather than to hear the same thing from several different teachers.

Badbadbunny Wed 24-Feb-16 12:24:48

Also with email, it's now very easy to discuss any issues with the teacher as it happens during the year, which I think is far better than waiting for the yearly parent's evening. We also get five subject reports each year and a couple of pastoral reports from the form teacher. All in all, not too sure why parent's evenings are needed anymore as there are alternative opportunities for communication. If I had a particular problem with my son, I'd far rather deal with it there and then, maybe by a proper meeting, rather than try to deal with it in a rushed and stressed five minute slot, and I'd hope the teachers would do likewise rather than allow a problem to fester for months in the hope that a parent may turn up at the annual parent's evening!

Obs2016 Wed 24-Feb-16 12:50:49

Challenging questions? Your post comes across as disdain for parents, as if they are just a pain and an annoyance.
some parents ARE difficult. some ask you challenging questions that you don't really want to answer?
I want to hear the good and bad about my son. I want to know the truth and I want to know how to move on and get the best for him.

Millionprammiles Wed 24-Feb-16 14:00:38

Badbunny puts it well.

How about offering a written report to parents in advance, parents then have the option to book an appointment (at allotted times) to discuss a concern or query that can't be dealt with by email, if they feel they need to.
Yes you'll inevitably have parents who want to come in whether there's a need to or not but equally lots of parents who are perfectly happy with their child's progress won't feel they have to come in.

Crucially there's no obligation to meet and its no criticism of the parent if they feel they don't need to meet.

That's how the rest of the working world communicates and I guarantee you'd halve your appointments.

thatsn0tmyname Wed 24-Feb-16 14:05:01

I teach secondary and have a parents' evening tonight. We have an online booking system which works. 5 minute slots plus a 10 break half way through. It's so hard to stick to time if parents arrive early or late from other appts and then 4 sets try to rugby scrum you. You shouldn't be seeing two classes worth in one night, 30 appts max. Do your classes share teachers and could your partner teacher see the other set?? You need to speak to SLT.

anotherdayanothersquabble Wed 24-Feb-16 14:17:59

60 parents in 3 hours only allows 3 minutes each!!! You need to point this out!!

Giving waiting parents a summary to review might be an idea and perhaps asking if parents would like to present any detailed question in advance by email if they require more than their allocated 3 minutes!! (which is crazy!!)

MrsGuyOfGisbo Wed 24-Feb-16 14:53:12

I have done parents' evening form both sides as parent and teacher.
In my DC indie strict timings 2.5 mins each and they stand up and shake hands when the time is up, and I have now adopted this myself when doing from the teachers' side - it works!.
The parents you need to see don't turn up. The sharp-elbowed MC do.
Definitely now in the day of the electronic communication the trad 'parents' evening' should be mothballed and meeting held on a needs basis only, with recalcitrant parents pressganged...

Millionprammiles Wed 24-Feb-16 16:26:53

I don't think its so much about being 'sharp elbowed', its fear of being labelled as an uncaring parent.
Most (caring) parents view PEve as mandatory. That doesn't mean they all think they're necessary though. And if its for 2.5mins per teacher it seems pointless.

Chapsie Wed 24-Feb-16 17:22:20

I don't understand why you would give vague answers? I enjoy the opportunity to talk to the parents - so much more personal than a bland brief written report

MrsGuyOfGisbo Wed 24-Feb-16 17:40:57

when I did teaching practice as part of my training (2 years ago, outstanding school, Y10), a particularly lazy mentor 'asked' me to do his parents' evening and gave me a list of stock answers saying I could perm any one of those anodyne answers.
Complete waste of time for all.

Cleebope Wed 24-Feb-16 21:31:28

Thanks everyone, even obs who thinks I'm a snooty cow! Another one over, I am head of year and had to organise this one so also dealing with pastoral issues as well as a class of 30. Survived it which is the best We teachers can hope for sometimes. Now relaxing with The Brits and vino. The worst thing is not knowing what problems or questions will be thrown at you after a 9 hour day. Next one due in 2 weeks. Vagueness is sometimes better than the truth- some battles aren't worth the hassle.

mineofuselessinformation Wed 24-Feb-16 21:43:58

Review of how they're doing (current level and attitude), comments on class and homework, indication of where they are compared to the group if you feel appropriate, then ask if they have anything they want to ask or talk about.... Job done, next!
If there are any tricky questions, if you can answer briefly do so. If you can't, be honest and say you don't think there is time to discuss it there and then (time constraints and all that stuff), but you will telephone to discuss later in the week. That also gives you time to think about it.
Does that help?
Enjoy the wine!

mineofuselessinformation Wed 24-Feb-16 21:46:09

Oh and a bottle (or two) of water.... And if you need to go to the loo, go! Just say you'll be back in a minute.

EvilTwins Wed 24-Feb-16 21:57:07

I've just done one. My school is in a right mess at the moment but parents evening made me think about the whole point of us. I had some great conversations with parents. The ones you would really like to see never turn up though.

Also, I don't think I saw a single parent at the right time. My first appointment turned up on time but went straight to someone else. They didn't come to me at all.

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