Total Pageviews

One of the Top 100 Education Blogs

View All 100 Blogs

Monday, 16 February 2015

Reflecting on Parents Evening

For our school Parents Evening has come and gone. The decision was made a few years ago that staff would prefer to 'get it out of the way' before half term rather than have it to go back to after the break. It seems like a good idea and reality is that when we go back to school I will be glad that it is done and dusted but trust me Parents Evening on the last week of half term is exhausting!

Reflecting is such an important process in any profession and indeed in life. It allows us to think about what worked, what didn't, what we need to change, what we need to do next. Half term allows me that precious time to reflect.

Sadly for many reasons Parents Evening isn't the highlight of my termly calendar. Don't get me wrong I love meeting parents, putting faces to children and seeing where they get all of their characteristics from. Parents Evening can be informative, interesting and at times quite good fun. The flip side however, is it is tiring, repetitive (repeating the homework and P.E. mantra)  and worrying.

I have always been a huge advocate of the sandwich technique in most meetings but especially in Parents Evening. It allows you the opportunity to begin with a positive, suggest some improvements, which could be seen as negatives and end with a positive. The reality is that I always find the positives easy. I like the pupils in my class, I spend 6 hours a day, five days a week with them. I know all of their ways, can tell when they are happy, sad, mischievous, worried ... The negatives on the other hand are frustrating.

I always approach Parents Evening with the acknowledgment that firstly the pupils in my class are 6 and 7 years old and that they are adorable and mean everything to their adults. Parents/carers have the right to hear the many positives their children have. My own experiences of Parents Evenings as a parent of two girls were sadly poor. They were two adorable little girls who have grown into two successful women that I am deeply proud of but I never, felt they were appreciated, that their teachers knew or indeed even liked them. This pattern wasn't just established in high school but began in Primary school, a time when to find positives is easy!

So reflecting on my latest Parents Evening I admit total frustration at the time I allowed to be given over to discussing 'levels', progress, homework etc.. THEY ARE 6 AND 7!!!!! The important information of friendship groups,  talents such as artistic skills, P.E., the things they enjoy, the things they find a bit more difficult, their ability to work as part of a group got lost along the way.

I allowed myself to buy into Ofsted and Government agendas of driving forward a system totally focused upon seeing pupils solely as results who are either on or off track rather than as the wonderful complicated little individuals they are. What the pupils in my class learn is obviously vastly important to me, I strive every day to engage and excite them, to develop a love of learning, curiosity and determination to succeed. But their are so many other things that make a child, teenager and adult than results. They are not statistics they are children whose childhood will go by in the blink of an eye. As a teacher I believe it is my duty to teach them, to help them navigate their way through their leaning journey but it is also my job to make that experience a pleasurable, memorable and positive one.

So on reflecting on this Parents Evening I have come to a few decisions:

Firstly at least 85% of the parent of the pupils in my class found getting their child to complete homework a constant battle. I do not want to start the debate here about the pros and cons of homework, that's for another blog post but I can simplify the homework for the parents and pupils in my class straight away in order to prevent totally unnecessary battles at home. Parents/Carers have enough battles to contend with from getting their children to get themselves dressed, eating their fruit and veg, tidying their own rooms, getting on with their siblings etc. So if I can take a bit of the strain I will.  

Secondly I will ensure that more time is given over in the next Parents Evening to the things that matter, the children! Results can be given on a piece of paper, discussions about children cannot.  

Thirdly I will keep being the teacher I wish my children had had (this is actually one of the reasons I went into teaching.) Learning will be a fun and exciting journey of discovery with some problems bumps along the way (learning from mistakes being an essential part of the learning process as well as being challenged.)

What was your Parents Evening like? What will you change next time?

Sunday, 8 February 2015

The Rollercoaster of Teaching

We have all heard the expression and I am sure the song 'Life is a Roller coaster.' We can all relate to it because life is full of its ups and downs, its triumphs and its tragedies.

Whilst the ups and downs of life can be exciting, challenging and keep us on our toes it is often the straight in the road, the periods of time when things are just ticking along, that we take for granted and what we actually, when the road is rocky,  yearn for the most.

Our working lives are part of this roller coaster that is life, we spend approximately 46 years of
our life at work as a rough estimate: 

Taking the average UK Life Expectancy - 80,
               Then minus years spent at school, including degree  - 21
                                               Then minus retirement years, from 67 - 13
                                               We get a total number of years of working = 46.

The way you interpret and see these figures will most definitely depend upon your present mindset but whichever way you look at it we are at work for a lot of our lives. So ..... what does this have to do with teaching? Absolutely everything if you are a teacher because if ever there was a metaphorical roller coaster it is teaching.

Those of you poor soles familiar with my blog will know that I have been teaching a long time....
you will also know that for me teaching is a vocation, something that I am passionate about. However, that does not mean that it is not and has not been one long and winding roller coaster full of twists and turns, triumphs and tragedies.

I have had amazing experiences, worked with and alongside amazing pupils, parents and fellow professionals. I have had the privilege of being a positive influence on the lives of many of those children and adults. My mind is full of memories that I will treasure for ever, moments that have melted my heart, made me laugh and cry with sheer joy. OK, OK I will stop now... but I cling to these memories and moments, the memories from the top of the roller coaster because they keep me going when the ride reaches the precipice and goes over the edge careering for the bottom at speed.   

And boy oh boy does that teaching roller coaster career over that edge fast!! In life we often see and hear the chug, chug, chug of the ride reaching the top before it goes over the edge and if we don't hear it we perch there at  the top contemplating the drop. We get that time to prepare. With teaching we don't, the ride is fast and furious with very, very, few times to catch your breath. The image below demonstrates how the the first year of teaching is like a roller coaster, but actually this pattern is repeated for every teacher year, after year, after year...


Can it be helped? Avoided? Or as the expression goes do we just have to 'suck it up?'  

Somethings can't be changed, teachers will always experience the worry and anticipation of the new class, we will always have the stress of planning, parents evenings, targets... However, some things can and should change. Teaching needs a break from the political agenda, it needs to stop being a political football kicked between parties whose only aim is to get votes. It needs to stop being seen as a cure for all of societies ills. 

Teachers and all of those in education should be trusted to get on with the job in hand, teaching the next generation, the people who we will all need, the doctors and nurses, politicians, bricklayers, electricians, hairdressers, shop workers, leaders, followers with the rich and colourful rainbow of skills that make we need to make a prosperous and successful society.

This is not, and cannot, be achieved whilst teachers, pupils and parents suffer at the hands of political agendas. The present level of pressure cannot be sustained... It is not good for the present and future of our society...

Stop, or at least slow down the roller coaster before we all jump off!