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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?