Parents’ Evening: Always be a Class Act

Parents’ Evening: Always be a Class Act

Parents’ evening always stresses me out. I’m not sure exactly why – maybe something to do with having to listen to someone else comment on my kids’ abilities, personality and highlight the good (blush), gently flag the not so good (cringe). It’s even worse than getting feedback on myself somehow.

If you also struggle with this three times a year, I’ve developed some top tips for surviving (and my lovely teacher friend has added some thoughts too):

1. Don’t mind the little chairs.

If your bottom doesn’t fit, just remember that they are made for little bottoms not grown up bottoms. It makes me think of the time Victoria Beckham was so tiny that she wore jeans that were the same size as kids aged some-age-less-than-10 jeans. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are not Victoria Beckham.

2. Don’t get stressed out by the countdown timer on the table.

If it’s not there, so-and-so’s parents will literally be speaking to the Maths teacher for an hour which means everyone will still be there at midnight.

3. Don’t be embarrassed if you forget who is actually teaching your kids.

No-one can be expected to keep track of every single teacher from one year to the next.

4. Yes, teachers are very young.

Just accept this. This is the way of the world. See also: policemen.

5. Understand The Teacher’s Code.

Here are some examples:

Likes to participate – talks non-stop and has no off-switch

An independent thinker – impossible to teach

Didn’t get this quite right but it was a good effort – completely wrong

Do NOT cry, or worse, collapse in a hysterical fit of giggles.

In response to constructive criticism do not argue or reply, no matter how tempting, “Isn’t that your job?”

The teachers know all your secrets. Your kids tell them EVERYTHING. But as one wise teacher once said to me, “I won’t believe everything they tell us about you if you won’t believe everything they tell you about me”.

What the teacher REALLY thinks…

The teacher sitting across from you is probably thinking the following:

1. The most polite and hardworking young people almost always have very conscientious parents.

Parents who trawl round all the teachers being told everything is fine and becoming increasingly suspicious. If this is you, don’t worry! Everything probably is fine. We really will tell you if we have any concerns, and one of the perks of the job is being able to tell dedicated parents how amazing their children are.

2. Particularly if your child is under the age of 12 (or even still at primary school)

No, I can’t really predict their university degree outcomes, give career advice, or guarantee that joining the STEM club will get them an internship at an engineering firm somewhere down the line. You’d be amazed by how often this crystal-ball gazing is expected – and just like a crystal ball, anything I tell you about the fabulous young person sitting opposite me is subject to change with little warning, especially during the puberty years. Let all our budding doctors and lawyers be children for as long as possible.

3. If your son or daughter is a little bit of a handful…

But you’ve turned up anyway, we secretly congratulate you on your resilience even as we deliver our not-so-positive message using the kindest words possible. (Actually we also think of you as we sip our evening glass of wine, particularly at the start of a long holiday….). Some parents don’t come at all if they know the news might be slightly unpleasant. We also don’t judge you if you give up and go home halfway through the evening because you’ve heard the same thing enough times and you need a glass of wine yourself.

4. I promise we don’t really have favourites (particularly not given aforementioned progress scrutiny!).

We generally like all young people, even the “lively” ones – it’s a miserable job if not. So please believe that anything constructive we tell you comes from the best intentions. And maybe one day we’ll even get a mention across the dinner table as a favourite teacher (the students are, of course, allowed favourites…).

Catherine Davies

Catherine is married with twin boys. She is a regulatory strategy consultant and also runs coaching programs for women. She's on two Boards. She loves riding her horse.

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