My daughter started primary school. For the first time I found myself on the other side of the divide. I was now the parent, not the educator.
But I felt confident. My daughter was six and ‘school-ready’ and I could take comfort in my years of experience in the education field. I thought the whole thing would be a bit of a breeze. But I was wrong!
What I hadn’t done, is thought about issues outside of the school-readiness realm. I hadn’t thought about issues with people that would have been my colleagues years ago – the staff.
Parent/teacher Meeting Sooner Than Expected..
At the end of the first day, I eagerly waited for my daughter to skip out of school and for her teacher to reassure me that the day had gone well. My daughter didn’t quite skip – which turned out to be a bit of a hight expectation seeing as she’d just done her first six hour stint. And as for reassurances from her teacher…..I was in for a bit of a shock.
There were no reassurances because there was no contact. Dismissing the children one by one, and without acknowledging my presence, she was suddenly gone. The parents around me slowly dissipated and I realised, that on my daughter’s first day at school, the teacher wasn’t going to say…anything!
Of course, I gave her the benefit of doubt. It was the start of term three. Maybe she was distracted with all that came with the start of a new term? The next day would be better. Only it wasn’t. Nor was the next day, or the next week, or the one after that. Communication it turned out, was going to be, quite simply, zero.
Then came an exchange with another teacher who went straight into combative/defensive mode at the mere mention of anything, and tales from my daughter about things that sounded somewhat worrisome.
Three weeks in, my daughter said that she didn’t want to go to school the next day. It was of course, the catalyst. It was time to make my first parent/teacher meeting, albeit far earlier than I’d anticipated.
How Can Parents Prepare for a Successful Parent/Teacher Meeting?
There is a lot of information available to parents to prepare both their child and them for the start of school. It’s a big and important moment for both parent and child. But apart from learning about potential separation issues, what you can do to prepare them for literacy and numeracy etc – what is the best way to deal with any issues that arise? How can parents make sure that they deal with it effectively for themselves and their children, without alienating the school and ending up in a worse position?
Of course, it’s tempting in these situations to march up to the school, your complaints firmly under your arm, ready to unleash them on the first teacher you come across. Tempting, but not wise!
If you find yourself in this situation, you clearly want to get the best outcome possible. To help with this, I have outlined ten steps to enable you get the best result from a parent/teacher meeting.
The tips above are general ones. You may find that your situation requires a different approach depending on how serious it is. But the general message will hopefully be helpful with whatever issue you are dealing with.
As a parent, especially a first time parent, dealing with the school over an issue can feel daunting and intimidating. It’s worth remembering though, that in the vast majority of cases, teachers care about your child and will be keen to sort out any issues with you. If you can approach the meeting with an open-mind and the right mindset for a productive meeting, I’m sure that in most cases, all parties will emerge feeling better coming out of the meeting than when they went in.
I’ll end by sharing a meeting I had with some parents early on in my career.
A student in the class had clearly cheated in a test. I found the essay he’d used from the internet and plainly told him that he had cheated. His parents were livid that I should accuse him of such. They wanted a meeting.
As much as they were livid, I was incredulous that they could think anything other than their son had cheated. I was dreading the meeting as much as them I imagine.
The first few minutes were awkward. Then as I was speaking, the dad’s face suddenly softened and then lit up. It turned out that there had been a complete misunderstanding. A misunderstanding of what constitutes cheating and something about the schools testing policy that the parents were not aware of. The penny dropped. There was huge relief all round!
These parents, feeling the way they did, could have entered the meeting ranting about the injustice of my comment to their son. But they didn’t. As angry as they felt at the time, they came to not only express their feelings but were also prepared to listen. If they had ranted and raved from the start, we may never have found out about the misunderstanding and that they were unaware of the policy. Communication would have broken down and everybody would have lost.
Now as a parent, I need to remember sitting on the other side of the table. For any meetings I have, I need to make sure I am prepared and keep to a solution-focused mindset. Not always an easy task when we’re so emotionally involved. But worth doing to get the best for our children.