So it has come to this time of year again where we start preparing for our first parents evening of the new school year. I understand the need for parents evenings and I think that they are valuable when you can get parents to attend however it always felt that it should at the very least by a 3 way process the child, the teacher and the parents. This sort of set up would give children the opportunity to take responsibility for their learning, the parents to understand that it’s a combination of student and teachers involvement in the learning process and for us to see the relationships between parents and children.
Over the summer I began hearing about a new approach to such evenings where the children are more involved in explaining their progress to their parents. There was talk about them leading the meetings or even doing their own presentations to the parents. They would work on them in school time and rehearse and then share them with their parents. According to those whom I was discussing this process with the parents were very supportive of this idea although many suggested they’d like the teachers to tell them the ‘real report’ afterwards therefore partially defeating the point.
I decided to take these ideas and amalgamate them into my own idea, a compromise of sorts. My headteacher would not allow children to present their own ideas to parents, for fear of what they’d say, and as I’d mentioned above there were already floors in this plan so I just decided to have a frank conversation with them and offer them a chance to be heard. I explained to them that I wanted to know what they would say to their parents about their Literacy, Maths and behaviour and that this was because their opinion was one I wanted to know and to share with their parents – whether it agreed with mine or not.
Due to time restraints I gave them a form to complete split into the 3 sections and I showed them a fictional example of the type of comments I write on my parents’ evening forms to give them ideas of what to say. Then I left them to it. Collected them in at the end of registration and took them home to review. What I found was interesting.
Part of me expected them to be harsher on themselves than I would be, perhaps that they would mimic the things that they hear teachers saying such as ‘I need to work on making the right choices’ etc. Actually they were accurate to an extent, some of them not very modest but generally roughly accurate. For example one of my more able children in maths wrote that he was brilliant at maths, especially with decimals and others told me accurately what they needed to work on in Literacy. Even the children’s behaviour comments were appropriate. Overall there were no comments which really needed vetting and I was incredibly impressed at their perceptions on how they were doing and their strengths and weaknesses.
I would recommend this process to other teachers as well, even if the children are not accurate in their judgments about themselves it gives you an insight into what they think and potentially what they share with their parents when they get home. Any issues or misconceptions can also be highlighted before the parents evening so you would be able to say to the parents ‘I am aware that [child] is concerned about their spellings but I have spoken to them and we arranged…’ Altogether it was an insightful process and post-parents evening both children and parents seem to feel that I am interested in what they have to say.