I have a double life. I am loving, caring and warm towards my family and friends but I can also be pretty tough on the kids I teach. No less so than on a parents evening. As a teacher, I prepare for parents evening by printing out all my data on the kids, drinking a ton of coffee, eating a pile of chocolate biscuits and then sitting down at my little desk.
It struck me that for parents and kids, it can often be a terrifying prospect to come and sit at that little desk across from the teacher.
My advice to parents
Before you arrive – Prepare and take a deep breath. It may be ok, your little darling may actually be wonderful and delightful at school. However, be prepared that they may not. Unfortunately, many children live double lives and are the opposite at school to they are with you at home. So either you experience the monster child, or their poor suffering teachers do.
When at school – Most teachers have some kind of spreadsheet with data on it. In secondary schools at least, these will most likely to colour coded against what your child is expected to achieve. So as you sit down at the desk, try and take a sneaky peek! If you don’t manage that to prepare yourselves, just back up the teacher. They are the ones who have to try and push your child into brilliance and being amazing…they are the ones that need the support! I’m ever so sorry but little Joey needs the hand holding and strong words aimed at him if he is underachieving, not the teacher!
When you get home – sit down with a glass of wine and process all of the information given before you discuss it fully with your child. I think this is particularly important if the news was negative and unexpected or worse than expected. You can then form a plan that is not rushed and impassioned, you don’t say anything that you might regret and you set a considered and calm example to your child. Sit down with them the day after and give them a chance to explain how they think they can improve. The reflection time for them, may allow them the time to create an action plan of their own which would give them tremendous ownership of it.
On the other hand, if you’re child is doing well I would suggest rewarding them but not lavishly so. Afterall, don’t we expect them to go to school and try their very hardest?! I heard of a student recently whose parents had paid him £10 just to get him to go to an hours detention! If we reward the small things lavishly then the gain for the child ends up becoming disproportionate to the actual achievement made.
Advice to the teens/tweens
Before going to school – should you need to fess up to anything less than perfect, do it before you get to school. Don’t wait. Your teacher will mention it and you will get the death glare from your parents. They will be less monstrous if they know its coming. You might even be able to limit the damage by explaining how you intend to improve!
When at school – be brave and make eye contact with teachers and parents! Trust me when I say that neither of us will turn into fire breathing dragons and fry you in an instant. We might however, treat you more like an adult if you meet us fairly half way and man up a bit.
Afterwards – it was good, smile sweetly in the knowledge that you work well at school. If it was bad, hide! Or the more mature option (which sucks, I know) is to think honestly about how you can change things to show that you are lovely and you do actually care. Which you do, no matter how hard you try to convince yourself and others, and no matter how much it isn’t cool to care. You do because hidden under your hormones and teen angst you are a wonderful adult waiting to blossom!
So hopefully, after reading this you and your teen/tween feel more prepared. Unfortunately school is about hard work and determination, 2 things that your average teen turn away from as they just CBA (can’t be ar*ed, for those who do not venture into teen world regularly). My advice to everyone involved is to stay calm, think before you speak and all should remain fairly calm around you. Good luck!