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01 June 2017

Parent-teacher nights – what to ask, what to say, how to say it

The room is a buzz of nervous energy, the stop clock on the wall is set, tables lined up in rows – everyone is eager to see who they will meet tonight. No, it’s not a venue set for an evening of speed-dating, it’s a secondary school parent-teacher night!

These days there are many different avenues for teachers, parents and students to communicate. There are emails, online systems, blogs, apps and school reports, and of course – parent-teacher meetings.

Parent-teacher meetings are unique because they are face-to-face communication between the teacher, parent and student. They also have a very strict time limit of 5 to 10 minutes, which is why we often liken them to speed dating.

To help parents navigate the whirlwind of meetings we spoke to some industry experts (teachers, principals and parents) who have given us some insider information about what to ask and how to prepare for those critical minutes.

Here are our top 5 tips:

1. Introduce yourself and your child
The main point of the meeting is to build trust and communication between the three of you so giving some info about yourselves is the perfect start. It is a fleeting chance to put a face to a name while discussing how you can all work together.

It’s a great time to tell the teacher something about your child that helps them get to know them and you. For example, “did you know that (insert name) is competing in the State water polo competition this weekend/has just achieved their black-belt in karate/volunteers at the local rotary club?”

The meeting isn’t about you, but it is a good idea to introduce yourself too, what you do for work/in your spare time, but please remember to keep it very brief!

2. Be prepared
Allow your child to set goals and decide on where they want to be.

Sit down with your child before the meetings and talk about each of their subjects. Remember, if your child is an adolescent, sometimes your goals for them are not aligned with their goals.

3. Participate
If possible, get your child to lead the session.

School staff encourage students to have influence and ownership of their own learning journey. Every student is on their own learning journey and it is the role of the teacher to support their journey.

It is the responsibility of both parents and school staff to work together to develop resilience and independence in children. These meetings are a great chance for adolescent children to show their initiative.

4. Progress not performance
Reports mid-year and at the end of the year outline the academic achievements of your child with grades and performance. Our experts suggest that parent meetings should be about children’s progress.

While we understand that you will be interested to know how they are going, now is a great chance to talk about all of the other components of their learning – are they doing the expected homework, how do they go with presenting to class, participating in class discussions, do they work well in a team?

5. What does success look like for your child?
Talk about what they want to achieve in each subject, and set some small goals and milestones that are challenging but achievable.

After speaking with your child about what they want to get out of each subject and talking with the teacher about their progress so far, it is an excellent time to think of some practical ways of getting where they want to be.

Make sure these are clear and practical milestones that can be measured and achieved without your child placing a huge amount of pressure on themselves.

6. It takes a community to raise a child
Research overwhelmingly shows that parent involvement in children’s learning is positively related to achievement.

The more you’re involved and interested in your child’s schooling, the more likely they are to succeed. And don’t we all want the best for our kids?


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