Tonight is parents’ evening.
I really dislike going to parents’ evening, partly because it means I have to leave the house at a time when I should be settling down to eat my dinner and watch some Dinner Date, but mainly because it always feels like a complete waste of time. The way I see it, if there was an actual problem, someone would get in touch, they wouldn’t wait until the next parents’ evening to tell me about it, and if there isn’t a problem then, well, quite frankly, what’s the point?
This is going to be what happens:
We arrive at the school in time for our first appointment and are herded into a cold and echoey hall. The parents before us are the sort that seem to genuinely care about how much homework their child gets set, and their five minute slot turns into 18 minutes, while they ask ridiculous questions about the curriculum and school trips that have yet to even happen. They will stay until they are quite convinced that their child is the best in the school.
We will then sit down.
Teacher: Well, Belle seems to be doing fine, she got a good mark in her last test and is currently working at level blah, aiming for a level blah by the end of key stage blah. (What ever happened to her being a second year and getting a B?)
Me: That’s great.
Teacher: Did you have any particular questions or concerns?
Me: Are there refreshments provided?
Me: You know, tea and biscuits or anything?
This last bit doesn’t actually happen out loud, but it’s what I’m thinking.
Then we all smile and look fondly at Belle, who just looks embarrassed, and we move on to the next teacher, where the pattern repeats itself. Finally, four and a half days later, we emerge from the school, bleary eyed, and finally get to go home and watch Dinner Date.
It’s not fun.
This term the cynicism is tempered slightly by my boyfriend’s enthusiasm. When we met online about seven months ago, I specifically mentioned parents’ evening in my dating profile. (Not as a way to seduce men, more as an indication of the importance to me of my family.) One of his first messages in fact was a compliment on my use of the apostrophe, a sure sign from the start that he is the man for me.
He is very keen to come along to parents’ evening, and has taken great delight in winding Belle up in the run up to the big day. As much as she doesn’t want to believe it, I suspect there may be a little bit of her that thinks we really are going to go in costume.
Perhaps parents’ evening will be more fun with a chum.
Image – Tortuga/shutterstock
The problem with your thinking is that the school will inform you in some way if something “is wrong”. It’s quite possible that Belle could be behind on her homework, be behind in where the staff would expect her to be by now etc. Rather than waiting for her report to come home it’s your chance to find out what really goes on in her classes (rather than what your kids tell you, which rarely represents the truth about what they’re really up to!)
Of course the real purpose of PE (not to be confused with PE of course) is to allow people to vent about the fact that their child doesn’t seem to be getting enough homework.
That’s an interesting point Brian although weirdly we get reports at the very same time as parents’ evening – last time we were given it on the day and Belle has just brought it home from school now. It would make sense maybe to stagger them so we get the report updates and then parents’ evenings in between? Although I guess you can argue that having the report to talk about gives some focus at least.
It’s the “level she is working at” that baffles me. I don’t understand what they are talking about and it changes every year. I’ve just had the primary school one which uses a totally different system of grading. It was something like: “For geography she is a level 4, developing, heading towards a strong level 5, achieving. For PE she is…” It was like listening to the Shipping Forecast.
I think it would be more fun if the children took their parents to their teachers and commented on the standard of their parenting…
They should definitely provide refreshments! Although Mr C’s mum works in a hospital and apparently the staff have to take their own tea bags in! x
We haven’t got to the school age yet but we’ve had a parents evening in nursery once and it was a bit random! probably even more pointless! x
Haha this made me smile…I love the description about the parents before having to be convinced it’s the best school for their child – I know exactly the ones you are talking about. Kinda glad I don’t have to go through this with the little man being at home, I know by the end I would lost the will to live or just become over cynical in my responses
This made me chuckle especially the tea and biscuits :) I’ve been to one parents evening for F even though he’s four! All it did was remind me of being sent to the head teacher office at school! Lol x
I don’t mind it really although it is a bit of a palaver trying to coordinate three children. I think we all care about how our kids are doing at school and parents’ evening is just another way to get involved and gain more understanding I guess?
This post definitely rang true for me except that I end up feeling sorry for the teachers who have to sit there for approximately four hours without a break. They do build breaks into the timetable but, as you say, some parents take their turn to chat about random stuff like holidays (not that I earwig, you understand) whilst I fantasise about getting my hands on a megaphone and bellowing “come along now, your allotted time is UP”. Wine would definitely help but since even raisins are banned from lunchboxes, I suspect I’m not on a winner with that suggestion.
I hate parents evening. Bens 1st year I almost stabbed his teacher with a pencil as she talked me through how to develop his writing skills (I’m a trained primary school teacher) It’s always on a day I work Fortunatly so I send Hubby solo. He seems to enjoy if for some strange reason (could it be the fact his new teacher is younger and prettier then me?)
As a teacher on the other side of the parents’ evening table, I find your perspective interesting.
What does parents’ evenings give to parents that isn’t given through reports and other communication with home?
I’ve had a few parents’ evening recently and I’m planning to write about how all involved can get the most out of it.
Thanks for adding to my thoughts on this issue. #aNoviceMumTwitterFeed
In my daughter’s current class, we have a little side-bet going that we can actually keep the teacher talking for the ten minutes allotted time, I don’t think anyone has managed it yet!
“Fortunatly”? For a trained primary school teaching teaching literacy… this is quite worrying.
It is in fact parents evening not parents’ evening, as parents is adjectival in this context. The evening does not belong to the parents, the evenings is *of* parents in its type. See here: https://twitter.com/guardianstyle/status/314449385763254272?lang=en