Monday, February 11, 2013

The Joys of Parent Teacher Nights

by Guest Blogger, Dusan Sekulic

Having freshly emerged from the second of three parent-teacher evenings scheduled this month in my school, I note that it is past 8 o'clock. My stomach is demanding food, further lesson planning awaits me at home, and my arms have already started groaning in discomfort with the weight of 30 exercise books that must be carefully marked.

Nevertheless, you will find no intended hint of sarcasm in the title of this post. Simply put, I love parent-teacher evenings. I find them stimulating, enlightening and one of the best ways to communicate some of the most important educational information you want your students to know, as well as their parents.

At my school, parent-teacher night is like one big comic book convention. Each teacher from every subject has their very own table in the dining hall. They encircle the middle of the hall, forming a perimeter of knowledge and experience. In the centre is a cluttered collection of chairs, some full and some empty, intended for the use of the parents to sit on for comfort as they await their interview time slots with various teachers. The time slots had been carefully planned out weeks before. In truth, the schedule goes out the window the minute the evening begins. Instead, parents line up in anticipation at each station, report cards ready in hand, and their ears ready for every tantalizing piece of information about the schoolwork and behaviour of their children.

Tonight was parents evening for my Year 7s. They are anxious, nervous and impatient about what judgement they will be given by each teacher. The parents, that is. The students, some terrified, some passive and complacent, are at their honest best. Most will sit quietly during their session, nodding their heads – not really listening at times – and will offer up some of the most sweetest, innocent smiles you will ever see. Questions abound of the behaviour of little James and little Sarah. Glaring looks at little downcast faces when they find out how distracted their kids can get during class sometimes. And, of course, one of my favourite reactions from some parents: “Wait until you see what happens to your X-box when we get home...”

During it all, though, there is a genuine need and desire for the parents to want to see their kids succeed. They want to push them and ask what it is they can do to help make that happen. It was so encouraging and delightful to see just how much parents care about their children and their education.

Naturally, there is also the pressure that parents bring to the table. Certainly, they want their children to succeed at school, and it is your responsibility to make sure that happens. Your responsibility, and inevitably your fault if they fail. However, after just one of these parent-teacher evenings, one finds out just how many parents do not actually feel that way. Not one bit. They understand that their children are just as responsible for their own marks and efforts as you are.

When the time comes to meet the parents of your own students – whether in London or Canada, or beyond – make an effort to relax and enjoy it. Forget about the full day of classes you have just taught, or the dinner you must prepare at home in a pinch. This is a night for you to meet some lovely people and see your students in a different light. You get a glimpse into their lives at home, and have a chance to chat with your partners in ensuring that their education continues outside the classroom every day. Namely, their parents.

It is an opportunity for you to really establish what your students need to work on and improve, as well as talk about what they are doing exceptionally right in the classroom and how to make sure they continue doing so. Remember, always end each talk with some positive comments. It will mean the world to both parents and children. A delightful evening, indeed.

To apply to teach in London with Classroom Canada in either April/May or Sept/Oct simply send your resume & cover letter to apply AT  Interviews are quickly getting booked in for next week.

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