As sure the leaves fall from the trees half-term arrives in a storm of ‘hasn’t it gone so quickly’ and ‘I’m just so tired’. It’s true, I think most teachers find the Autumn term a killer in general especially as it always seems to be the longest. Some have daily half termly data drops, the metaphorical bomb onto the system which for many is essentially them predicting how a child will learn for the next 9 months. For others, it is more useful, merely a tracking tool. For the less fortunate it is the sword of Damocles hanging over the necks, the threat of Performance (or perceived lack of Performance) management, waiting like a hungry wolf at the end of year.
Almost all of us have done a parents’ evening. For many NQTs this can be one of the most daunting parts of their first year, a rite of passage, another thing to tick off the list of ‘big moments’. I always find it a strange time, in a way it’s something that I think many teachers don’t look forward to. Another thing to do, another long day, a time when the work they’d normally do in this period has to be done elsewhere. However after nearly ten years of teaching and dozens of parents’ evenings it still gives me a bit of a buzz.
We as teachers are so used to performing to our class that for some sitting opposite actual real life grown-ups can be very nerve wracking and it is. It’s a different type of performance, it’s the professional mode switching on and wanting to properly explain to the norms sitting opposite you that you genuinely do understand their child and you genuinely do also want what’s best for them, even if some elements of what you perhaps have to say are unpalatable.
One thing I always find interesting is which children come along. Not to mention the motivation behind attending or not. For some they are too busy, doing Brownies or something, for others they are worried or shy about hearing themselves be praised or directed on how to develop. If said child does attend I always find it odd talking about them as if they aren’t there, should it be ‘Tamsin’, whilst looking at Mum and Dad, or should it be ‘you’, whilst Mum and Dad join me in a collective stare at the little’un? I find a mixture works best.
Something that seems to be different in different school is where these meetings take place. I like having mine in my classroom, in the trenches of learning, the frontline of battle. Previously I have had my sessions in the hall, a huge oval of teachers furiously marking between appointments as we all competed to be heard over our neighbours. It was all very secondary school although sadly, due to security of teachers, necessary.
There are some unspoken truths of parent’s evening that I would like to share.
- At least half of the people you speak to will say ‘oh he/she is not like that at home.’ Generally this is after you have said how quiet their child is.
- You will feel like a doctor, saying the next name, greeting each parent at the door before settling yourself down opposite them.
- There will be at least one parent that you think; I really hope you are the Mum of X because we haven’t met before.
- All of your colleagues will want to talk to you about that one meeting.
- You will want all of your friends and family to know how long you have worked this week.
- You will realise how much you genuinely, truly care for these children when speaking about them.
- You will realise how much you genuinely, truly want them to succeed and you will be reenergised in your mission to achieve that for them.
- You will feel like an asthmatic, tortoise carrying a fridge on his back when you attempt to walk to the car at the end of the night.
- Some of your meetings will feel like you’re tickling a tiger waiting for it to rip your arm off and tell you it tastes bad.
- Some will be good, some will be bad but at the end of it all you’ll be reminded why it is you love this job so flipping much!
Whatever your experience of the last week of Autumn 1, rest now if you can. Work if you want. For Christmas will be here before you know it!