‘Haven’t you just had a holiday?’ ask my non-teacher friends. It’s been a nearly eight week half term – no, I have not just had a holiday. Myself and the children were very much ready for a break because they were tired and fed up of sharing a room with the same 30 people and I had a bit of marking to catch up on and parent’s evening notes to write.
As I do parents evening with my teacher partner, we find the best way to do it is to set aside a whole day, sit down with snacks, drinks and a laptop and just write a bit about each child. As if SLT didn’t trust us all, we received a detailed email about all the things we need to talk about and that we are not to reveal the children’s levels but explain how they are below, at or above the National average for their age. Still a bit of a loaded gun, if you ask me. We are now pretty aware of which parents might ask us awkward questions, so we made sure we have a bit more detail about these children. We are covered for the following recurring ‘fussy parent’ type questions:
1. Why isn’t my child a free reader? (They follow a reading scheme and some of the children are of a level where they are able to read well and choose their own books sensibly. Some are not.)
Lots of the children are good at the process of reading and decoding but only a few read in a way that they can discuss a text at a deeper level.
2. Why hasn’t my child got a handwriting pen licence?
Because their handwriting is inconsistent and needs to be neat in all areas of their work.
3. My child gets 10/10 in their spelling test every week, why aren’t they getting harder spellings?
Your child may get their spellings right in their tests but this is not transferring to their written work when they still spell who, ‘hoo’ and went, ‘whent’.
4. Why aren’t you stretching/challenging my child?
Believe me, we are. We differentiate four ways and there is a challenge area for those that finish their work.
We started our mammoth note writing session at 10.30am had a 30 minute lunch/gossip break and I left her house at 4pm. 4PM! That’s five solid hours of discussing the lovely children in our class…mind numbing.
After the first few it gets a bit easier. The initial few take a while to do as we discuss the best ways to phrase the more negative points we need to get across. Here are some examples:
- Behaviour varies, easily distracted. (Would rather be making little battle scenes with their stationary than listening to what’s going on.)
- Would like him/her to contribute more to class discussion. (Often looks half asleep.)
- Needs to present work more clearly/take pride in their work. (I can barely read what they’ve written.)
- Creative in his/her ideas but finds it challenging to get them written down coherently. (His/her writing just doesn’t make sense most of the time.)
- So, with a bank of phrases under our belts, it still took us 5 hours.
I have never been very confident at talking to parents, I always get a bit tongue tied and panic when I’m put on the spot. I have, however learned to ask parents who try and talk to me at 9.05am as the children are piling into the classroom noisily, to see me after school or arrange an appointment as it is unlikely I can answer their question there and then without some thinking time. I dread parents evening and I’ve had some tricky parents in my time. I understand that every parent wants the best for their child but meeting some parents makes me realise why some of the children are the way they are. After tutoring, football, swimming, cubs, brownies, dancing, Judo, gymnastics, etc. they come to school for a break. There’s a difference between supportive and pushy. As a teacher, I want the best for their children too.
Saying that, my child is only 3, I hope I won’t turn out to be one of ‘those’ parents, but who knows? I’ll try my very best not to.