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‘Three Top Tips from Tom’ will be updated weekly with the best advice and tips on behaviour and classroom management.

Tom Bennett is the TES adviser on behaviour and a teacher at Raines Foundation, an inner city state school in Tower Hamlets. He regularly supports teachers on TES through our behaviour forum and monthly newsletters on behaviour.

Wait til your father gets home! Parents Evenings and behaviour

Parents evenings are a bear, aren’t they? Just when you’d rather be at home learning a foreign language, reading Wittgenstein/ watching Holby City, there you are chained to the mast in a draughty room full of empty eyed children accompanied by their determined/ dogged/ listless parents. What a bummer.

Except the parents evening is a crucial opportunity to make links, develop relationships, and talk about the learning environment between you and Student X without the distractions of the classroom context. Personally I love parents evenings. I could eat them with a spoon. Even if you’re not as friendless and odd as I am, here are three ways you can generate some sparks and make it the right night with Barry White.

  1. Give them a warm hand on their entrance (copyright Frankie Howerd). I’m amazed by the number of teachers who greet the parents as if they were about to pronounce judgement on a prisoner. Lighten up; manners cost nothing; get those lovely teeth out. Shake a paw. And while I’m at it, stand up and shake the hand of the student too. Thank them both for coming. Ask them how the journey was. These simple things make relationships possible. Don’t be so bone-headed, so raised-in-a-circus to forget them.
  2. Accentuate the positive at first. The parent may have been dragged around a series of bear traps and lion pits sufficient to make them feel the world is against them. Be the surprise. Make some comment about how well they’ve been doing ‘X’. Granted, for some students you will have to locate ‘X’ using differential calculus and a telescope. Do it, still. Give them a reason to believe you can see all sides of the child. You can, can’t you?
  3. Let rip. You have to be honest. Tell the parent that you need their help getting the situation back on track, and you want Student X to do as well as they possibly can. Both, all parties share the same interest - the well being of the child’s education. So say what has to be said, and do so in such a way that suggests you’re not disgusted with them, and you believe change is possible. Make ultimatums if you mean them, but try to find a way out of anything that looks intractable. for most kids, it’s possible. For the minority - then just be truthful.

There is so much that can be achieved at a parent’s evening. Make it an investment of your time, not a waste.

Good luck

Tom

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