Diplomacy is the name of the game when it comes to parents’ evenings. No parent likes to hear that their precious snugglebear is a lazy halfwit. But being tactful can be tricky when you’ve already spent the majority of the day trying to educate the little rascals. To help you out in your time of need, here are five stellar statements to help you say what you really mean... without actually saying it.
- “Remind me, what time was your appointment?” You’re already running over time, you’ve completely lost track of whose parents you’ve already seen and now you’re politely introducing yourself to a completely anonymous couple. They should be glad you don’t know them – it means their child is well-behaved! But that argument won’t help you now.
- “So, how do you feel the year’s gone so far?” Whether you’re addressing parents, or the student themselves, this opening question is a doozy. Yes, it’s a nice way to gauge opinion, but more importantly, it gives you that extra fraction of a second to down a cup of tepid tea while scrabbling around for the right mark sheet.
- “Homework has been a little inconsistent at times...” This is the teacher equivalent of Mary Berry declaring a cake "informal". While you can't deny that homework is always submitted, it's usually unidentifiable as such. Deep down you know that the severe crumpling is merely a distraction from its questionable quality, but are the muddy footprints always necessary, too?
- "Well, you could try some further wider reading?" You've made the effort to see the parents of your more able students last, based on the misguided assumption that you won't have to censor quite as much. Wrong! These are the parents who want to see their excelling children, who could probably give you a run for your money, excel even more. All they really need is a pat on the back and a bit of a rest.
- “I’d like to see him/her contribute more to class discussions…” Because you still haven't quite figured out whose parents you're actually talking to.
Chris Powell was talking to Nicola Davison. He is a geography teacher and ITT lead professional at Parmiter's School in Hertfordshire