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How to survive parents' night

Advice for teachers in their early career

Have you had your first parents' evening yet? It's a real hurdle for teachers - and parents, who will be as nervous as you are. Get an experienced member of staff to talk you through procedures, warning you about parents who are known to be difficult - and the best way to deal with them. Arrange to sit in on another teacher's interview to see how they do it.

Be prepared. What is the aim of the consultation? Spend some of your 10 per cent reduced timetable getting ready.

Write notes on each child, identifying strengths and areas for development socially and academically. It's useful to ask the children what they think you'll say. Their understanding of how they're doing is essential. Keep notes on separate pieces of paper so that people can't see what you're going to say about other pupils. Check the last written report so that you know what the parents have been told. If you're planning to say anything that contradicts previous messages, make sure you have evidence to back you up. If you can predict the issues parents will raise, think of answers.

Take care with what you say as it will all be analysed and talked about afterwards. Be professional and tactful: if you think someone's lazy then say they have not worked hard, but there is time to change this.

Plan your timetable, giving yourself breaks where possible - but don't rely on gaps as you'll probably run over time with some parents. If you can predict parents who might be difficult, arrange for another staff member to be around, perhaps bringing you a cup of coffee at a that time. Have a list of appointments and tick people when you have seen them: this stops confusion and avoids you talking about the wrong child.

You are being judged as much as the pupils so make sure your presentation does you credit. Have a table and adult-sized chairs. Ensure that everything looks organised. Keep things to hand: examples of work, records and curriculum documents. Don't forget drinks and nibbles to keep you going - and a treat when you get home. You deserve it!

Sara Bubb's The Insider's Guide for New Teachers is published by TESKogan Page (pound;12.99)See www.tes.co.ukbookshop

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