Tales from new teachers

My first parents' evening

The problem

As the date of my very first parents' evening loomed, I became increasingly anxious. Pre-parents'-evening nerves are not uncommon for a newly qualified teacher and I was plagued by the usual concerns. What if I drew a blank? What if I talked about the wrong child? What if the parents asked tricky questions?

But my worry worsened when I realised that I had tickets to a McBusted concert on the same evening. Disaster!

The options

My initial reaction was not dissimilar to Hugh Grant's in the opening scene of Four Weddings and a Funeral. I'd made a rookie error in trying to keep my work and social lives separate by having two diaries.

I asked my friends for a solution. Predictably, they laughed, before continuing to make pre-concert plans without me. Not the best start. But at least this helped me to realise that I wasn't prepared to forgo McBusted.

With brain finally engaged, I worked out that even if I was able to stay at school all evening, I would have 78 sets of parents to see in just 42 five-minute slots. So I was never going to get through everybody anyway. I instantly felt a lot better. My only real option was to leave early, but was that a dereliction of duty?

I tested the water on a more experienced colleague, only to find that she also had tickets to the concert. She had no qualms about leaving early and suggested that I start seeing parents early to make up some of the time. Great!

I approached my mentor with my start-early, leave-early plan. Despite his obvious distaste for my musical preferences, he agreed, and suggested telling students that their parents could email me if they weren't able to get an appointment but still wanted to talk.

Things were going to be OK.

The result

The big day arrived. To conquer my nerves, I had planned the evening with military precision. Not only did I know exactly when each student's parents were seeing me but I had also made brief notes on each child's attitude and progress level. Imperturbable me.

But parents are a sneaky breed. I hadn't banked on them squeezing in appointments between my appointments, and I quickly learned to summarise my students' achievements and targets in just two minutes using only my markbook.

Eventually, only 10 minutes later than planned, I left feeling pretty pleased that I'd had a productive and successful evening. Needless to say, I celebrated hard with McBusted and a well-earned cocktail.

Niki Davison teaches English and drama at Parmiter's School in Watford, Hertfordshire

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