Whether you’re attending your very first parent/teacher meeting, or you're a seasoned pro- let's be honest, the very first meeting of the academic year is always a little bit fraught.
For many, it’s the first real 'quality' time they’ve had with their child's new teacher, and with so many questions to ask, and really very limited time, it can often become a stressful and fruitless interaction.
To help make your first parent/teacher meeting of 2016/17 productive, WhichSchoolAdvisor.com went straight to the top, and asked some of the UAE’s most experienced principals what they would like to see from their parents...
Before the Meeting
First of all, speak to the expert! Ask your child what you should expect to see. What do they feel they’re doing well, what not so well? See if there are any questions you can ask on their behalf. John Hughes, Vice Principal, GEMS Metropole School, Dubai.
Get there early and allow for time to look through your child’s work before meeting with the teacher. Has it been marked? Are the comments that the teacher written evaluative and, more importantly, developmental? Do you think the work reflects your child’s capability or are you pleasantly surprised that your child is now performing at a particular level whereby you can see and appreciate her/his development? Please bear in mind that your child might be doing some great work and progressing extremely well outside of that which you can see written down in front of you. Chris McDermott, Principal, Oaktree Primary, Dubai.
Don’t over-think it and don’t send e-mails. However, do ask your child if there is anything they want you to ask. Colin Callaghan, CEO and Principal, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail, Dubai.
Don’t wait for a parents’ evening if there is a major issue you need to discuss with the school. There isn’t the time, and it’s not the place. Email or phone the school and ask for a meeting on a separate occasion with the relevant people - that will give you the time and space to address the matter properly. Patrick Lee-Browne, Principal, Kent College Dubai.
Use the occasion well and while waiting, as you most probably will, do your best to get to know other parents who are alongside you. Matthew Farthing, Principal, Nord Anglia International School, Dubai.
Go prepared: you could be in for a long evening, and the cup of tea and cake that you're offered may not be enough to get you through… Both you and your child are much more likely to be able to concentrate if you take a few snacks to keep you going. Patrick Lee-Browne, Principal, Kent College Dubai.
During the Meeting
Plan your time carefully! Parents meetings are often short and you’ll need to then find your next appointment. Try to build in time to reflect on conversations, look at students’ work where possible. Patrick Horne, Principal, BISAD, Abu Dhabi.
Go into the consultation with a positive that you can bring to the meeting – try taking the agenda by starting off with something that your daughter/son really enjoys about school and came home talking about. Matthew Farthing, Principal, Nord Anglia International School Dubai.
It’s always a good idea to introduce yourselves to the teacher (if your son/daughter isn’t with you), so that teachers don’t have to spend the first few minutes trying to tactfully tease the child’s name out of the conversation. I’ve seen many a teacher discuss a delightful young man/lady to (pleasantly) surprised parents, only to realise that they’ve guessed the wrong child! Brendon Fulton, Principal, DBS, Dubai.
Stay on the point. Teachers have to see many parents so it is important to stay focused on the child and their learning, not the quality of canteen food (feel free to discuss elsewhere!) Patrick Horne, Principal, BISAD, Abu Dhabi.
Perhaps most importantly, use the occasion to develop the partnership between home and school and establish the best way for you to ensure that close communication. When the communication is really close, regardless of how it is mediated, face to face, through drop-ins, by phone, by email or other electronic media, then there isn’t quite the same need for parents evenings. Matthew Farthing, Principal Nord Anglia International School, Dubai.
Be honest. Teachers will always seek to help students and remember this is a partnership. Be honest about your observations of your child this will help the teacher support better in school. Patrick Horne, Principal, BISAD, Abu Dhabi.
Remember the one thing you have in common – the well-being of your child. If you and your child are both happy say so – don’t invent an issue just so you’ve got something to say. If there is something that’s been bothering you or your child, make sure you discuss it. Colin Callaghan, CEO and Principal, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail, Dubai.
Talk with your child and ask her/him how they like school. What do they think they are good at? What could they do with more help with (if anything)? You should ask how your child is progressing as well as how your child is attaining. Typically, parents like to ask how their child compares with the others in the class; it is completely understandable that parents would want to ask such a question, but, perhaps, a fairer question from the child’s point of view would be: ‘Is she/he doing her/his best?’ Chris McDermott, Principal, Oaktree Primary, Dubai.
Remember, the meeting time is short. Stick to discussing your child’s learning. Remember the questions you prepared earlier. Other matters, such as behavior, can be discussed at a separate meeting if you wish to have one. Remember, there is a queue of parents outside that door, all waiting to see the teacher too. John Hughes, Vice Principal, GEMS Metropole School, Dubai.
The meeting should always be a two-way process. Ask the teacher specific questions, let them provide you with some context, and then provide them with further context on how they cope with homework, what they say about friendship groups, subjects that they like/dislike, etc… Brendon Fulton, Principal, DBS, Dubai.
And don’t forget…
Turn your mobile off (or mute it)! Your child isn’t allowed to have their phone on in lessons. The same goes for parents’ evenings. Patrick Lee-Browne, Principal, Kent College Dubai.
Please remember the class teacher is committed to your child’s success too. What they tell you is what they feel is in your child’s best interests and is told to you in a spirit of cooperation and teamwork. Thanks for being part of your child’s team. John Hughes, Vice Principal, GEMS Metropole School, Dubai.
Present yourself well in that you are polite and rational, whatever the issue is and however displeased you might feel about what has, or has not, taken place, in your opinion. A Golden Rule is not to simply accept your child’s version of events as the absolute truth, as a matter of course, however upset or emotional your child might have appeared. Is your child’s perspective the perspective of the teacher? Is your child’s perspective that of the other children? Chris McDermott, Principal, Oaktree Primary, Dubai.
Some of the very best parents evenings unfold when students taking the lead to introduce their teachers and showing off some of their best work then sharing some of the difficulties they think they face. Matthew Farthing, Principal, Nord Anglia International School, Dubai.
If there is a serious issue make another appointment to come back later in the week so you can devote more time to the discussion. Don’t send your nanny or your driver – it really doesn’t create the best impression. Don’t go on for ages – other parents are waiting. Colin Callaghan, CEO and Principal, GEMS Wellington Academy Al Khail, Dubai.
Parents’ evenings are often fairly public events where discussions may be overheard. If you need to raise personal issues – for example bullying, or problems with home life – this is probably not the time to do it. Patrick Lee-Browne, Principal Kent College Dubai.