Traumatic. Horrifying. Invasive.
If those three words didn’t come to mind when you first saw the words ‘parent’s evening’ and ‘from home’ in the same sentence, I would be shocked. Turning on your webcam, staring at your screen and inviting parents into your home can be daunting, even if it is done remotely.
But, you know what? None of that is true. Here’s how I delivered not one, but TWO parent’s evenings from the comfort of home – and why it went way smoother than I ever expected.
At the time of my first virtual parent’s evening, I was still streaming with my laptop, which really was on its way out, before building a new computer (more on that one – and why it could change your life – later). It could barely handle hosting live lessons, let alone interacting with parents, so I was a little apprehensive about connecting with tens of routers in one evening.
Thankfully, my laptop proved faithful. I must have had – at a push – one whole technical problem the whole evening, and that was an issue with sound on their end, anyway.
During my remote lessons, I am slightly less well-dressed than when at school. While the hoodies and joggers stay away in the wardrobe until the weekend, I don’t come onto camera in a shirt and tie like I would during a normal term of teaching. Instead, I opt for jumpers: the ‘I’m a college professor in an American sitcom’ kinda look.
It was essential that I reversed this change when parent’s evening came around. The shirt and tie came back out. Though the suits and boots were nowhere to be seen, the professional look had nearly been turned up to the max. Paired with a plain background – the white walls of my bedroom – and I was ready to talk progress.
When we were connected, I had my Teacher Planner and iPad, strewn with brief notes and data about their children, in front of me (crucially: hidden off-camera for GDPR compliance), which was a huge relief.
Though we are, as teachers, expected to know our students inside-out, it never hurts to have all of your thoughts collected into one or two spaces. I found this really useful for getting into lots of detail during my second parent’s evening, held for Year 11 students, because it focused my thoughts. We were only given five minutes per appointment, so teachers were forced to be succinct and to-the-point.
Overall, what do I think about hosting parent’s evening from home? Well, on the one hand, those five minute slots meant that there was no risk of working until 9pm at night. I was also already home, so wasn’t concerned about a late, tired drive. My food, as well, was already made and ready-to-eat after a quick blast in the microwave, so I wasn’t ravenously hungry while waiting for food to cook.
On the other hand, there were some parents that I really could have done with more time with. Five minutes was enough for most meetings, but there were some where I would have appreciated being able to extend our meeting, though I know this isn’t really feasible. Plus, I can always phone home at a later date to keep up those connections and conversations.
But then on the OTHER other hand, when I was on placement with the University of Birmingham last year, it was nice being able to actually meet the parents of the kids I’d been teaching in person.
It’s hard to say which method I think schools should adopt in the future: parent’s evening in-person or online? There are positives and negatives to each method, but I suppose we should be grateful for the opportunity to actually speak with parents full stop right now, considering the circumstances. Perhaps we’ll opt for a blended approach to this in the future, as we have done so eagerly during the entirety of the pandemic, whenever kids have had to isolate.