You’ve just got used to being a qualified teacher.
You’ve just got used to being called by your surname a thousand times a day.
You’ve just learned everyone’s name at school.
You’ve just about learned the children’s names and a bit about them.
If you are a teacher in their NQT year, there’s a good chance that most parents will come along to see you – to introduce themselves and to suss you out in equal measure.
So here are my top tips for making a good impression, showing you care and very importantly, how to keep to time.
- Have chairs outside and a copy of the appointment times on the door so that everyone is at ease when they come in.
- Greet everyone at the door making eye contact and smiling a lot. See people out, welcome them in and say hello to the people waiting.
- Think about how you want the room set up so that you feel confident and relaxed. Move furniture if you need to. If you are not used to talking to adults and are feeling a bit anxious, sit on a slighter higher chair and sit opposite them, like an interview. If you’re more relaxed around adults, sit next to them so that you can look at books together.
- Be prepared with a few notes on each child so that you are confident in talking about each one and the parent is reassured that you know their child. Use books to illustrate your point if this is helpful to you.
- Avoid making the common mistake of not asking them if there is anything that they need to tell you before you start. They may say no, but it helps get the ball rolling and means that you won’t get 9 ½ minutes into a 10 minute consultation before a parent gets a chance to tell you what they had prepared to say.
- Ways to keep to time include sitting opposite the clock or putting it on the table or even setting an alarm in between appointments. I know someone who used to use an egg timer! Have the appointment times in front of you and try very hard to stick to them.
- If at all possible, give yourself a break in the middle so that you can gather your thoughts or catch up if necessary. If you are in charge of the appointments, allow as many gaps in the evening as possible for the same reason BUT DON’T BE TEMPTED TO TREAT THEM AS DOUBLE APPOINTMENTS!
- Some people love to talk and to be fair, some people have a lot to share with you. If you are at the end of the allotted time though, and there is no way that you can end, suggest that they make a separate appointment with you to discuss the matter further on another day. If for whatever reason you need to be more forceful, politely, but firmly, insist that the appointment is finished, you have other people to see and stand up. Running over time REALLY annoys the other parents as well as your Head who is going to have to wait for you and probably the site manager who has to lock up. So be strict with yourself!
- In the unlikely event that a parent gets cross, STAY CALM and LISTEN. Let them talk and explain that you understand that the situation has upset them. Whatever happens, don’t get defensive… stay cool. You may have to ask them back another time because of time and this will inevitably result in a change of mood. If at any time you become uncomfortable, tell them that the meeting is over and insist that they continue the conversation with a senior member of staff.
- Find out in advance if there are parents who may need additional language support so that you can ask for a translator (or at least have an ipad with Google Translate handy!)
- Write things down. It reassures parents that you are listening and taking note of their concerns. Use these notes as a To Do list over the next weeks and keep it to refer to in subsequent meetings.
Above all, remember that you are a professional and you are in control.
Be confident, take a deep breath and smile.
You’ll be great!