Parents Evenings



My husband and I aren't talking – again.

But then wouldn't you be cross with your other half if he'd broken the cardinal rule and been ticked off at a parents' evening by your child's teacher for prying?

All I did was remind him – OK, slightly sarcastically, I'll admit – not to go thundering into parents' evening this year trying to see all the other pupils' marks. Yes, I know we all do it, but for goodness sake, a bit of subtly is called for here, not a buffoonish performance involving him leaning across the table blatantly trying to glimpse stuff he's absolutely not supposed to see.

Let me tell you now that I hate parents' evenings (now more commonly known as parent/teacher consultations...) with a vengeance

You're given a ridiculous 10 minutes to hear how your child is doing, and last year our school introduced a new system whereby we were 'invited' to knock on the door and let the teacher know when it was our allotted time - thereby hurrying along other parents who all too often over-run their slot. Well of course that was asking for trouble straightaway. Have you ever met a parent who (a) gets in on time to see the teacher (b) doesn't have 101 questions about their very own child protégé and (c) cares about the growing queue of other parents all waiting their turn outside ?

No, neither have I.

However what is good about this system is while you're waiting to go in (and in between jumping up and down and knocking on the classroom door every ten minutes) you get to see all your child's work, which is laid out in trays.

Of course, the temptation to look at someone else's child's work while your bottom is squashed into a chair designed for a five-year-old is huge – but a little more on that later.

So, by the time it was our turn to go in, things had disintegrated into an absolute farce and I found myself knocking on the door warning it was our turn to go in as the parents two slots ahead were only just arriving – it didn't go down well, I can tell you.

Anyway, we finally got in, all flustered because we knew we were now very late and all the time I was just waiting for the knock on the door trying to kick us out. My daughter's teacher (who looks not much more than seven herself – I must be getting old) launched into her spiel immediately. Almost at the same time I'm aware, as is the teacher, that my husband is simply not listening at all.

He is instead quite blatantly trying to read, upside down, the teacher's list of weekly spelling test results for the whole class. He doesn't realise how totally obvious he looks. At 6ft 3in he's hard to miss. I catch his neck craning across the table, his tongue ever so slightly sticking out of the corner of his mouth, the way a child does when struggling with a difficult piece of work. It's almost comical.

I have to say, Miss Kennedy's good, because straightaway she's clocked him. For a moment I suspect she thinks he might be trying to grab a desperate attempt at a sneaky look down her beautiful fulsome cleavage, but no, she knows exactly what his game is.

She looks him straight in the eye and tells him, without missing a breath: "We're here to talk about your daughter, not anyone else's".

Now if that was me I would go so red and I would be so embarrassed I think I'd have to move schools, but my husband just sits back, and, suitably chastised, smiles sheepishly. Well there's no point denying it, is there, he was caught red-handed?

On we go. After a minute (maybe it was a minute-and-a-half) Miss Kennedy produces a sheet of our daughter's work for us to look at, and blow me, in doing so, she uncovers another trophy list - the reading age levels for the entire class.

Mr Proud Parent's off again, he just can't resist, poor chap. Whilst appearing to be leaning forward to listen more intently, he is in fact desperately scanning the list – again, upside down, to see how our daughter measures up to her peers.

The formidable teacher doesn't miss a trick – she may be young, incredibly pretty, petite, trendy and blessed with a bust to die for – but she takes no prisoners. Smiling sweetly, she stops talking, and deliberately and studiously covers up the list, before carrying on.

What is it with us parents? We're never happy just to know how our own child is doing. We have a burning and often pointless desire to know where they stand in their own class league table – and all teachers know it. On the one hand I could kill my husband for being so obvious and completely inept, but on the other I'm thinking that if he could have done it subtly, well, I'd have quite liked to know what he saw myself.

Anyway, there's a knock on the door (the second during our session) telling us it's time to go. We stand, shake hands, and take our leave.

I probably have a face like thunder, so acute is my embarrassment, and no doubt my daughter's teacher can see it too, because she puts a reassuring hand on my arm, as if to say "don't be too hard on him, your husband, he's only human."

Still, it could have been worse. As we're leaving, I spot another teacher come across a parent who isn't reading her own daughter's work but is sneaking a look at another child's.

Now as my old teacher used to say, "It's not big, it's not clever, and it's not funny" – I'd better remind my husband to behave himself this year.

Making the most of parents' evening

1. Don't expect to be in for any surprises, good or otherwise – if your child is gifted beyond belief or unable to write their name in year six, you'll already know.

2. Do not arrive with your own list of things you think the teacher could do better at – don't believe everything your child tells you about their day at school.

3. Whilst looking at your child's work before seeing the teacher, don't start smiling fondly and reading out excerpts of their work to other parents – no-one's interested.

4. If the teacher tells you your child is "high spirited", "inquisitive", "always asking interesting questions" or that with your child "there's never a dull moment in class" don't think this is necessarily praise.

5. Let the teacher tell you about your child's progress – rather than you reeling off how you think they're doing. The teacher actually does know.

Do you love or loathe parents' evenings?

Before You Go