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The "sandwich" method for the first meeting of parents

Parents' meetings take many forms depending on the school, level and subjects. This is particularly true this year, when many will be done virtually, by phone, or two meters away. Here is a teacher's advice to make these meetings as effective and friendly as possible.

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Parents' meetings take many forms depending on the school, level and subjects. This is particularly true this year, when many will be done virtually, by phone, or two meters away.

Teachers in primary or special education usually have time to meet with all the parents. However, primary school specialists and secondary school teachers do not have this option due to the large number of students they teach. For them, whatever form the meeting takes, it is unlikely that they will be able to meet all the targeted parents.

Here are some tips to make these meetings as efficient and user-friendly as possible.

Preparation of the meeting

Here is a list of things to plan for these meetings, regardless of their format.

  • Having the students' photos in hand will allow you to quickly identify the student in question.
  • Also bring the notebook, to be able to give more precise information on the progress of the student, his particular difficulties, the tangent taken by the student until now.
  • The diary can also be useful for answering questions about missed assessments or upcoming work.
  • A sheet and a pencil can make a big difference! Some parents will ask you questions that you will not immediately have the answers to. In these cases, all you have to do is write down the question and the parent's email address and send them the answer later. The sheet will also allow special requests from parents to be taken down. For example, some will ask you to warn them at the slightest glitch or to follow up next month. Your notes will keep you in mind, and the parent will be reassured that you take their requests seriously.
  • A few copies of work in progress or to come can also be useful in meetings. If the students are in the middle of a project, it is useful to show the parents who will ask them what the students are currently working on. Upcoming assignments and projects can also be useful for parents who want to know how to proactively help their child. The same goes for the workbook, if you are using one. Demonstrating the explanatory pages at the end of the workbook is an easy way to equip parents to help their children.
  • Don't forget the bottle of water and the snack. These are intense evenings in discussion, it is better to have the energy and saliva you need to get to the end!
  • Finally, your best ally: your smile. You won't have two chances to make a first impression. As the meetings last an average of 10 minutes, the first impression is all the more important to facilitate the next step. 

The course

There are usually three types of parenting meetings.

  • The report type, where the parent inquires about his child's progress.
  • The specific question type, where the parent wants information on a particular event or job.
  • The convocation type, where it is the teacher who asks the parent to attend the meeting in order to address a particular element.

No matter the type of meeting, a few basic principles can help make it go smoothly. As these are short meetings, you have to stay focused on the essentials. It is better to target one item for improvement rather than making a list of everything that is not working. 

The "sandwich" method is a proven method that is worth using, either to start and end with positive elements (the breads of the sandwich) and to insert in the middle the problematic element and its possible solutions. 

  • Beginning by identifying a positive element about the student will make the parent more receptive. He will see that you not only pay attention to the negative, but that you also see the positive in the child. “Joachim always has a beautiful smile and he is always in a good mood. "
  • Follow up with the parent's question or the difficulty you want to address. “Joachim doesn't revise his exams. He hurries to finish so he can rest his head on his desk. Its errors are therefore due to a lack of revision. "
  • Once the problem has been exposed, it is time to identify the solutions put in place, and those to come: “I have already spoken to him about it and I invite you to do the same. I will try to give him clearer instructions by asking him to check his verbs. I will give you some news after the next exam, but I am confident it will work ”.
  • The last piece of the sandwich is another positive. “During the stage, we had a group discussion and Joachim stood out significantly by his participation and his listening! It was beautiful to see! "

If the child is present

The “sandwich” method should be recommended whether the student is present or absent. The presence of the student can however enrich the meeting by asking the questions directly. For example, when a parent asks "How are things going in class?" ", remember to return the question to the student. "Joachim, how are you doing in class?" " so that he himself speaks about the problematic situation. You will be able to discuss solutions and come to an agreement with the student in order to implement them. Then give a positive comment about the student to the parent. “You know, I'm confident it's going to work because Joachim is a young man who only has one word. When he says something, he does it, so it can only go well. "

Delicate situations

It is not advisable to discuss other students when meeting parents. Some parents may compare their child's results with those of another or want to discuss the behavior of other students in the classroom. You may respond that you are not able to discuss it with them in order to maintain confidentiality, just as you do not discuss their child with other parents.

This confidentiality does not mean that the problem will not be addressed. If it is an outcome question, we can base our explanation on the assessment criteria used rather than comparing students. A behavioral question can be addressed by offering a change of place or a different pairing as a team. A reference to TES may also be relevant (and written on the grade sheet).

Parents' evenings are often a great source of information for teachers as well, since they allow them to learn a little more about the family realities of young people. They are energy intensive, of course, but they have a positive influence on our classes, if only because the students know that the teacher and their parents are talking to each other. Good encounters!

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About the Author

Mrs Prof
Mrs Prof
She holds a bachelor's degree in education and is currently a candidate for a master's degree in education. She is involved with various organizations in order to equip teachers and improve the various facets of teaching and learning in Quebec.

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