Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
In the past, I have been fortunate to have the opportunity to support parent workshops in other schools. Last week it was time to do that in my own school. I have run quite a few parents events in my own school, but they have always been aimed at Year 10 or 11 and are part of a wider school function or have had a very direct emphasis on supporting students and parents with revision before examinations.
The idea for Year 7 was a little bit different. Attendance to subject parents’ evenings is not a forte of our school – less than 25% of Year 11 parents came in last month. As teachers we find that frequently parents have an unrealistic idea of what is possible within the constraints of a school, and what students are capable of achieving – at this point I am remembering a current Year 11 student.
Last year his Mum came into school carrying two very dusty volumes of a somewhat dated text. She was livid that the level of maths he was doing at school was so poor, and she demanded that we teach him certain pages of her text - to our horror - second-order differential equations. My right hand reached for the holster where I keep a loaded Cats predictor. It fired out a 4% chance of doing better than an F at GCSE. My relief was short-lived as I began to realise I was going to have to explain these predictions to a women who thought a lad who was challenged by Grade F work should be solving second-order differential equations. The chance of explaining a probability distribution based on a very sizable sample was not looking good.
Well, I wrote a brief letter and included the prediction sheet and sent it all off to the parent in mind and waited. We’ve not heard since, but neither has said parent attended another parents’ evening!
What I learned from that was that building informed relationships with parents is essential to improving the way students work in my school – hence the Year 7 parent workshop. The workshop happened, some funny incidents, and some awkward pauses to summarise perhaps some EBI’s and WWW’s
Even Better Ifs:
- I had been able to attract more parents - 16 out of 60 attended
- our reception and hall displayed some students’ work that would allow parents to be inspired and just be occupied whilst waiting to start. I’m sure there was an era when the dark wooden panelling was considered fashionable. I can’t place it though!
- the caretaker had the hall ready at the start time of 2pm rather than starting to set up at 2pm
- all parents were willing to try an activity – most did, but some point-blank refused to even give some logic problems a go.
What Went Well
- brilliant attitude of the Year 7 students
- the willingness and patience of 80% of the parents
- support and flexibility of my team of teachers
Would I do it again? I felt less satisfied with this event than many others. Three separate parents came to speak to me at the end, and they were so supportive and appreciative of the event, and of us making the effort to engage with them. So, if only for those two parents, yes I would do it again. Will I ever reach second-order-differential woman? Basing the probability distribution on this event as a baseline, not a chance!