Curriculum night

Do you have a “curriculum evening”1 at the beginning of your school year?

Ours starts with a parent-teacher schmooze-fest, where
I embarrass myself by not remembering anyone’s name or who their sons2 are. Next is a short talk from our Dean of Studies, after which the parents visit their son’s classes for 10 minutes. This includes a slot with the Mentor Group, so it’s a comprehensive evening for the parents. While this makes for a long day, I enjoy the “grip and greet”. It’s good for the parents to put a face to a name, too.

Some of my colleagues trot out the curriculum, which is maybe what we are supposed to do. My approach is different; so I’ll make some (unsolicited) suggestions:

Number 1: If you have grey hair, milk it. I start by mentioning my 28 years at the school. I toss in a 31-year marriage and three grown children — all off the payroll, if you know what I mean. (I omit the major mistakes of my life/career, which makes for a much shorter session.) This reassures parents; they know the teacher has raised his own kids and has somehow overcome many difficulties that they are dealing with or will deal with.3 If you don’t have grey hair — or if you colour your hair — you can’t play this card. So I advise you to acknowledge the challenges of parenting and make your incipient experience simultaneously look competent and humble. Polished shoes and a tie4 don’t hurt, either.

Number 2: I tell the parents that I am in Human Resources Development. I’m looking at the long game of a young person’s development, not the short game called “marks”. Acknowledge that good marks are more important than ever — but they result from learning. Tell the parents that you are committed to teaching your students how to learn — as well as the kinetic molecular theory.

Number 3: If you have a class web page, put it on the screen during your talk. Interested parents can get curriculum answers there.5 But talk about expectations. Talk about excellence versus perfection. Perfection is unattainable, but personal excellence is a moving target.

This is what parents need — and want — to hear.

And it should just about get you through ten minutes.

  1. formerly referred to as “Meet the Creature” night
  2. we are an all-boys school
  3. I don’t mention that my spouse did all the heavy lifting
  4. or women’s equivalent
  5. curriculum-related questions are rare