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Parent Teacher Meetings 2.0

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For the last few years, I used to dread Parent Teacher Meetings. This might seem strange as I am an administrative principal. The reason I dreaded the meetings was having to organise the timetable for the days. What might seem like a simple enough job of simply slotting in children into regular segments of time over the few days became incredibly difficult once the variable of siblings came along! If a parent had 4 children in the school, it was only fair to give them time slots close to each other. When a school’s population is almost made up of 50%-75% of sets of siblings, it begins getting very difficult. Now, let’s add another variable: some children will have parents who would like to meet separately from each other due to separation or work commitments. Finally, sometimes a parent may wish to meet with a support teacher, which gets incredibly awkward! All in all, last year it took me several days and dozens of sheets of paper to get the timetable working.

This year I found a web site called SignUpGenius.com. The web site allows an organisation to set up a schedule of meetings and allow people to go to the schedule and book time slots. To do so, all one needs to do is set up an account and the web site has a template for Parent Teacher Meetings. Simply fill in the names of one’s teachers and times that they are available and you’re ready to go! It took about 30 minutes to set the whole thing up.

The next stage was to inform parents and guardians about the sign up page. I wrote a letter to parents and advised them of the web site to go to in order to sign up. I also made a QR code and put that on the top of the letter for parents who had smartphones. I added a link to the front of our school web site, our Facebook page and other social media profiles. I also gave parents the following important message. They had until the last day of the month to sign up.

[note color=”#f1e8c5″]Once the deadline had been reached, I would automatically add children’s names into available time slots with no guarantee that siblings would be in adjacent times.[/note]

The above was very important so if you’re doing something like this, don’t forget a deadline!

The take up was phenomenal. Overall 64% of parents used the service and up to 80% in certain year groups.SignUpGenius allowed me to export the sign ups as an Excel file, which was very useful. I was true to my word and filled the free time slots with the names of children that hadn’t anyone signed up. Once that was done, it was a matter of writing the appointment letters to the families. Using the Mail Merge function in Word, everyone got a personalised letter.

In total, organising the Parent Teacher Meetings took me 2 hours.

If I was to do it all again, I would probably ask parents to fill in their child’s name rather than their own name as I didn’t make this clear. This meant that most parents filled in their own names to the sign up but not all so I had to do some tinkering with the exported Excel sheet. However, aside from this small detail it worked flawlessly.

Although this worked really well, it’s probably going to be the first and last time I use the service. Our student management information system, Aladdin, have just announced that they are providing a Parent Teacher Meeting organiser so I’ll probably be using this when it’s ready. However, in the meantime, I would highly recommend using a service like SignUpGenius.

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