Parents Night

Last Thursday was Parent Night. Also fondly known as The Longest Day You Experience In The Entire Year. Yes, indeed, on this day I woke up at 6:30am and taught until 3:10pm, followed by an hour of tutoring and a little bit of working, followed by running out to grab an early dinner in the ‘hood with some colleagues, followed by Parent Night! Which concluded, for me anyway, at 10pm-ish. Note that there is no time to lesson plan for the next day. Which is why I worked backwards and planned my classes so each would be having tests on Friday. Genius?


For those without Parent Night, it involves, in short, parents arriving at 6:30pm and attemping to follow their child’s school schedule — spending 10 minutes in each class (and 5 minutes getting lost between classes). I think it’s a very good thing we do. As one of my colleagues who retired a couple years ago said: “You know, it helps the parents know there isn’t a crazy person watching their kid for 50 minutes each day.”


My first year, I was told the two tricks for the night:

1.) Do not like parents corner you to talk about their individual child. If it does happen, either say “I’d love to talk but I don’t have my gradebook in front of me. Can we set up a time to talk by phone or in person later?” or “I generally don’t talk about individual students tonight, but I’d be more than happy to sit down and talk with you sometime soon.”

2.) When you’re “teaching” your class, talk for the entire 10 minutes. If you go under, and parents start asking questions, the night can turn very quickly if you have one upset parent.

My third trick to surviving the night without going crazy:

3.) Accept that parents are going to be on their PDAs while you’re talking. It’s annoying, but not worth getting riled up about.

Of course, although I tried my hardest, I got drawn into 4 conversations about individual students. You know how parents are, so sneaky. They lull you into a sense of calmness, and then THWACK: “Mr. Shah, we really liked your presentation. I really liked calculus when I took it in college. Stu is really excited about your class. How is Stu doing? THWACK!”

If you wonder what I spend the 10 minutes doing in each class, I give a SmartBoard presentation. Of course, my presentation is 15 minutes if I’m talking fast, so I basically edit to 10 minutes based on the cues my parents give me (if they’re stoic, I skip over the jokes; if they look interested in the structure and content of the class, I speak more in depth about that).

My calculus presentation is below.

Of course, this year, I came home sick. I barely made it through Friday. And I slept all of Saturday and Sunday. Yes, even though I know germs get you sick and not Parents Nights, I blame you, Parents Night, I blame you.



  1. You kind of covered the big items (Though we call it “back to school night”. In about 5 or six weeks, we have conference night, where the parents actually do come to talk about their kids).

    I use student led conferences, so rather than just shutting the parents down, I turn to the kid and ask them how they’re doing. If the kid prevaricates, I suggest that their parents ask them to get out their portfolio. At the same time, I let the parents know they’re free to schedule an appointment with me through the main office if they have any concerns with what they see.

    I don’t actually spend any time with them, I don’t answer any questions, and they still get some idea of what’s up, while the kids get a preview of what’s going to happen in 6 weeks.

    There are times, though, where I’m tempted to answer that their child is much better at following guidelines than her parents are…

  2. This was the first year I got several “How is Sally Doing?” parents. Thing is I had JUST GIVEN THEM a login and password for So I said as unsarcastically as possible, “See, you can login any time and see her up to date grades and quarter average.” (and I’d be happy to schedule a time to meet if you email me later, blah blah blah.)

  3. The thing is that though germs DO get you sick, it’s a medical fact that parent’s night diminishes the ability of your immune system making you more susceptible to being sick.

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