Parent Teacher Meetings and Google

[media url=”” width=”100%”] I never realised the amount of work that goes into organising Parent Teacher Meetings until I became a principal. I thought it was a ten minute job where one sent out a time to each family and that was it. However, there are lots of variables that have to be taken into account. For example, if a family contains two or more children, it is good practice to ensure that meeting times are beside each other so a parent doesn’t have to make several trips to the school to talk about his/her children. Another consideration is that some children now have more than one teacher. If a child gets extra support in school, often schools offer the possibility to meet the support teacher. Even with just these two variables, it can be a nightmare to organise convenient times. Most schools send a long list of names around to each teacher to fill in so siblings can be accommodated and letters are sent out. Naturally, there’s times and dates that just don’t suit parents and all sorts of swapping around ensues. So after all that, how could Google help?
Wouldn’t it be great if parents could simply book an appointment to see a teacher? That way you take out all the variables. Teachers can say the times that they are available and parents simply choose times that suit them. Google Calendar allows you to do this easily. Before I show you how, it must be noted that anyone wishing to book an appointment must sign up to Google and some people may not wish to do so. It’s also important to note that not every parent will have access to the Internet or may not have the ability to use the service so alternative means must be found. My suggestion is that parents can also telephone the school to book their appointments. Of course, there will be parents who may not book an appointment at all so two things can happen. The first option is they don’t get a parent-teacher meeting. Another option is that a meeting is organised for them at an available slot. Let’s look and see how it’s done.
Let’s imagine my school is hosting Parent Teacher Meetings in February 2013. The week of the meetings is the 11th and I have 1st class. Now, I am available on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday as I have a course on Thursday. I am available from 2:30pm to 5pm on each day except Friday where I need to get home at 4pm.
The first step for me is to go to the 12th February in my calendar and select the times 2:30pm to 5pm. The usual window will pop up where I have the option to type in what’s happening that day. However, if you look, you’ll notice a link saying Appointment Slots (see right). When you click on this link, it offers the following options:

  • What: What is the meeting called – I assume the best bet is Parent-Teacher Meeting!
  • Calendar: Choose your calendar (this tutorial assumes teachers have a Google calendar)
  • Type: Here, I would choose Offer as slots of X minutes, where X is the number of minutes you have available for each meeting. In Ireland, meetings are generally around 10 minutes each.

Once you’re happy with these, click on Edit Details so you can access the link to your appointments’ slot. This link takes you to the appointment page, similar to the screenshot below (click for full size).

However, the link is very long so you’ll need to shorten it. There are a couple of ways to do this. If you have a class blog or a school blog, it’s easy to do this. Simply create a post and write some sort of description of the appointment slot and hyperlink it to the appointment page. Another option is to use an URL shortener like Google’s URL shortener ( Not only does this shorten the very long web address, it also automatically creates a QR Code, which might be handy for outside your classroom door.
As an added tip to save you the hassle of making several appointment slots, the repeat function on Google calendar allows lots of flexibility. This is how I organised mine. Because I have to end at 4pm on the Friday, I’m going to book these slots myself.

Now for the fun bit. I can now send out my URL to the parents in a letter and tell them to book themselves an appointment to see me. Here’s a link to a sample letter (docx) that I could send to parents. When a parent clicks on the link, once they are logged in, they will be taken to the calendar page where they can click on the appointment time that suits them.  All that’s left to do is wait until the closing date and then dole out the booking times for those who haven’t used the service. Each teacher can have their own appointments calendar so times can be booked more easily.

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