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Booking Parent-Teacher night with


We are running our parent-teacher interview appoints through an online service for the first time. Last year we used a Google spreadsheet for our bookings, but we had problems because of parents over-writing each other’s entries. The parents just found the process a bit difficult. This year we are using to set up our appointments and I just thought I would post a summary of that process here to help myself out next year.

School Bookings is a 3rd party service which looks like it originated out of New Zealand. The service costs money, between $150 and $800 depending on the size of your school. Of course the larger your school, the more complicated setting up parent-teacher interviews will be, and hence more time-consuming for everyone involved. Customer service for this service is terrific. Every time I emailed with a question, I got a response back almost immediately with a solution to whatever issue I was having. Note: I’m not an employee of, I just loved their system.


How it works

Here’s what the process looks like. You sign up with School Bookings and pay your fee. You can trial period their program a bit first if you want, but at some point you have to pay them, and I recommend doing this before you actually use it for an event. You have about a week to play with their system and test it out.

Once you’ve signed up for the service, you need to edit your event settings. If you need multiple events for some reason within a short amount of time, I emailed their customer support and they gave me multiple account codes, all tied to the same school. The events settings page looks like this:

Notice that you can break your event up into multiple time-slots and dates, which is useful if you have a conference lasting over a period of a few days.  There are also some advanced settings which you can use if you want to use this type of booking system for a completely different purpose than parent-teacher interviews (for example: student-led conference, athletics bookings, whatever-you-name-it).

Now that you’ve set up your event, you need to add teachers. Note that from above you can see that you could use this system to book any resource, including rooms, mobile labs, whatever.

The "Add a New Teacher" form is fairly straight forward. You can either add multiple subjects per teacher, or you can as I’ve done below which is to indicate all of the subjects an individual teaches in one line. A very handy feature of this form is the ability to add a location which will eventually show up in the confirmation email the parents receive.

One problem you may encounter is that not every teacher has exactly the same schedule. Someone may be ill, or may have to leave early because of a course they are taking, etc… Happily the School Bookings team has thought of this and allows you to schedule "breaks" for teachers.

Now that you have set up the event, the next thing you have to do is share it with the parents. The parents will need an event code to be able to sign up for events through their website which looks like a combination of 5 letters and numbers. The solution we came up with was to embed the form for parent’s to fill in into a Google Site and then we were able to provide the sign information on the same page as the embedded form. On the left we provided a help video for signing up and a list of courses with the appropriate teacher.

Here’s the training video I created for our parents. You can see from this video that most of the time the process is pretty painless and easy for the parents.


Potential Problems

There were a couple of problems with the way we did this. We embedded the sign-in page into another website which turned out to have problems in Internet Explorer when the parents had their security settings set very high. In this case we had a back-up plan. Any parents which found the form difficult were welcome to call into the school where our school receptionists had been trained to fill in the information into the bookings system for them. I think this handled most problems. Note that this particular problem is because of the way we set up the form, rather than the way the website works. We just thought it would be easier for the parents if the bookings form & the code to enter into the bookings form were on the same page. Maybe a future feature request would be bookings forms that changed depending on the URL entered (so that parents could skip the step of entering the information into the little box if they were provided with a special URL).



The advantages of such a system are enormous. We successfully booked over 150 parents through this system without any help from our front office staff which saved them hours and hours of work. They are already very busy with other tasks so anything we can do to make their lives a bit easier is good for the school in the long run. Feedback from parents has been mostly positive. Our previous system was cumbersome and often meant parents didn’t end up with the exact times they wanted. Now if a parent doesn’t have their appointment of choice, they will know it’s because they didn’t book early enough.

I highly recommend this particular system mostly because of their customer service, the cost is very good for such a system, and it just worked.

Why you should give kids a second chance

Yesterday we had a community service day.  It worked wonderfully, and everyone who came participated really well.  The first thing that I noticed was how different the students looked when they were working in this different context.  The people who were normally stars of the classroom were not necessarily stars for the community service, and visa versa.  Some of the best and hardest workers were students who often do not work in the classroom well by themselves without lots of reinforcement.

The day was wonderfully productive and we accomplished a lot.  The volunteer organizer for the community garden begged us to come back because she said the amount of work we accomplished during the day was tremendous.  

This activity really built a lot of community spirit and brought us all closer together.  It was totally worth the effort we put into it as teachers organizing and showing leadership by modelling what types of behaviour we were expecting from the students.  In other words, all of the teachers involved worked hard too.

Community Service

Unfortunately some of our boys didn’t come for this day.  They apparently used Facebook and attempted to organize a mini-revolt and 7 of them did not attend the day at all.  They were noticeably missing, many of the students who attended the event complained about the fact that a group of the boys were missing.  Their decision not to come for the day certainly frustrated we teachers, and we decided that we had to come up with an appropriate way for the students to make restitution for what they had done.

Fortunately for us, all 7 of those students attended school the following day, hoping to participate in our afternoon party in the park.  First their homeroom teacher gave them a 20 minute lecture on how their lack of participation in the previous day’s event affected the entire school and then we put them straight to work, as the morning we had planned some school-wide service, working on our own community garden project.  

They got the least fun duty, which was shoveling the piles of manure.  They started working on it pretty diligently right away, and it was obvious that the speech from the homeroom teacher was pretty effective.  The rest of the students involved in the community garden were carting away the wheel-barrows full of manure, and these 7 boys worked tirelessly to fill the wheel-barrows.

We paused for a big spirit building activity, then everyone else in the school left for the community picnic at the park, and these 7 boys stayed back with me to continue the work from the morning.  First we had lunch, the same food planned for the picnic, then we started handing out flyers to the houses along the street.  It turned out that we had way more manure than we could actually use, so we offered some of it to residents of the houses on the nearby block.  One of the residents, was so impressed with the boys that she brought out a small treat for them.  The boys felt really uncomfortable accepting the gift, but it was clear from her insistence that they couldn’t say no.

Unexpected reward

After our brief stint handing out flyers, we got to work and moved several dozen wheel-barrows full of manure onto one of our small plots for our garden.  The work wasn’t glamorous but to their credit the boys worked really well.  About an hour and half into the work, they started recognizing that they were enjoying themselves, and I could tell that they were regretting their decision not to join in the work from the previous day, but for the right reasons.  They actually asked if they could continue the work we were doing tomorrow, as they wanted to finish the project.  They seemed to get it, that the work itself was enjoyable, especially in the company of their friends.  Really, everyone of these boys was a superstar that day and showed me just how hard they could work.  I was really impressed with their work ethic and diligence during the day and I let them know as much.  Tomorrow, when we finish our work, I plan on reflecting with them about the experience.  The objective of the reflection will be to find out if the really big lesson will be in fact learned: service in the context of a community is incredibly valuable.

The boys did a tremendous amount of work and taught me a lesson too.  Even a student who has made a big mistake can rectify it and should be given the opportunity to fix their mistake.  Every kid deserves a second chance, and these boys made the most of their second chance.  At the end of the day, we realized that they had move two thirds of the pile themselves, and they really looked like they felt good about themselves.