It’s around the time of the year when Parent Teacher Meetings take place in primary schools. I used to dread them despite the fact that I don’t actually meet any parents 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 increasingly becomes incredibly difficult once the variables of siblings, separated families and meetings with more than one teacher came along! For example, if a parent has 4 children in the school, it is only fair to give them time slots close to each other. When there are over 300 families in a school, this can be a nightmare.
A few years ago, I found a website 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 signup 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 website, 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.
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.
The above was very important so if you’re doing something like this, don’t forget a deadline!
In its first year, the take up was great. 64% of parents used the service. Three years on, over 90% of families use the service to sign up for their meetings. SignUpGenius allowed me to export the sign ups as an Excel file, which was very useful as it allowed me to use the Mail Merge function in Word, and everyone got a personalised letter. We’ve been tinkering away at improving how we use SignUpGenius and have decided to use their Premium features, which allow certain functions that make things a little easier for me. For example, I can set a scheduled time for the signups to go live and also to end. This means parents can get a heads up as to when to be ready to get their preferred time. It was amusing to see that within 30 seconds of going live this year several dozen families had signed up to the perceived “best” times.
Of all the ways I have used technology to make my job easier, SignUpGenius would rank very high on my list. I have also used it to look for volunteers in the school and on one occasion I used it to book in a meeting with me. Whenever you need to set something up that requires appointments, I think this is a really good tool. We’re even considering using it for selling tickets to our winter concert this year.