How to Ace Back-to-School Night
Back-to-school night is an important event kicking off a new school year. It’s a night to meet the parents of your students and explain your goals for the year and state your commitment to having every one of your students succeed in every way. You can share information on your teaching style and methodologies, as well as some of the expectations you have of your students and your hope that every parent will find ways to support their child’s growth in many areas at school during the coming year. It is a good time to remind parents that their child’s success is a team effort—within the school, and most especially with the teacher or teachers who work with them daily, and as a team effort with parents who support the work that is done in school and ensure their child attends and is prepared for the hard work that is school.
It is to be expected that you may be a little nervous about meeting the parents—first impressions can be lasting, so it is important to get off on the right foot and set the tone you intend. Here are a few ways to ace back-to-school night.
Before Back-to-School Night
Make sure the parents have been reminded that this event is taking place—where, time and perhaps any additional information you deem helpful, i.e. if parking is an issue or finding the room or building is an issue. If you are able, you might try sending out an email or putting an invitation up on your school’s website.
If you are able to send out an email, you might include your rules and procedures. This will reduce the time you will have to spend during the event itself on your rules and procedures. (See the CE Credits Online course “Conducting the Parent Conference” or “Engaging Parents to Increase Student Achievement”)
CE Credits Online teaches using the Safety, Order and Rights value as a great way to formulate and discuss the underlying foundation of all your rules and procedures. You are committed to the Safety, both physical and emotional of all your students; the understanding that Order is necessary for safety and learning; and Rights—the right of every student to be safe and receive the best education possible in the best environment and that everyone’s rights, including staff, are important and will be preserved.
Prepare! Don’t try to wing it. Create any presentations, print out documents, prepare your classroom, and make notes if needed. This includes thinking of any personal anecdotes or pieces of personal or professional information about yourself that you intend to share. The smoother and relaxed your interactions and presentations are, the more confident your new parents will be that their child is in good hands. Being well prepared will give you confidence and allow your personality to shine through. Creating authentic and trusting relationships with parents is key to future interactions and keeping them involved.
The Actual Event—Back-to-School Night
After most people arrive, you will give a short presentation about your class. However, because of the trickle-in effect, you will need productive activities for your families to do while they wait for you to begin. Talking with you will not be an option as you attend to a million other things that seem to pop up. Open House is not always the best time to have parents fill out forms because they are often rushed and distracted. You can, however, have volunteer sign-up sheets for them and handouts to peruse.
Have a self-running sign-in system that you don’t have to operate yourself. For example, right inside the classroom, have a desk with nametags, a sign-in sheet, and a packet of materials. Some teachers like to offer a small bowl of candy or treats, as well. Sign-in sheets can ask for the parent’s name and the child’s name, as well as a daytime phone number, so that when conferences come, you don’t have to rack your brain wondering, “Did I meet her before? Didn’t she come to Back-to-School night, or was it dad that came?” There will be dozens of people in and out of your room and family situations can be complicated, so it’s very hard to keep track of everyone. Make notes to yourself in the margin afterwards (woman with blue hair, had infant with her, grandma came along, didn’t speak much English, etc.) to help you place the name with the face later on.
There are many ways you can get started and proceed. We are providing links for many great ideas, but, remember, it is best to select the ideas that most reflect you and are in your comfort zone.
Show them you are prepared. Print out example rubrics, simplified lesson plans, and creative project ideas. Advocate for what you do. Provide parents with documents that they can take home that prove you know how to successfully educate their children. 10 Lessons the Arts Teach and 10 Questions to Ask Your Children about their Art are great websites to share with them and shows you encourage creative thinking in your classroom. Top 10 Math Websites and Math Education for your Child can help parents help their child with math. Make sure that parents know about any social media sites you have related to your classroom and invite them to follow you. Talk about social media, and about how you are committed to ensuring students aren’t using social media to bully and how important it is for parents to help in this area.
Most of all, remember your goal is to provide specific information, let your parents know you are accessible, care about their child and are a highly competent teacher who looks forward to another great year working with their child and them.
Using these tips, Back-to School night will be a great success!
CE Credits Online has been providing online professional development courses to teachers in NYC, LAUSD, and across the country for almost 20 years.