Wednesday, September 6, 2017

"Back to School Night" Success for the K-12 Teacher

Calling all Teachers!  As the 2017-2018 school year gets under way, remember to set aside some time to prepare for your Back to School Night/Parent Open House—the success of the evening depends on what you put into it!  This night is designed for parents and teachers to connect and work together for the success of their students.  Many teachers don’t spend enough time thinking about how to use this night to their advantage.  Below are some suggestions to get the most out of your evening!
  • Promote the evening as much as you can.  This is your one chance to get all your parents together in one spot to educate them about your class.  Send notes home in folders, use email and texting options, make sure it’s on your school marquis and if you have the time, call parents to invite them or use robo-calling web resources if your district/school allows it.
  • Make your classroom inviting with student work samples, vocabulary word walls and posters that reinforce your classroom curriculum.  Take the time to straighten and wipe down your desks, empty your trashcan and make your own desk look presentable.  It is always a nice touch to have the students create something for the parents upon their arrival.  A note or drawing from the child to the parents is always a hit.  The reverse also works well---give each parent a post- it-note for them to write their child a note and leave on their desk for the next day.
  • Prepare your attire.  Look like the professional you are.
  • Arrive early so you are not rushed and have time to prepare your materials.  
  • Check your technology if you plan on using it for your presentation. 
  • Prepare your textbooks and classroom resources to show parents how to help their child.
  • Create a parent sign in station to obtain current, accurate parental contact information.  Ask for their email, phone, work phone and inquire about their preferred method of contact.  Consider having a few extras at your sign in station:  Some hand sanitizer, mints or small chocolates, flowers, pen, paper and business cards to make everyone feel welcome.  Likewise, create a “kid station” with some crayons, paper and books for parents who bring their child to your session. This keeps them occupied without disturbing your session.
  • Have your business cards with your contact information available.  If you don’t have business cards, put your information on the board and encourage parents to snap a picture of it with their cell phone for future reference.
  • Have an agenda for yourself of exactly what you want to cover during your session and stick to it. Ask parents to hold their questions until the end so you can cover what you need to.  Be sure to include a little information about yourself and not just your classroom.  
  • Spend some time talking about your grading policy.  Parents want to know how you will assess their child so they can assist at home.  Be sure to include any extra help/tutoring sessions available to them.  If you have an on-line grade book, provide them information on how to set up an account and any tutorials so they can use this resource successfully.
  • Prepare a handout to distribute to parents at the end of your session.  It should contain everything they need to know about your class:  how to contact you, classroom resources, on-line resources, your discipline procedures, your homework policy and anything else unique to your particular classroom.  You could also include important, upcoming dates (testing, field trips, etc.) so parents can block off their own calendars, accordingly.
  • Keep your gradebook/computer closed.  Encourage parents who want to have more in-depth conversations with you to set up a parent-teacher conference at a later date.
  • Compose a thank you email the next day to all parents who attended your session.  Send a different email to all parents who didn’t attend letting them know what you covered and providing them the same information.  Put the handout you created in student folders and include it as an attachment to both emails.  
  • If you are unable to attend Back to School Night, let your parents know through as many communication channels, as possible.  Consider taping an envelope to your door which contains a handout for parents to take in your absence.  If you are able, you could offer to host your own Back to School Night session at a later time at your school or via a web based meeting space.
For other great professional development tips, visit the WGU Career & Professional Development Center and check out Hey Teach!, a digital publication for educators that offers printable materials, advice from veteran teachers, infographics, cartoons, and other cool content and resources.

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