By Teachers, For Teachers
Hosting back-to-school night (also known as open house) can be a stressful time for teachers, especially for the ones who don’t like speaking in front of adults. While it’s natural to be nervous, this is your moment to shine and make a great first impression on the families that you will be spending time with the entire school year. Try and be yourself and allow your personality to shine through; this will show parents that you genuinely care about their children and want them to succeed. Use the following tips to help you prepare for a successful back to school night where you can begin to make real connections with your students and parents.
Before an open house, you must plan ahead of time. Think about a creating and engaging way to get your parents to attend. While most school districts send out invitations, think about creating a more personalized one that will draw parents to want to come to the event. Next, consider how you will make the night welcoming. Will you put up decorations? Have a class scavenger hunt? Other things to consider are how you will address parents, give an overview of things to come, showcase students’ work, talk about your educational philosophy, and how you will keep the lines of communication open with parents.
The purpose of back-to-school night is to inform parents of what they can expect in your classroom. It is also a time to introduce yourself to the families and let them get to know you better. You can address parents in an informative manner while allowing them to get to know your personality by creating a presentation that is unique to you. For example, if you are exceptionally good at technology, then you can create a presentation using the smart board, PowerPoint, iMovie or any of digital tools that will captivate your audience and showcase your technological skills. If you are an artist, then you can create a presentation that showcases your artsy side, or if you are more musical, you can create a presentation that involves music. The key to finding a way to address parents that will not only inform them but also showcase your personality at the same time.
Once you have thought about how you will present information to the families, then you need to think about what you want to include in your presentation. Here are a few ideas.
Some teachers like to show family photos or talk about why they decided to become a teacher. When you do this, it shows parents you’re willing to share and reveal a more personal side, which is a great way to connect with others. It’s also a great time to share your educational philosophy with parents. You do not need to get into your entire teaching philosophy, but you can go over a few important highlights of what you think is essential in a classroom.
In addition to telling families a little bit about yourself, you can also provide an overview of what you have planned for the school year. Spend a few minutes talking about the topics you will cover, the projects students will partake in, and the field trips students will attend. If you are also giving out a handout, this is a great time to do so, so the parent can refer to it as you are speaking.
Traditionally, back-to-school night is a few weeks after school has begun, which means you will have gotten to know your students pretty well and can showcase some of their work. You can do this by displaying students’ work around the classroom and in the hallways, as well as providing parents with one or two pieces of their best assignments to take home. Many teachers encourage parents to keep these pieces and have their children compare them to their work at the end of the school year, which is a great teaching tool for students to see how far they’ve grown throughout the year.
Lastly, provide parents with a variety of different ways that they can stay informed. Apps like Remind, Class Dojo, GroupMe, and Parent Square are all useful tech tools to keep the lines of communication open with parents. Providing a weekly newsletter, having a classroom website, and a nightly student take-home folder are also all great ways to keep parents informed. In addition to these options, provide parents with set times of the day and week where they can connect with you via text, email, or over the phone if they have any questions or concerns.
Back-to-school night should be a night to remember. While it’s unnecessary to go over the top, it is necessary to make it unique. Think of a fun, high-interest activity for families to do together, such as a classroom scavenger hunt, a getting-to-know-you survey, or having each attendee in the family write something special about the student who is going to be in the classroom. Make it unique so families will be excited for the year to come.
To successfully get through back-to-school night, all you have to do is show up, be yourself, and provide families with a welcoming, easy-to-understand, informative presentation. While you can’t fit everything into one performance, you can start the school year off with a general overview that gives families enough information to know their child will have a great upcoming school year.
What is your favorite tip for making back to school night a success?
Janelle Cox is an education writer who uses her experience and knowledge to provide creative and original writing in the field of education. Janelle holds a master’s of science in education from the State University of New York College at Buffalo. She is a contributing writer to TeachHUB.com, Graduateprogram.org, and Hey Teach. She was also the elementary education expert for About.com for five years. You can follow her on Twitter @empoweringed, on Facebook at Empowering K12 Educators, or contact her at Janellecox78@yahoo.com.