“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” - said no teacher ever. If you are anything like me, you cherish those summer months. You cringe at the thought of going back to school. You cry when you receive those late August welcome back e-mails. You are just not ready and it’s just not fair!
But let’s face it, it’s time to return to our beloved classrooms and soon enough, host yet another Back to School night, or Open House, to some schools. Some teachers love this night, some teachers dread it. I personally enjoy it. I like meeting my students’ parents/guardians/family members. I like getting a short glimpse into where my students come from.
What is the purpose of Back to School night? It is the time when you get to introduce yourself and your classroom to the families of your students. It’s not ALL about you, the teacher. It’s about you AND the classes you teach. A successful Back to School night showcases a combination of the two. The families are equally interested in both you AND what classes their children are taking this school year.
I know what you’re thinking, “How can I have a successful night?” or “What tips do you have for me for Back to School night?”
Top ten tips to have a great night:
- Be Positive: you want to be upbeat, always smiling and excited to be there. If you’re not, it’s obvious.
- Greet the families at your door: shake their hand at the door and welcome them to your classroom.
- Have a sign-in sheet: This is a perfect spot to get parental contact information such as their name, phone number and e-mail address.
Leave a sign in sheet out on a clip board with a pen attached. As families enter the room, encourage them to fill it in. Its an easy way to record who was there that night. Many times, administration requires this and will want a photocopy of it. Be prepared.
- Give out handouts: These include course proficiency list and class rules, among any other important handouts you want to give them.
I use this back to school night flip book. I add all of my pertinent information for the families to take home with them.
- Provide “exit tickets” or Post-Its for the families to leave any questions, comments or concerns they may have: They might not want to ask questions out loud or just want to speed the night up so this provides a quicker, more private way to get their questions to you. Assure them you will address each and every exit ticket or post-it you receive.
- Create a OneSheet: These are like a snapshot of YOU: a little about you, how to get in contact with you, your teaching schedule, email address, phone number, etc...
- Make teacher-business cards: Like a normal business card: name, phone number, email address. Very convenient for families to hold on to for when they need to get in touch with you!
- Display student work on the walls: The families, and administrators love to see student work displayed. It shows the educational fun that happens everyday in your classroom!Dedicate some time before open house to decorate your room appropriate for grade level and subject area. Word walls are great. Shown here is a "word wall tree." The leaves are the words that are a part of English Language Arts grades 9-12.
- Interact with the families: Ask them questions! Don’t just lecture! That’s when they start to tune you out and not pay attention. Kind of like our students, right?
- Shake their hands and thank them for visiting you as they leave your classroom: Be sure to shake their hand and thank them. It is the polite thing to do and it will leave them with a great impression of you!
At my school, we hold Back to School Night for two hours at the end of September. We have 8 periods in total. We start the night with meeting in our homeroom, and then proceed to each of the 8 classes. The families follow their children’s schedule, seeing which classes and teachers they choose. Each class meets for 7 minutes, and the families get a 5 minute window to find their next class. Seven minutes can either seem like an eternity if you’re not prepared, or it can go by in a flash if you are well prepared!
Lucky for you, I have created a time schedule that can be adjusted to your needs so you are well prepared down the very minute!
0:00-1:00: Meet and greet! Say good evening, welcome the families as they enter your classroom, have them sign-in with their name, phone number and e-mail address and instruct them to take your pre-made handouts before they pick a seat.
1:01-2:00: Introduce yourself! Who are you, where did you go to college, how long have you been teaching, what do you love about teaching? Short, sweet and to the point. That’s always best.
2:01-5:00: During this time, you will want to refer to the handouts you provided. These handouts should include a copy of course proficiencies and a copy of classroom rules. You will also want to discuss what types of activities your students will be doing, what types of technology your students will be working with, and anything else particular to your class.
5:01-6:00: Invite the families to do a gallery-walk around your classroom to view the displayed work of your students during the first month of school. They love seeing this stuff!
I love to bring attention to student's work by walking over to it, and asking something like, "Does anyone remember reading Shakespeare in high school?" Then, I point out some of the cool and interesting details included in the project.
6:01-7:00: Provide an “exit ticket” or Post-It for any questions, comments or concerns they make have. Upon exiting, provide them your personal business card and your OneSheet and thank them for coming tonight.
You can adapt this to fit your needs but this is a basic run-down of a successful Back to School Night. Being unprepared leads to awkward silences and weird stares that make everyone uncomfortable. It gives a terrible first impression and the whole point of the night is to give the best first impression you can.
Hopefully you’ll find this helpful as we move into the start of another exciting school year! Best of luck to all of you as you prepare for Back to School Night and the rest of the school year!