Keys to a Stress-Free Back-to-School Night
Even though you stand up in front of students every day, back-to-school night might make you anxious.
In many schools, back-to-school night begins with a meeting in the auditorium in which parents are welcomed by the principal who then introduces the teachers. Teachers are excused to return to their classrooms while parents stay to hear a speech from the principal. After ten or fifteen minutes, parents are sent to their child’s classroom to meet the teacher.
Back-to-school night is intended to be an informal gathering for parents to see their child’s classroom and teacher. It is not meant to be a high stress, one-on-one discussion between you and each parent about their child. However, it is normal to feel uncomfortable and nervous about your first interaction with parents.
With a little planning, back-to-school night can be a great experience for you and your students’ parents. Here are some tips to make this an event that you’ll even look forward to!
- Dress “Right”
This is one night when professional dress is really important. The clothes you wear will make a lasting first impression, so dress appropriately.
- Greet Parents at the Classroom Door
Just as you may be nervous, your students’ parents are also probably nervous about meeting you. Look at this as a chance to make a positive connection. Try to put them at ease! Welcome each parent at your classroom door with a smile and a kind word and you’ll be off to the right start.
As you greet parents at the door, you can also introduce an activity you may have planned, which brings us to our next tip!
- Plan Something Fun
Introducing your classroom to parents with an activity will create enthusiasm and make for a fun evening! It will also shorten the amount of time that you have to stand at the front of the room talking. Some of the most successful ideas include:
- Favorite Things List : Students prepare a list of their five favorite things. Lists are put on the students’ desks and parents are asked to identify their child’s list. Names are on the back of the papers so parents can check if they are correct. Ask parents to sit in their child’s seat when they have found their child’s list.
- Paper Bag Pictures : Using large paper bags, have students draw pictures of themselves. Then, ask parents to identify their child’s picture. The paper bags can slip over the backs of chairs, so when parents find the correct picture, they can remove the bag and take a seat.
- Family Pictures : Ask students to draw a picture of their family with the names written on the back. Pin the pictures to the bulletin board and ask parents look for their child’s picture. When they find it, they can remove the picture and sit at their child’s seat.
- Plan Your Presentation
Once everyone is seated, introduce yourself by telling parents something unique about you. For example, if you are an amusement park fan, show them a picture of you on your favorite rollercoaster. If you love sports or travel, share your favorite team or place to visit. You may also choose to share your professional credentials (e.g., how long you have been teaching or what grades you have taught).
It is often easier to talk when you have a visual for the audience to focus on. Consider preparing a PowerPoint or Prezi to accompany your introduction. You can keep your presentation to use again for years to follow. During this presentation, give parents a heads up about what will be happening throughout the school year (e.g., big tests or projects to prepare for, field trips, recitals, etc.) as well as your big academic goals for your students.
- Time for Questions
Be sure to allow time for parents to ask questions, but remind them that back-to-school night is to discuss classroom generalities and not specifics about their child. Remind parents that parent-teacher conferences will be scheduled later in the year, but in the meantime, offer them contact information if they wish to speak with you privately.
Now that you know how to master back-to-school night, our next blog will offer tips for navigating your parent-teacher conferences. For more information about establishing partnerships with your students’ families, please visit our course Building Meaningful Partnerships: Connecting Schools, Families, and Communities.