For teachers, Back-to-School Night can sometimes feel like a burden during the hectic first weeks of school when you’re still working to establish norms with a new class of students. As somebody who has chosen to spend their days with kids, talking to a room full of adults may feel like an intimidating task. However, approaching Back-to-School Night with purpose can provide a great opportunity to establish yourself as a kind and capable professional who parents will be happy to entrust their to children every day. Here are a few ideas to help ensure that your next Back-to-School Night goes smoothly:
Greet every parent individually - as family members enter the room, take the time to introduce yourself and and shake hands with each person. Establish the connection of who their child is. As simple as it sounds, a parent hearing the words “I’m so happy to meet you” can instantly create a welcoming environment. Provide clear directions about what you’d like them to do next - should they pick up handouts and find a chair? Do you have forms for them to complete or an activity for them to begin upon arrival? Plan to make the most of everybody’s time.
Provide an agenda - share with parents exactly what you’ll be covering during your presentation time. Be clear about when they’ll have an opportunity to ask questions, and feel free to gently remind them that this is not the time for individual concerns about their child. Be sure to include an overview of the daily schedule for students, an understanding of how and when you’ll be sending out communications, and your preferred method for discussing questions and concerns they may have about their child throughout the school year.
Prepare an activity - in many cases, parents will slowly trickle into the classroom, leaving some potential downtime for the early arrivals. Rather than leaving them to sit in silence, give parents something to do. Perhaps when they arrive you hand them instructions for a classroom scavenger hunt, or give instructions for an ongoing icebreaker activity. Helping parents learn about one another can contribute to a feeling of community. They could also help you get to know their family better by completing a short paper or online survey that answers a few key questions about their child.
Keep the tone light - classrooms are more than just academic settings; most parents also want to know that their child’s classroom is a joyful and loving environment. Use this as an opportunity to tell parents about yourself, and to present your plans for the school year in an enthusiastic way. Parents should leave feeling excited about how much their children will learn this year and that you’ll be the person teaching them.
Be consistent - planning for back to school night should be a school-wide conversation, with teachers adopting similar norms for how they will facilitate the evening across subjects and grade levels. If the entire team follows a consistent set of expectations, parents will have equally positive experiences in all corners of the school, which sets the tone of your staff being a strong and cohesive team.