Back-to-School Night Basics

Here's what you need to know about back-to-school night — and how to make the most of it.



Back-to-School Night Basics

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then visiting in person must equal about a million. That's why most schools host back-to-school nights shortly after the beginning of the year. Take advantage of this opportunity to see the world your child inhabits every day and meet the people in charge. It's one of the best ways to begin to build that all-important home-school connection.

What to Expect

  • When: Schools usually schedule the event for a weekday evening within a month of the first day of school.
  • Who: You'll be able to meet your child's teachers and aides, the principal, nurse, and other staff members, and of course your fellow parents. Unless otherwise specified, this is an adults-only night, so book a sitter.
  • Where: The evening typically begins with an introduction in the auditorium or gymnasium. Then you'll separate into groups and spend the evening with your child's teacher(s).
  • What: The event gives you a glimpse of your child's daily life at school and an opportunity to learn about the curriculum. You can also sign up to join the PTA or other parent group.
  • Why: Research shows that parent involvement in schools helps students achieve more and schools thrive. And joining the PTA is a great way to have a voice in school issues and decisions.

Visiting the Classroom
Many teachers will have you sit in your child's seat. It makes it easier for them to keep track of which child goes with which parent — especially since a parent may not share the same last name as her child. Plus, you get the opportunity to see the world of the classroom as your child does every day.

Once you've gathered, your child's teacher will introduce herself and give an overview of students' daily routines, schedules, goals, and activities — some of this may already be written on the board when you get there so the teacher can dive right into the meat of things. She will also discuss her homework policy, discipline plan, and any other important information such as if she maintains a classroom home page and how to contact her.

The lengthiest part of the evening will be spent going over the curriculum and the methods the teacher will use to reach the year's goals. If your child has several teachers for different subjects, you may go from classroom to classroom doing this, usually in the same order your child would, so you experience a mini-day of school.

MORE: Make the Most of Your Parent-Teacher Conference

At each point, your child's teacher will likely stop and take any questions you have about the world of the classroom. Now's your chance to ask general questions and to clarify anything you find confusing. However, this is not a time to discuss your child's individual needs or progress — save that for parent/teacher conferences when the teacher knows your child better and can talk with you one-on-one.

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