After the flurry of first-week activity is behind you, it's time to start planning ahead for the next event — Back-to-School Night. Most school districts schedule back-to-school nights or open house events within the first few weeks of school. For parents, it's a chance to visit the classroom, meet you, and find out more about the curriculum. For you, it's an opportunity to connect with parents, outline plans and policies, and demonstrate your enthusiasm about teaching. To take some of the planning pressure off your jam-packed schedule, here's a checklist that will help you put your best foot forward on Back-to-School Night.
The Week Before Back-to-School Night
- Send home Back-to-School Night announcements. You might even want to have students create personalized invitations for their families.
- Gather and display a variety of student work. Self-portraits, short biographical essays, acrostic name poems, book reports on summer reading, and other beginning-of-the-year projects are ideal choices. They personalize your classroom walls and show family members that your students have already accomplishment a lot in a short period of time.
- Prepare and practice your presentation. Typical Back-to-School Night presentations include:
- An introduction — offer your name, mention how happy you are to be teaching this particular group of children, and say thanks to parents who took time out to attend
- An icebreaker question, anecdote, quotation, or school-related cartoon
- A rundown of the topics you'll be discussing
- Quick reminder that Back-to-School Night is not the time for individual conferences, but that there are sign-up sheets available to schedule a conference
- Some background on yourself, your basic approach to teaching/learning, your expectations for students, how to contact you
- Overview of general curriculum, day-to-day routines, big projects, rules, and/or policies
- Discussion of how parents can help at home and/or at school as volunteers
- Mention of bulletin boards, student work on display
- Create and print/photocopy any handouts you'd like to distribute.
- Prepare any slides, transparencies, and technical materials you need to accompany your presentation.
- Talk to your mentor or another experienced colleague for insight on how Back-to-School Night runs at your school and if he or she has any advice regarding your presentation and preparations.
The Day Before Back-to-School Night
- Rehearse your presentation several more times.
- Make sure you have a professional and comfortable outfit to wear.
- Give yourself a pep talk — remind yourself that even though you are a new teacher, you are very qualified to teach and will do a great job.
- Tidy up your classroom. Make sure everything is clean, well-organized, and as attractive as possible.
- Get enough rest. It will be a long day tomorrow.
The Day of Back-to-School Night
- Dress professionally and comfortably.
- Project enthusiasm, optimism, and professionalism.
- Straighten out your classroom one more time.
- Double-check to be sure each of your students has work on display.
- Set out any student texts, classroom books, handouts, and materials you'd like parents to see.
- Place sign-up sheets for parent-volunteers and parent-teacher conferences in a designated area.
- Eat a nourishing meal or snack before the event to keep your energy level up.
During Back-to-School Night
- Smile and greet parents at the door.
- If students are welcome at Back-to-School Night, have them introduce their parents.
- Involve parents by having information sheets on hand for them to fill out. The info sheets could ask about children's strengths, learning interests, or hobbies or provide pen and notepaper for parents to comment on the work they saw on display.
- Stay on schedule. Begin your formal presentation no later than five minutes after the scheduled time. Many parents may have evening jobs, other classrooms to visit, or young children to get right back home to.
- It's okay to give parents a glimpse of who you are outside the classroom with a modest display of photos, travel mementos, or other education-related collectibles. Just be sure that whatever personal items you display reflects a positive image that's in synch with being seen as a talented and capable professional.
After Back-to-School Night
- Send thank-you notes to everyone who attended.
- Touch base with parents who could not come by sending home information packets, along with a short note that says you're looking forward to meeting them in the near future and provides contact information and best times to reach you.