Each year, shortly after school begins, we invite parents to our annual Curriculum Night so we can inform them about what their students will be learning in the upcoming year. For years, I spent the days leading up to Curriculum Night gluing a beautiful poem onto folders for the parents that I filled with information about our class procedures, schedules, and curriculum. I included informative handouts with ideas for helping with math and reading at home. After Curriculum Night was over, however, it turns out I still spent time answering questions about class procedures, schedules, and curriculum while providing ideas on how to help with math and reading at home. It was as if those time-consuming folders never existed after they left my room! It took a while, but I finally realized that I was wasting time on something that was more important to me than to my parents.
The cold, hard truth is that most parents come to Curriculum Night for one reason — to see if they like the teacher and the classroom where their child will spend the next 180 days. I realized that I can save a great deal of time by providing my parents with the information they really want, and letting them know how to access all the information they need for the year while sparing the sacrificial trees. This week I'll share my tips for sending your parents home happy, informed, and empty-handed!
Instead of using a folder as the means of sharing information, I speak directly to the parents about what they can expect in the upcoming year. To help me do this, I prepare a PowerPoint to share with the parents. It’s informative, but more importantly, it keeps me on track and focused on the information I want to share.
The first weeks of school are always hectic, so to make my life easier, I (shhhh!) reuse the same PowerPoint year after year, updating it as needed with any information that has changed from the previous school year. Following Curriculum Night, I upload the PowerPoint to my class website. Parents who weren’t able to attend, can view it there. You could also email it home or print a copy for those parents who do not have Internet access.
To see an example of the PowerPoint I used two years ago, along with even more tips, visit my post "Tips for a Stress Free Curriculum Night." Feel free to take my PowerPoint (below) and edit it to make it your own!
Let your parents know who you are as a teacher and a person. I share where I went to school, how long I’ve been teaching, and the grades I’ve taught. I also include the "extras" that I do at school and home, as well as a little about my family, so they understand I do have a life outside of school.
What are your core beliefs as a teacher? I tell my parents I truly believe all children are gifted. The gifts may not be as obvious as the academic talents one normally looks for. Instead, their child may be gifted in being kind and empathetic, or in relating to others with their interpersonal skills, or perhaps they are a problem solver — and it’s my job to recognize each student’s gifts and help them use them to succeed. I also share my mission statement (below) for their children. Share your personal beliefs with your parents, and they will better understand your guiding principles as you teach their children.
What do you expect from the children in your class? When I come to this portion of my presentation I ask all the parents in my room to raise their hand as high as they can. They do and then I say, "Raise it higher." Every single hand goes up even higher. I explain to them that I had asked them to raise their hand as high as they could and yet, when prompted, they raised it even more. I tell them that's exactly what I do with their children — I take them as far as they think they can go, then I push them a little higher. I never need to go any further for my parents to understand what I expect of their children. The slide below is part of my PowerPoint presentation.
In many schools, the procedures can change from grade to grade and classroom to classroom. Parents want to know your homework policies, what to do in case of absences, acceptable snacks, how you celebrate birthdays, etc.
Share dates for field trips, standardized tests, music programs, or any other big events you may have at your grade level. Encourage parents to add them to their calendars now so they are not surprised later.
It’s important for parents to feel they are an essential partner in their child’s education and welcome in your classroom at any time. If a completely open door policy doesn’t work with your schedule, set up parameters for parent visits as necessary.
Curriculum Night is a great event to recruit parent volunteers to help with various tasks throughout the year. Don’t forget about your parents who work during the day — many would still love to help with things that can be done at home or after school hours, like binding books, cutting out, laminating, prepping for projects, etc. I use the handout below for parents to let me know if they would like to help out and when. Click on the image below to download and print my parent volunteer form.
On each desk, I put a small bag of candy with a welcoming header on it. On the back I put my phone number and email address. The parents get a treat and my information all in one! Click on the image below to print your own editable copies.
Note: I used the fonts Fontmoochers and My Own Topher for the text. They are free downloads from my favorite free font site, Kevin & Amanda. Also, their site offers a great step-by-step tutorial on how to download a font to your computer if you aren't sure how to do so.
If you have a class website, you have one of the best ways to give your parents a window into your classroom. Going paperless on Curriculum Night was easy for me because all I needed to do was show my parents where they could find the information they wanted on our class website. If you do not have a class website, you most likely have a school or district website you can direct your parents to for all the information they may want on curriculum and calendars. If you would like to create a very simple website like mine, check out my post, "Create an Impressive Class Website in Under an Hour."
I send home the form below to gather information I can put into an email distribution list. Using this information I send home weekly updates about what is going on in class as well as notices and links when I have updated our class website. Click on the image below to download your own editable, printable email request form.
If you have not tried Remind (formerly known as Remind 101) consider having your parents sign up for this service at your Curriculum Night. You can send short reminders as well as pictures to your parents to let them know what is happening in your room. All numbers are kept private and parents cannot respond to your texts. Learn more about Remind here.
Survey your parents to find out who does not have regular access to the Internet and make arrangements to get paper copies of your information to those parents. Many people who may not have had access before, now have smartphones they can use or Internet access available at their place of work. Research from the Pew Research center shows 81 percent of all adults use computers at work, home or school while 83 percent of all adults aged 18–29 and 74 percent of those aged 30–49 own a smartphone. You might be surprised how many parents can access your information electronically.
In my last post, "Work Smarter, Not Harder this School Year," several teachers shared ideas for making the most of our time. Holding an (almost) paper-free Curriculum Night definitely falls into the work smarter category. My parents have shared that they find it easier to focus on my message because they aren't shuffling through papers in a folder in front of them, and I save myself hours of making copies, stuffing folders, and gluing on beautiful poems.
I'd love to hear your tips for planning a Curriculum or Meet the Teacher Night. Please share in the comments below!