Wow Your Audience at Back to School Night

Back to School Night is a great opportunity to show your parents what a great teacher you are.  Although dealing with adults causes some teacher trepidation, take a deep breath and read on for surefire ways to wow your crowd.

Here are a few tips for making the best impression on the parents. Be Enthusiastic and Professional

Pick an outfit that is professional and comfortable (be sure to wear comfy shoes). Smile and shake each parent’s hand confidently at the door, and ask them to grab a seat; be sure to learn who their child is. Don’t forget to smile and show enthusiasm!

Create a Powerpoint
Here are five slides that I recommend that you include in a brief powerpoint to keep your evening focused and on-track.

    • Introductory Slide Some topics that you might include in this introduction are where you went to school, what you studied, or what your background that prepared you for teaching is.  Parents are always glad to hear that their child’s teacher is qualified.  
    • What Students Will Be Learning in the Course– List what your major units of study will be, and explain a few of the engaging projects that you have planned for the year.  No need to go into technical education jargon.  Just speak passionately and to the point.
    • Assessment– Communicate to parents how you track student growth and progress, and how you will be communicating that growth.  In addition to mandatory progress reports, school data systems, and parent teacher conferences, how will you monitor and report progress?
    • Communication– Back the school night sets the tone with parents, and is a great way to open up a receptive relationship.  Let parents know that the channels of communication are always open, and that you value their insights and concerns about their child.
    • Scheduling a Conference– With the prior slide in mind, set an appropriate boundary and let the parents know that Back to School night is not the appropriate time to speak about their specific child.  In my slide I write, “Let’s continue the conversation.  Please email me to find a time to speak in person or on the phone about your child’s growth.”  This sends a clear message that while you are open to this conversation, that back to school night is not the appropriate time for it.  If you set a precedent of bending the rule for one parent, all of the parents will clamor to speak to you as well.  Be friendly but firm in reestablishing the boundary.

Let the Parents Experience Your Teaching Style
After you brief slide show, you have a great opportunity to show the parents who you really are as a teacher.  Do a mini-learning activity that you already done with the students.  For instance, I would do a “show don’t tell activity” with my middle school English parents and have them change three sentence from drab to dazzling (“He was nervous” became “His palms dripped in sweat”).  A math teacher might show a mini-lesson on volume by having parents measure and calculate the volume of their arm.  A science teacher might have parents derive a genotype for a Pokemon by filling out a punnett square.  Keep is short, engaging, and rigorous, and your passion will surely shine through.

Have Student Work Displayed on the Walls/In Portfolios
Empty walls are the kiss of death on Back to School night- so avoid this at all cost!  Put up exciting projects that reveal students successes and tell the story of what is being taught in your classroom.  Avoid putting up tests or incorrect work.  Help parents find their child’s work, and be sure that every child has at least one item (if not more) represented in the classroom.

Don’t Leave Extra Time for Questions
Make your evening so jam-packed that there is no room for parents to ask questions.  That way you can maintain control of the dynamic in the room. If a parent does ask a question that you are uncertain of how to answer, I suggest saying the following, “That’s a wonderful question, and I want to answer it with a full answer.  Can I contact you in the next few days to give it the attention it deserves?”

Go Home On-time!
When the evening is scheduled to end, thank the parents for coming, and let them know that you need to go home and get a good night’s sleep to be full of energy to work with their children tomorrow.  Some principals will come on the loudspeaker and let parents know the evening is ending.  I strongly encourage this practice.

Have fun, and remember, the parents are excited to meet you!

 

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