I just opened that letter that officially signifies the end of summer for teachers. It’s the “Welcome Back” letter from the principal. I don’t know how it can possibly be time for this letter to arrive. Seriously, where has July gone?!
To make matters worse, enclosed with the letter is the schedule of all of the meetings I need to attend in a few short weeks. My calendar is rapidly filling after weeks of blissful calm. One of the most important upcoming meetings will occur at night rather than during the day: Back-to-School Night, also known as Meet the Teacher night.
This night is so important not just because it’s a chance to make a good first impression with students and parents alike. It’s also one of the best attended events for most schools, and a time when teachers can gather crucial information from parents and students that will help the rest of the year go smoother. It’s a meeting I actually look forward to.
So how can you make the most out of this night? I have compiled some good ideas below from fellow teachers.
As the summer comes rapidly to a close for us teachers, I hope you find time to continue enjoying quiet, summertime moments amid the inevitable planning and organizing that must occur.
#1 - Make Prior Contact with Parents
So that parents and students already know a bit about you prior to meeting them, it’s a good idea to send out a summer letter. This is obviously most effective for elementary teachers, since receiving 7 letters from 7 secondary teachers would probably be too overwhelming. In this blog post from PrintablePrompts there are great tips for communicating with parents and even provides a free template to use to send a summer letter.
#2 - Collect Critical Information Efficiently
In this blog from Adrienne Teaches are multiple good suggestions for Back-to-School Night, but one I really like is using a Google Form loaded up on multiple computers to gather essential information from parents quickly and efficiently. You need to know things like best numbers and times to call and transportation information. Using a Google Form will combine all of your parent responses into one easy-to-access spreadsheet. You could also use Survey Monkey or Survey Planet.
#3 - Use Checklists & Fun Activities to Engage Students
While parents are filling out those surveys, students need to be engaged. This post from The Primary Peach offers several fun and useful activities students can complete, and Adrienne from Adrienne Teaches also suggests using a checklist to keep students focused on completing the activities.
#4 - Incorporate Technology
If you teach in a one-to-one school, then using technology at Back-to-School Night just makes sense. This blog from Two Boys and A Dad explains how to create a Google Classroom just for parents to access. Not only should the classroom contain all important information that parents will want to know, but accessing it also familiarizes parents with the technology their children will be using during the school year. A parent classroom could also be created in Blackboard, Edmodo, Moodle, etc.
#5 - Learn About Your Students
It all started when 3rd grade teacher Kyle Schwartz asked her students to finish a simple sentence: I wish my teacher knew… The responses she received stunned her, and she started sharing them online. Her posts quickly went viral, and other teachers started sharing their students’ responses with the hashtag “iwishmyteacherknew.” But what if we used this activity not just with students but with parents as well? How about asking parents what they wish we knew about their children? I bet we would learn some pretty important things that would help us build relationships and determine how to best teach our students.