Back to School Night is on the calendar for schools across the country, and it is time for teachers to put on our game faces. If your school is like mine, the format for Back to School Night involves a general assembly and then quick 10-15 minute stops for parents in each of the student's classes. For many teachers, this evening can be frightening, overwhelming, awkward, or incredibly dull, but don't worry! I'm here to give you my tips on making Back to School night a success that will garner you respect with parents and not run your ragged. I've even included a free Prezi template that you can download and edit to give your presentation that extra pizzaz.
Tips for Back to School Night:
1. Be prepared. Rehearse your talk a few times in your head or out loud and have all handouts ready to go. Preferably, have notes, a powerpoint, prezi, or other device to keep you on track with your main talking points. Check out the free prezi template at the end of this post for ideas on organizing your information. With only a few minutes to speak with parents, you do not have time to look through stacks of papers for the syllabus and if you are flying by the seat of your pants on the talk, you will likely forget to make an important point.
2. Control the conversation. Prepare a talk that will span close to the entire period if not the whole thing. You do not want to have parents asking questions that you're not ready for and you really don't want that awkward silence that will come from a talk that ends too soon. Parents will feel better about you as a teacher if you are in control of the class (without being bossy) even when it is full of adults. Be sure to have your email address or phone number posted clearly on your board or in the syllabus and invite parents to contact you with any questions. This opens the door to positive communication and gives you time to decide your answer without 30 parents watching. Remember, there is not time to talk to each parent individually on this night; that is for parent conferences or individual appointments. Do not allow one parent to monopolize the time asking specific questions about his or her student. That type of conversation can be handled at another time, so that the other parents aren't wasting their time.
3. Do not read your syllabus to parents. Parents can read. It is insulting and boring to sit through 6 teachers reading their syllabi on Back to School Night. Pass out the syllabus or better yet post it on the school webpage to save paper and then allow parents to read it at their discretion. Spend the time talking about important policies and share your excitement with expectations of what students will learn this year in your class. Remember that attitude is everything. Later, when the student is complaining to the parent about you (gasp!), but the parent remembers you as bright, engaging, and positive, they are less likely to assume the worst about you.
4. Dress to impress. Be professional; keep it clean; keep it modest. I know that it's an awfully long day when Back to School Night comes after a regular school day, but bring a change of clothes if you don't have time to go home. Hopefully, parents will see you more casually at football games and school plays; Back to School Night is strictly a professional affair.
5. Anticipate concerns. A little self-awareness goes a long way. If there is something about your class that tends to get parent or student complaints, mention it at Back to School Night in the most positive light possible. Give parents the rationale behind that long research paper or late wok policy. Get them on your team early and you will win some valuable parent support points later.
Click here to download a fun prezi template that will walk you through some ideas for your back to school night talk. You can save it to your prezi account and edit it to suit your own information. All you have to do is click on the words, highlight them, and then type in your information! New to prezi? Here is a link to a full prezi tutorial and here is a link to a tutorial for making a quick prezi!
What are your Back to School Night concerns, questions, or advice? We're all ears!
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