8 Tips for a Successful Back-to-School Night
As many of us are back in the classroom for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic shook our world, we have so much to look forward to! New students, familiar faces, and the opportunity to do what we love.
As with any new school year, we will welcome parents into our room for the annual back-to-school night. Although this is a tradition, this year’s back-to-school night feels more important than ever. Surely, parents will have questions and concerns related to COVID-19 precautions, classroom protocol, and what to do in the event that we switch back to online learning.
With the delta variant surging throughout the U.S. and mask mandates being a center of debate, we can expect some anxiety from parents and students. Back-to-school night is an opportunity to show your students’ parents that you are prepared to handle whatever comes your way this year. It’s so important to address the concerns of your students and their parents, but this doesn’t mean we can’t have some fun too!
Keep reading for our best back-to-school night tips and activities.
1. Encourage Parents to Explore the Room
Instead of asking parents to come in and sit down right away, ask them to explore the room first. This will prevent the awkwardness of having everyone staring at you while you wait for all of the parents to arrive. As parents explore the room, they can mingle with each other, and you can casually introduce yourself and talk about the resources your room has to offer. Once everyone has arrived and had a chance to look around, you can ask them to have a seat and begin your presentation.
2. Ask for Parents’ Contact Information
The office will have this on file, but it’s more convenient for you to have this information on hand when you need it. Provide each parent with a flashcard and a pen or pencil so they can write down their phone number, email address, and best time to contact. You can also ask each parent to jot down anything they’d like you to know about them. This way, if parents have sensitive information they want to share with you, they can do so without announcing it in front of other parents.
3. Share Your Goals
After you’ve introduced yourself, talk about your goals and expectations for the year. Some goals might be specific, like using game-based learning strategies to foster social and emotional learning. Other goals might be quite broad, such as empowering students to take an active role in their learning process. When you share your goals with parents, they can see that you are invested in the growth of your students. You should also state your expectations; this way, if issues arise during the year, you can remind parents that you have been consistent with your expectations in your class.
4. Demonstrate Online Learning Tools
Edtech tools have been used to support educators and students for years, but after the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen just how important the ability to use technology is. If you are using Google Classroom or other edtech tools this year, be sure to show parents how to access this. Use your projector to show parents the resources available online, especially if students are expected to participate online on a regular basis. It’s also a good idea to plan for another school shutdown; talk to parents about what you plan to do if we return to online learning.
5. Consider English Language Learners
Did you know that there are over 5 million students in U.S. public schools who are learning English as an additional language? Many of us will have at least a few English language learners (ELLs) in our classroom this year. Before back-to-school night, reach out to the parents of your ELLs to find out how you can ensure they get the information they need. Don’t assume that they cannot speak English, just ask if they would like to have translated handouts. You can use Google translate to print additional copies of handouts in their preferred language. Remember, Typing.com is available in English and Spanish.
6. Talk About COVID-19 Precautions
Make sure your parents are aware of your school’s mask policy and other social distancing requirements. Talk about the specific ways you will be keeping yourself and your students safe at school. Show parents where your hand sanitizing stations are and what to do in the event of a COVID-19 outbreak. Emphasize that our health comes first, and encourage parents to take their children’s temperature before sending them to class. Also, share with parents how their students can keep up with classwork from home if they have to quarantine.
7. Talk About Volunteer Opportunities
Talk to parents about how they can help out in the classroom this year. You might need chaperones for dances or field trips, or you might ask for supplies to be donated for an upcoming project. We recommend using an online volunteer sign-up sheet; it can be made and shared easily using Google Sheets. Just make sure parents know exactly how they can find and use the online sign-up sheet.
8. Get Personal
Humans want to connect with each other. Don’t be afraid to share your experiences as a teacher; the ups and the downs. Probably not a great idea to bring up a bad break-up or family drama, but we can all relate to the struggles of living through a pandemic and maintaining a work-life balance. Talk about your hobbies and what you’re passionate about inside and outside of the classroom. Parents will appreciate your honesty and will feel more comfortable with you spending hours a day with their children. You don’t have to be everyone’s best friend, but you don’t want to be a complete stranger either.
You got this!
The beginning of a new school year is a mix of excitement and anxiety, not just for teachers but for students and parents too. Back-to-school night is the time to show everyone that we are all in this together. We hope you have a fantastic back-to-school night and an even better year with your students!