Back to School Night Tips
Back to School Night is upon us, and it’s time to get our game faces on! Iron out your slacks and practice your perma-smile!
Most Back to School nights run pretty much the same as every other school. It usually involves a general assembly and then 10-15 minute stops for parents to meet each teacher. If you’re like many teachers, this night can be overwhelming (you’re still trying to set up your classroom), awkward (do I shake hands or wave? What if they just stare at me and I have nothing else to say?), or just plain boring (No one wants to meet me?)!
But the key is to keep it simple and enjoy the night. Focus on building a relationship with the family instead of filing them with information many of them will forget anyway.
Here are a few tips to make your Back to School night a success without the stress and worry. If you’re looking for a way to include all your information for parents, check out these free Google Slides templates!
Tips for Back to School Night:
- Be prepared. Rehearse your talk a few times in your head or aloud and have all handouts ready to go. Have notes, a presentation, or another device to keep you on track with your main talking points. 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, and perhaps come off as disorganized. (Not exactly something you want parents leaving your class thinking.)
- 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. (Insert awkward wave here.) 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. Have something in mind to say if a parent asks a question you aren’t prepared for, such as, “Unfortunately, I do not have time to get into the details right now, but as school starts to get into the flow, let’s chat!” Friendly and direct is how you should start the school year for all students and parents.
- Provide contact information. Be sure to have your email address or school 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. Save that for parent conferences or individual appointments. Do not allow one parent to monopolize the time asking specific questions about their student. That type of conversation can be handled at another time so that the other parents aren’t wasting their time.
- 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 or LMS to save paper and then allow parents to read it at their discretion. I personally make a colorful one-page overview of the year of what the students will learn and books we could potentially read throughout the year. 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.
- 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. (Don’t forget deodorant!) Hopefully, parents will see you more casually at football games and school plays; Back to School Night is strictly a professional affair.
- Anticipate concerns. A little self-awareness goes a long way. If something about your class tends to get parent or student complaints, mention it at Back to School Night in the most favorable light possible. Give parents the rationale behind that long research paper or late work policy. Get them on your team early, and you will win some valuable parent support points later.
I am confident that your Back to School night will be a success if you use these tips, and it will pass quicker than you think! What haven’t I mentioned that you believe to be imperative for Back to School Night? I’d love to keep learning!