The “Back to School” season is being blared in bold-print banners, commercials and advertisements; in addition, by children, who are openly curious about the uncertainty of a new year. While parents are reassuring children in calm voices and answering questions, you, too, will wonder, “Is she going to have a great year?” One of the first places to discover answers is at the school Open House.
The First Meeting
Your child’s teacher may be standing outside the classroom, welcoming parents to come in and be seated. It may be the first time you have spoken to this teacher or entered her room. If arriving late, you may discover the crowd of parents, adult siblings, and grandparents chattering, establishing introductions and reacquainting themselves with old friends. It’s a night not only to learn about the year’s expectations, but also to meet the other parents, whose child may become your daughter’s or son’s closest friend.
Tip: Always introduce yourself in connection with your child’s name.
At your child’s desk, there may be a stapled packet or folder including a welcome letter and vital information such as schedules, grading and homework policies, and a parent handbook. Teachers, despite the challenging nature of the evening, will want to highlight key information about the year and to give you a chance to openly ask questions. This is not the time to challenge curriculum standards or busing schedules. Limited time is available.
Please remember, teachers are as anxious about the year as you. She’ll want to make this year a rewarding experience for everyone. Although she may appear nervous or distracted, it truly is a big night for all to make a good first impression.
Open House is an overwhelming event for teachers. Not only is the teacher’s classroom on display, but she is trying to personally associate names with faces. Some teachers enjoy addressing all the parents and guardians at once. In this format, parents will learn key information, such as specific procedures and rules of the classroom, the homework and grading policy, important aspects of the curriculum, and information which pertains to the year’s or state standards. Take a pad of paper and pen with you. It will be a lot to take in, and a few jotted notes will help verify your memory in the days that follow.
Tip: While you are at your child’s desk, leave a note with a few words and an encouraging message, such as, “This is going to be a fantastic year!”
Establishing a Good Relationship
The student, teacher, and parent relationship is a triangle of support to ensure your child succeeds. It begins with the parent(s) promising to keep the teacher well informed. As you begin the year, consider sending positive notes that mention your child’s comments on favorite classes and projects. She’ll appreciate the feedback and your willingness to share. This will help break the ice when other issues need to be addressed.
Tip: Before you leave the classroom, consider leaving a card on the teacher’s desk, simply stating it was nice to meet her, and with a quick word about your availability to assist her and the class, whether it is volunteering your time at school or from home.
Do Not Linger
When the event is over, a number of parents tend to linger seeking a private conversation alone with the teacher. Just remember, while her day began early in the morning, attending meetings and spending every spare second preparing the classroom for Open House, she is also giving her time to meet the parents and caregivers. It is not the time to give you the privacy nor the attention to detail you require at such a late hour; instead, send an e-mail or arrange a scheduled conference.
With your guidance and support, parents, you can help your child have a great year! And I believe you will have one, too! But keep those communication channels open!