Back to School Night Best Practices

This is the first in a two-part article about back to school night. I’m presenting a teacher’s perspective and Traci will respond with a parent’s perspective. We hope you get some good ideas and share your own best practices.

As students are returning to school this week and next, many parents are gearing up to attend back-to-school nights with their children. Perhaps even more important than the first day of school for some, back-to-school events are great opportunities for teachers and students to meet and greet in a more personal, informal setting. First impressions are important for both parties involved!

I always have felt like the classroom should be ready for students even if the event is held before school starts. As teachers, we expect our kids to come to class prepared, so if at all possible our classrooms should be prepared for this night. At the secondary level I have always tried to have my syllabus handy to share with parents who attend. If my students have their schedule in hand that evening, it is nice to walk them through it (time permitting), show them a map of the school, and encourage them to walk through their day as it will be the day school begins to get a feel for the time needed to reach each class, etc. This allows them to start planning at what points in the day they can work in locker visits and restroom stops, and where they have spare time to socialize without being tardy. I think sometimes parents do not realize that secondary teachers value meeting you just as much as elementary teachers value meeting parents of the little ones.

Elementary back to school nights tend to have a grand feeling about them. Young students are still excited about school, and often excited about back-to-school night as well. Best practices for elementary teachers will always include passing out the all-important forms for buses, medical releases, etc. I like thinking outside the box for the young students and making it a bit more engaging for them. Scavenger hunts to discover key locations/things in the classroom or even in the building are fun ways for students to become more familiar with their new surroundings. If parents are filling out forms while students sit and wait, it’s great to have something to keep the students occupied. Having centers prepared for the evening is a great way to keep them busy—books, coloring pages, and for upper el questionnaires so that the teacher can learn a bit about the child before the year gets underway.

Let’s learn from one another. Just what are the expectations of the parent and the teacher at these initial meetings? Do students have expectations as well?