Monday, September 2, 2013

Back To School Night

As I've said earlier, I've only really had experience teaching in Howard County, Maryland.  I grew up here and now work here, so it's the only school system I'm really familiar with.  One thing we do here every year is Back to School Night.  Parents are invited to their child's school to meet the faculty and staff and to get to know their child's teachers for the school year.  They follow their son or daughter's class schedule, spending about 7 minutes in each class to find out about the teacher and the course.

This year, our Back to School Night will be next Tuesday.  I've only had the students for about a week and I think we're all still getting into the swing of things, but it's probably a good time to have it.  One year we had it about two or three days into the school year, which was stressful since I had only learned about a third of my new students' names.  Another year we had it during the third week of September, when we were already well underway in the school year so it had lost a lot of its value.

So what do you talk to parents about on Back to School Night?  Here are the key points I try to hit with each class:
  • Who are you?  (Just general information about yourself, your educational background and your teaching experience.)
  • How can parents contact you?  (Don't forget to mention if you prefer phone vs email.)
  • What is this class like?  (Just an overview of the class - the goals, the book, if there are any state or county assessments, if you do immersion, etc.)
  • If you offer Honors and Regular level classes, what's the difference between them?  (Especially important to address if both classes are mixed together.)
  • What's your grading policy?  (Just a general overview - do you do weighted grade or is it points?  How often are quizzes?  Homework?  Is classwork for completion or accuracy?  How do you handle participation?)
  • Do you have a class website?  Quizlet?  What other online resources are available?
  • Is there a German Club?  National Honor Society?
  • When are you available for students to come in if they need extra help?
I know that seems like a lot of things, but you want to make sure you address any possible questions parents might have BEFORE they have them.  Try to leave room at the end to let parents ask questions in case there's something you didn't address.   To help stay on track, I have a Power Point that I use each year (just have to re-arrange the order of classes and maybe update some parts).  If you'd like to take a look at it, click here.

There's a teacher in my department who says parents like to walk away with something physical at the end, so he prepares a sheet with this information for parents.  Personally, I don't do that - I do the opposite.  I hand each parent a blank index card as they come in.  On their card, I ask them to write their name, their son/daughter's name, their contact information, and one thing about their son/daughter that I don't know.  I like doing this better than a sign-in sheet - it still gives me a reference of who came and their relevant contact info, but it also tells me something more about their son/daughter.

Another piece of advice I was given my first year of teaching was to "leave my gradebook at home."  Don't get stuck talking to specific parents about specific students' grades.  It's not conferences!  It's Back to School Night!  Let parents know a better time for them to contact you if they want to discuss how their son or daughter is doing.

One last suggestion - even though it's early in the school year, try to have student work up!  Anything they've done so far this year, like the Wer bist du? homework assignment I mentioned in Ice Breakers for Day One.  Parents love seeing their child's work on display!

If your school has Back to School Night, what do you talk to parents about?

- Frau Leonard

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