This blog was originally published on August 24th, 2018. It has been updated with new links and information.
Have the back-to-school nightmares started yet? They’ll come. They always do this time of year. All teachers seem to suffer the same fate in August-- sleepless nights worried about misplaced lesson plans, a classroom full of students and not enough student desks, or alarm clocks that don’t go off on the first day of school. This year, my dreams feature other uncertainties as we head back to school after a year like no other. Those nightmares are a cruel indicator that summer is over and the new school year is right around the corner.
Eventually, we wake up, take a deep breath and step back into our classrooms with renewed energy and excitement for a fresh start. We plan new lessons with our colleagues and prepare our rooms, getting the space just right for that much anticipated first meeting-- Open House! A successful first impression at Open House can set a positive tone for the rest of the school year. This Fall, it’s especially valuable to welcome students to in-person learning and help them feel comfortable at school. To help you avoid the most common teacher mistakes and ensure families walk away with a sense of confidence in you as a teacher, we’ve put together a few tips for hosting a successful Open House that will have you starting the school year off like a dream!
DON’T be a boring host!
Parents won’t want to sit and listen to a long prepared program. Instead, keep any remarks brief, while building in opportunities to get active and move around the classroom. Start a smartphone scavenger hunt using your own Twitter hashtag or set up stations spread out around the room. Ask students and/or parents to record an inspirational message or goal for the school year. Flipgrid is an easy video response platform that allows quick and easy recording. Click here to read a previous blog post I wrote for more information on Flipgrid.
DO get organized.
Think about how you can disseminate important information to parents in a simple way. Old fashioned packets, folders or maybe a digital QR code linked to a prepared Google Doc will enable parents to get access to everything. If your school requires you to collect parent info, consider setting up classroom computers or iPads with a digital form to be filled out on the spot.
DON’T focus too much on rules and curriculum.
The purpose of an open house is to build positive connections with parents and relieve the natural anxiety of a new year. Take a few moments to share your story and personal approach to teaching. Give parents a general sense of what the academic targets are for the grade level or subject area. Then be sure to move around the room talking with families as they complete an activity or two.
DO move into the 21st century.
Use technology to your advantage! Whether it’s a digital tool for information sharing like a class newsletter created using Smore (my favorite new digital tool), parents will appreciate the ease of access. A great platform for information sharing, aside from your school’s LMS, is the web and phone app called Remind. Have parents sign up to send and receive direct messages throughout the year. Since many (if not all) parents have a smartphone these days, carefully consider how you can leverage these digital devices to establish and continue the positive connections you’ve sparked at your open house.
Start your year off right by engaging your families in an evening of fun and activity. You’ll make a great first impression, open the lines of communication and provide peace of mind that the children in your classroom will be well-cared for. Cheers to a great year!
For great ideas on how to get parents engaged after the doors of the Open House have closed, explore Course 5844: Engaging Parents for Student Success.
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