Many parents like you choose to opt out when it comes to gathering with their child’s teacher and other classroom parents on Back-to-School Night. Not only are you attending an evening meeting after a long day, you are also required to sit at attention (in those uncomfortable student desks) and retain a load of information regarding the entire school year.
However, this annual ritual, if taken as the tool it is meant to be, can save you time, get you started on a good relationship with your child’s teacher, and give your child a head start on the new school year. So make it a priority to attend. Your goal for this parents’ night is to glean from the teacher the flavor of the classroom, what is expected from your child, and how you as a parent can help both teacher and child succeed in their goals for the year.
To best prepare for your back-to-school night, here are four suggestions to help you get the most out of this evening.
1. Bring the School Calendar. Take a printed copy of the school calendar to the meeting. You may have been given one by the school or you can print it off the school website. Each time the teacher references a date and its particulars, make notes right on the calendar. Later you can hang the calendar in a handy place or transfer the information to your electronic scheduler.
2. Talk Less and Listen More. Being prepared to listen and learn at Back-to-School Night can be challenging, especially when there are other parents vying for the teacher’s attention. Your child’s teacher has been preparing this evening for weeks, so be assured that nothing you need to know will be left out. With that in mind, be sure to have a pen and a notebook from your leftover back-to-school supplies and bring them with you to the meeting. This is a unique opportunity to receive a point-by-point overview of your child’s entire school year. You might be tempted to join in the fray, but why not instead plan to sit back, relax, jot down your notes, and enjoy learning about the great school year that has been planned for your child.
3. Write Down Your Questions. While you are busy being a good listener and letting the teacher do the talking, write down every question that comes to mind. Even if the teacher gives you opportunity to ask, it’s best to hold on to your questions for a time when you have undivided attention. The teacher has a schedule to keep and you will be better served, and better answered, if these important questions are asked at another time. It is expedient to have your concerns addressed one-on-one than to have them answered in a free-for-all parents’ night.
4. Schedule a Private Meeting. At some time during the evening, the teacher will encourage you to call, email, or meet in person. Take the teacher up on this offer. Before you leave the parents’ meeting, make an appointment to meet sometime during the following week. Use this meeting to bring up the questions you compiled during Back-to-School Night. The teacher will be unhurried and may even have more specific information than was originally given. This meeting will also be a good time to re-explore the classroom. If you have a young child or one new to the school, ask if you can bring your camera to the meeting for taking photos of the teacher, your child’s desk, and classroom bulletin boards so that you can acclimate your child to the new school environment. The teacher will appreciate and take note of the interest you have in your child’s learning environment.
When you’ve participated in a back-to-school night after having been prepped with the guidelines described above, you will end up being well informed, glad you attended, and ready to help your child navigate through the new school year.