Open House. Meet the Teacher. Back-to-School Night. No matter what you call it, it’s the time when teachers meet the students’ parents, often for the first time. As a teacher, you need to be prepared to make a good first impression at your middle-school Open House.
In the middle school where I taught, the parents-accompanied by their sons and daughters-followed an abbreviated schedule of classes, encompassing six 10-minute class periods. Everyone started in the gym where they were entertained by the chorus, band and orchestra. They proceeded to homeroom classes to watch a 5-minute video of the administrators introducing themselves. I always appreciated the principal reminding parents that it was not a one-on-one conference night, and they should refrain from asking, “How is Johnny doing?”
The bell would ring and class periods started. The ten-minute sessions were designed for program overviews and answering questions.
As a middle-school math teacher, I found the following ideas helped my Open House sessions run smoothly. Maybe they’ll help you too.
Greet the parents at the door to your classroom. Students are excited that their moms and dads will be meeting you. Addressing them individually as they enter your classroom will assure parents and students that they’re all important in your eyes.
Display student work. Represent as many boys and girls as possible. If the work is neat and colorful, it will be eye-catching. As a math teacher, I had students plot points on coordinate grids that resulted in colorful pictures.
Design a Power Point program reflecting the important points you will address. This will help you stay on track. I used a remote control to switch the slides as I talked and walked. My program included items such as where students could find homework/notes when they were absent, how parents could get in touch with me, my after-school help program, and how students could re-take tests.
Prepare a handout for the parents. The hope is that they’ll refer to it throughout the year. My handout was 2 pages, front and back. For the middle portion, I used the ‘hand-outs’ print option for Power Point which allowed me to print 6 or 9 mini-slides per page. The mini-slides matched my presentation. I always put a cartoon or joke on the title page, since I think parents appreciate a sense of humor. The back page was reserved for the “Unity” poem, one of my favorites for Open House. Click here to read this poem.
Pass a sign-in sheet around the classroom each period. Make sure it’s on a clipboard with an attached pencil. I asked for each parent’s name, child’s name, and the parent’s email address. My first group email was sent to thank them for coming. I don’t advise setting up parent conferences at this time. You might get bombarded. Some parents, even though they don’t necessarily want a conference yet, will feel obligated to sign up.
Clean and organize your classroom. I know our custodians were not required to wash the desks on a regular basis, so I’d solicit students for after-school help. Parents will notice the environment and will be unconsciously judging you based upon what they see.
Move around the room. If you’re talking about the area where students turn in homework, walk to that spot and show them. This serves as a great visual reminder for students as well. I also made sure to have a laser pointer with me so that I was prepared to point to spots not close at hand.
Display and discuss necessary supplies. I set texts, notebooks, calculators, and so on where parents could easily view them. It helps if parents can see the actual products.
Involve students in the Open House program. When discussing, for example, where students should pick up work when absent, ask one of them to show the parents. Time-permitting, I ended the program by letting students demonstrate a warm-up that they did in class such as the “Perfect Squares and Square Roots Toss.” They don’t mind doing a little showing-off in front of their parents.
Tell parents how they can get involved. Explain when your progress reports will be posted and how you’ll communicate. I emphasized how important it was at the beginning of the year for parents to check on the students’ organization and completion of work. Involvement eventually becomes less and less. As I explain in the article, “Middle School: A Parent’s Involvement in Organization Goes a Long Way,” parents are critical influences in their children’s success or failure.
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