High Five the First Days is a series of blog posts aimed at new teachers, or teachers just looking for ideas or reminders. The purpose is to help in the establishment of a solid foundation on which you can build an awesome school year. This is by no means a definitive list. The best way to fully prepare for the year ahead is read as much as possible, open your mind, commit to the idea of change, and to proactively seek out experienced colleagues willing to share their best practices. Hopefully, the ideas below will be one of the steps on your road to awesomeness! Hi 5!
Although it doesn’t happen right at the beginning of the school year, there is one major event that you could start thinking about a little in advance: your school’s Meet the Teacher Night.
Meet the Teacher Night is an important first impression opportunity with parents and, as it involves all of your colleagues, making any changes will require much discussion and agreement.
My school ran the same-old model for years. But, my friend Mike Kaufman and I decided it was time to relook at our event. In the past, we invited parents in for large, grade-level presentations. Topics covered included course outlines for all the classes, important dates, a little about our advisory/homebase program, grading policies, behavior expectations, rough details about upcoming field trips, etc. In other words, we delivered information that could more easily and effectively be delivered via an email or posted on the school’s website. In fact, most of that information was already available elsewhere. Mike and I felt our existing model could be tweaked to avoid duplication and live up to the idea of the night’s actual name – ie, meeting the teacher.
The first thing Mike and I wanted to change was the general format. Rather than having all the parents come together in a large group, let’s split them up into smaller, more intimate groups. This makes the whole event less formal and opens things up for more dialogue and sharing. The way we divided the parents was by student advisory/homebase. Our advisory groups are capped at 12 students, so this would make the corresponding parent groups way more engaging and manageable.
Next, we took a page from the dating world and introduced a speed-dating format. This way, parents would spend a period of time with a particular teacher, and then rotate around so they could – by the end of the event – spend some quality time with all of their child’s teachers.
Next, we looked at the topics covered. Mike and I decided we should ditch information-delivery, especially when it related to information that was better-delivered via other means (emails, Moodle, websites, etc.). Instead, we focused on the exchange of information about ourselves. For teachers, this would mean sharing our backgrounds, our philosophies, our expectations – in short, anything that parents would need to know about who we are and where we are coming from. For instance, I would share the fact that I worked in the private sector prior to teaching, that my spouse also works at the school, and that we have two young children (who might keep us up late and result in a little grouchiness now and again).
In return, I would ask parents to share information I would need to know about them and their child:
- how far away they lived from the school (in terms of tardiness/attendance),
- how many siblings the child had,
- any health concerns,
- the parent’s job/connections (for guest speaker opportunities),
- The parents’ marital status (privately of course – families going through divorce is important information),
- any other details that might affect academic and personal performance.
Then, I would open the conversation up for any questions or concerns not already expressed. Here are some questions Mike and I brainstormed:
- Why are we doing this?
- I am going to spend a lot of time with your child this year – what do you want to know about me?
- What do i need to know about you and your child?
- What are some goals you have for your child this year?
- What are your child’s and strengths weaknesses?
- What are they involved in after school?
All in all, we wanted Meet the Teacher Night to be a night of information sharing and relationship building, and NOT info distribution.
What do you think? We would love to hear your thoughts on how to make Meet the Teacher night more fun, more interactive, and more relevant.