Well, we’re officially in Back to School mode, and Parent Orientation is a BTS event always noted in my planner. It may go by another name at your school- Open House, Back-to-School Night, or Curriculum Night– but its purpose is the same: to communicate to parents all they need to know as partners in their child’s education.
Here are some simple strategies for a relaxed but professional parent orientation!
Create a warm environment.
There are some easy ways to create an inviting and warm atmosphere that will put everyone at ease. Have things for parents to see and do as they arrive. This is especially helpful when parents come early. Set out a display of textbooks, kits, manipulatives, and other materials you use, and encourage parents to walk around, visit, and look at things. Don’t stress about having your room completely decorated from top to bottom. A table of materials and a few things on the walls (e.g. class schedule, procedures, a bulletin board with just a title) is enough to give parents a feel for your teaching style. The invitation to browse around in the first few minutes relaxes everyone and allows you to quickly walk around and greet parents.
A colorful Welcome Slide projected on the screen as the focal point is very helpful. It might include your contact information, a brief agenda for the open house, and what you’d like parents to do as they enter.
A sign-in sheet placed on a clipboard near the entrance of the classroom gives you a record of those in attendance. Add a “child’s name” column on the sheet next to the parent’s name to avoid confusion with last names. An alternative is having parents and their child fill out a student information sheet. Simply invite parents to jot down their contact information and anything they’d like you to know about their child on a sheet of paper. It only takes a few seconds to set these papers out on desks, and you’ll learn so much from what parents write!
Share a digital presentation.
A slide show presentation gives parents something to focus on as you speak and is also easily shared with those who are unable to attend. My Back-to-School Night EDITABLE PowerPoint presentation includes 30 slides that can be quickly and easily customized for your orientation. Your school may have specific guidelines for what to share with parents, but this presentation definitely has it all!
If your parent orientation contains a formal presentation, taking time to plan your opening remarks will give you confidence. Public speaking can be a bit daunting, even for teachers, so a little rehearsal really helps. To transition from greeting to presenting, I usually say something like, “I know we may have some parents still trying to get here, but let’s go ahead and begin. This is a busy time for all of us, so thank you so much for coming.” Even after years of teaching, I also still prepare the specific words of my welcome and introduction. I tell a little about myself, the curriculum, and mention how excited I am to get to know their children this year.
Keep it simple with a smile.
Parents don’t expect fancy presentations or pages of handouts. What they really come to back to school night for is to get to know you, your classroom, and make sure their kids are comfortable and safe in school. Just be friendly, and end the night with a smile and thank you!