School has been open for about a month in most areas. During these first weeks, teachers and students have been getting to know each other, establishing classroom routines, forming learning groups, reviewing curriculum from last year, and jumping into new material. Now, many schools are hosting Back to School Night when parents can meet the child’s new teacher(s), catch up on curriculum changes, and generally get a feel for what lies ahead for the school year.
What to expect
Parents will be able to meet their child’s teachers and aides, the principal, nurse, and other staff members, and fellow parents. Some schools present a short overview of any new curriculum changes, such as a new math program or science enhancements. New staff may be introduced. Unless otherwise specified, this is an adults-only night, so book a sitter.
The evening typically begins with an introduction in the auditorium or gymnasium. Then parents separate into groups by grade or subject area and spend the evening with a child’s teacher(s). Time is pretty short in each classroom. Teachers usually give a very brief overview of what will be covered in their subject(s) area. For younger classes, work samples or motivational art work is often displayed.
The event gives parents a glimpse of their child’s daily life at school and an opportunity to learn about the curriculum. Parents can also sign up to join the PTA or other parent groups. Joining a parent group is a great way to become involved in school. Some commitments require only one weekend or day a year, such as fall or spring clean-up day. For parents with more available time or skills, there are other offerings such as helping write grants, updating a monthly PTA bulletin board, tabulating box tops and soup labels to get free school items, or writing a newsletter article.
Research shows that parent involvement in schools helps students achieve more and schools thrive. Kids’ self-esteem gets a huge boost when they know mom or dad helped plant that tree or picked out that bulletin board border. Joining the PTA is a great way to have a voice in school issues and decisions.
Visiting the classroom
Many teachers will have parents sit in their child’s seat. This makes it easier for them to keep track of which child goes with which parent — especially since a parent may not share the same last name as a child. Plus, parents get the opportunity to see the world of the classroom as your child does every day.
Teacher will give an overview of students’ daily routines, schedules, goals, and activities dive right into the meat of things. Teachers also discuss homework policy, discipline plan, and any other important information.
When a teacher asks for questions, this is the time for general information that would apply to all students. There may be a new dismissal arrangement, bus policy, lunch schedule or other general change that a teacher can address.
The teacher may have a web page available where homework, project information, assigned readings and other information is posted. This is especially true for high school classes. Parents usually have access to this information through a school’s portal on the district’s website. It is a great way for parents to know if their child is keeping up with assignments so there are no big surprises at report card time.
Back to School Night is not a time to discuss an individual child’s specific needs, academic progress and issues. This is done at a scheduled conference time a bit later in the fall, and usually another one in the spring.
If a parent has concerns that the teacher needs to know about sooner, Back to School Night may be the time to schedule a future meeting in a week or so. The set appointment will allow for all school staff working with a child to arrange to be at the meeting.
Back to School Night can be a fun hour renewing a connection with education. It reminds parents that their children are involved in the hard work of learning, taught and nurtured during 6 hours a day by dedicated men and women who value a child’s future.
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