It’s back to school time, and at a lot of schools, this means Open House Night. As a secondary teacher, I always felt rushed during Open House, because the schedule often demanded that parents visit many teachers. I repeated myself several times, met tons of parents, and left totally exhausted. I’m a natural introvert, so events like this are just that much harder for me. Of course I wanted to make a good impression on them, because in secondary classes, the Open House might be the only time I met them all year. Here are some ways I made the night easier for me and better for parents.
Want to know how I handle the first day of school? Read this!
Before Open House Night
If this is your first Open House, make sure to ask your mentor, team leader, or administrator about the format so that you can plan accordingly.
There are a variety of formats to an Open House, so your parents might attend a general welcome meeting in the cafeteria or auditorium before heading to your classroom. I’ve taught in schools where the parents went to each teacher’s class for ten minute increments and in others where our grade level team presented for 30 minutes together. Find out early so that you can prepare accordingly.
What will parents want to know?
Secondary parents don’t have it easy! Parents with multiple kids could be working with 10, 15, or even 20 different teachers! They want the basics: Who are you? What will their child be doing in your class? How can they help their child (and you)? How can they reach you? What should they expect to see come home? How will they be notified of changes/grades/problems?
Even if you are very limited on time, make sure to share a few things that will make your class stand out, such as a service learning project, cool field trip, or fun project you’ll be doing. You want them to be excited about the class, too!
Before the Open House night, send a letter home introducing yourself. True, not all parents will get it. Of those who do, maybe they won’t read it all, so make the letter short and sweet. Remember, they will get letters and information packets from many teachers. If it’s too long, they won’t read it! Briefly present yourself and your background. Outline key information about your class. Invite them to connect with you by sharing your contact information and if you have a class website, you can share that.
Create a sign-in system
It’s really nice to have a sign-in system just inside the door so that you can collect names and e-mails. You’ll likely have that information in your school system, but it will help you later in the year when you aren’t sure if you’ve met a parent already. I’ve put mine in the hall and had parents miss it, so placing it just inside your door helps.
You can also have papers to pick up, such as a handout with the information from your presentation or volunteer opportunities. I’ve found that having parents write much can be a distraction to them or others, so I’ve kept that to a minimum.
Click here to grab this free sign in form! Includes a French version, an English version, and this combined version shown here.
What to present to parents at Open House Night?
Your daily schedule/class schedule
Middle and high school classes might not need to present your daily schedule, as most students will have varied schedules. If you have a homeroom class who spends a portion of the day with you, you can explain what happens during this time. Otherwise, give them an idea what a typical day in your class looks like.
I always liked to outline my class schedule so parents knew the structure of my class. They should know before they leave my class that there are a variety of activities including a daily warm-up, some structured speaking time, and a few minutes for homework questions. I let them know that we spend a lot of time doing communicative activities and games so that the students build oral proficiency. That way, if a student tells their parents that they just sat around talking in French class, this won’t sound quite so odd!
Your classroom expectations
There might be a school-wide behavior system, and if so, they have likely been informed of it already. You can touch upon this, but you really want to get to your individual policies. If you do not accept late work, do not let kids go to their lockers, or have a strict tardy policy, now is the time to let parents know. This has probably gone home in your course outline, but you want to be clear from the beginning. In addition, you can share your incentives or any fun activities you do as a class reward.
My classroom expectations are posted on my wall, but since they are in French, I make sure to share an English copy that goes home, too!
Your wish list
If you feel comfortable and your school allows this, providing parents with a wish list is a nice way to get what you need for class without having to buy it yourself. Some things I’ve asked for include old magazines for projects, communal art supplies, tissues, and small trinkets to give game winners.
Tips to help their children succeed
Let parents know what they can do to help. Do you have a list of websites or apps that you recommend for working at home? Would you like students to read independently for a certain number of minutes per day? How long should they be spending on homework? How are students expected to organize their materials? Share your tips with them!
You might not have any need for parent volunteers, but if this appeals to you, there is no harm in asking parents for help. Parents often step back in middle school and high school, but I don’t think it’s that they don’t want to be involved. I know a lot of secondary teachers who just don’t ask for help.
You could ask for help on a variety of tasks such as:
- compiling book orders
- book or novel inventory (if you check out your own books)
- decorating your door
- bulletin boards
- hanging student work
- sorting supplies
- assembling games
- cutting your laminated resources
- using special skills they might have for an after-school club
Your preferred method of communication
I’ll admit it. I always dreaded seeing my message light on my phone. I’m an email and text message lover, but I really don’t like talking on the phone. I can easily open up an email in class to read a quick message, but listening to a voice mail takes me away from students for longer. I let parents know that it is much more practical to email me, and remind them that I don’t answer the phone while teaching so that I don’t take away from student learning time.
If time allows, you can leave a few minutes for parent questions. I have always just done this informally, having parents raise their hands and ask their questions. In large and small groups, this has never been an issue. However, if you don’t have time, or if you get more questions than you can deal with, you can have index cards for parents to write their questions with a phone number or e-mail for you to follow up in the next few days.
Have a great Open House! If you have any other great tips, share them below!