Just as I was sitting here trying to think of something to write, my big sis once again takes care of me and sends this fabulous and helpful information about an event coming up shortly for all of us with school aged kids…
Back-to-School Night (aka Meet the Teacher Night, Open House, Curriculum Night) is upon us. As a mom of two boys, I’ve been to well over 20 of these evenings, and more than that in my role as a kindergarten teacher.
If you think that managing 20 kindergarten students is courageous, think, for a moment, about how a teacher feels looking out at anywhere from 20-40 anxious parents waiting to be enlightened, informed, and assured, while deciding if they are going to like you. When I attend my sons’ Back-to-School Nights, I really, really want to like their teachers. I want to see a hybrid of all the qualities my best teachers had … knowledge, compassion, enthusiasm… you know.
As a teacher, looking out at the parents, I want them to like me. It’s the truth. I know they may not agree with everything I say, but I want them to respect my years of experience, and my knowledge of how young children grow and develop. Most important, I want them to trust me with their children, to know that I have their child’s best interest at heart.
All parents have hopes and dreams for their children. They have some expectations of what school will be like and what their child’s teacher should do to make their child excited about school, to feel safe physically and emotionally.
Teachers have hopes, dreams and expectations, as well for their students and for the positive relationships they hope to establish with their students’ families. Back-to-School Night plays an important role in that process; it can set the stage for the rest of the school year.
Here are some things to keep in mind about your child’s Back to School Night:
1. Go to it! You may think this sounds crazy. Of course you plan to go! Or, you could be thinking…nah… don’t think so… got two older kids… been there, done that. No you haven’t. Not really. Every year is different. While my core values and principles of sound educational practice haven’t changed, procedures, curriculum, and school policies do. Also, many teachers post sign-up sheets for Parent-Teacher conferences and other important events for which you will want to be able to select a time and date that works for you.
2. Reserve your babysitter early. You really don’t want to bring your children to this adults-only evening. If you are nursing your newborn, pump, or have dad go. Teachers put a great deal of planning and thought into this time we get with you, we don’t want to hear Madison toppling a block structure while we are explaining important details that you need to hear about your child’s school year.
3. Come prepared with questions. This is the best time to ask about transportation, library books, birthday celebrations, parent volunteers, trips, etc. Do make sure you find out the best method of contacting the teacher. Do not ask her for her home or cell phone number. You do not call your doctors or lawyers at home…that goes for teachers, too!
If the teacher hasn’t mentioned basic school policies and procedures during her presentation, and you have a question, ask it. There’s a good chance it’s something we meant to discuss and ran out of time. I now write a list of Kindergarten FAQ’s I distribute that night, because there are always distractions during the evening and I want to make sure all my parents get the important information.
4. Do not go to the classroom early. In most schools, parents convene in an auditorium and hear opening announcements from the school principal and other district personnel at the beginning of the evening. Teachers are sometimes introduced at this time, or are doing last-minute preparations in our classrooms. Everyone understands that you really just want to get into the classroom, to see the teacher, see the room, see your kid’s work. The “short” speeches in the auditorium are often, well…boring. I know. I’ve heard enough of them! Still, don’t show up in your kid’s classroom because you don’t want to sit in the overheated auditorium, and you want a few private minutes to hang out with your child’s teacher. Not a good idea. Ever. Besides demonstrating basic disrespect for the teacher’s time, you are also showing us that basic rules and etiquette don’t apply to you. It’s not the way you want to start the school year.
5. Remember that this is not the time for a private conference about your child. This is important to remember. In fact, many principals will make a point to mention it before sending parents off to the classrooms. A principal will remind you it’s an evening for a general overview, not private conversations with the teacher about your child. However, at some point during your time in your child’s classroom, you will most likely have a chance to mingle and look around the class. Please do approach the teacher and introduce yourself if you haven’t already met. If s/he feels it’s appropriate to make a comment or share an anecdote with you about your child, s/he will.
6. If you or your spouse cannot attend, do not ask the teacher to “tell you what you missed” at another time. It’s almost like asking to have the school band give you a special performance because you couldn’t make it on concert night. We put a great deal of time and energy into making Back to School Night informative and special. Teachers are often charged with describing a year’s worth of curriculum in one night, while addressing a host of other issues and questions. We make PowerPoint presentations, we display children’s work, we clean the room, we have the kids leave notes or drawings for their parents – you. We also distribute packets of information, which you will receive whether you can attend or not.
7. Don’t forget…you see us around 7:30pm. Many of us have been at school since 7:30am. We have taught a full day. The children go home and we keep working. We set up the room to show you, in the best way possible, all the wonderful projects, new ideas, and tremendous growth your child will experience their first year in public school. We pray that we will sound as knowledgeable and caring as we really are. We hope you will hear in our voices how much we love your children and how honored we feel that you have entrusted them to us for this important and special time in their lives. We hope you will hear our commitment to do our best for your children. Because, in many ways, they are our children, too.
We are advocates for your children and want the best educational experience for them. So help us with that. Come to Back-to-School night with open minds and open hearts. We want to answer your questions, reassure you, set you straight if you need it (gently and politely, of course J). We will be there for you and your child. So please be there for us.