As summer comes to a close, schools are preparing for open house and back to school nights. It’s a great opportunity for teachers to not only make good first impressions but to make personal connections with parents, begin building positive relationships and establishing ways for effective communication throughout the school year.
When planning and preparing for the event it is important to ensure parents know about the open house well in advance through a carefully thought out publicity campaign. It is also important that schools and teachers be sure to think about the true needs of the parents and making them a partner in their child’s education. During the event give parents the chance not only to learn about the school and their child’s teacher(s) but to ask questions and engage with the school community.
Here are a few tips for having a successful open house or back to school night
Plan, Publicize, and Prepare.
Decide who will plan the event. Will a steering committee or the principal head the effort? Clearly define roles and responsibilities and set up a communication and accountability system.
Select a date carefully. Check your school calendar and make sure no other events are scheduled at feeder schools that would force parents to choose which event to attend. Don’t forget to consider other popular community activities and events.
Be sure to inform parents about the open house well in advance through a carefully thought out publicity campaign. Make sure you post the information on your website and social media channels.
Prepare Faculty and Staff
The first impression is a lasting impression, so it is important to make a good one at your back to school or open house event. Make sure your teachers and staff members are ready.
Faculty and staff members are crucial to the open house, and principals must prepare them well. Distribute a memo that clearly states expectations and assigns responsibilities a week before the open house. Memo items should include displays, classroom appearance, early arrival, presentation, and demeanor.
When preparing for your school’s open house, tour your school building through the eyes of a parent. Imagine you are seeing it for the very first time. Does your school have a welcoming presence? Is it bright and inviting? Are your hallways and restrooms clean? Are your classrooms colorful and reflective of students work?
Parents want to see a nice organized school building with friendly and welcoming teachers and staff. They want to feel comfortable with the space that they will be sending their child to each and every day. It’s important to make sure your school not only looks nice but also that your staff is warm and friendly, especially in the main office.
Nurture Parent-Teacher Relationships
Parents are looking to gain a good understanding of what their child’s school year will be like, how issues will be communicated and handled, and what they can do to help ensure their child has a successful school year. Share ways they can be involved in their child’s education, how to volunteer, and where to get additional information. This is the perfect time to set the tone for parent communication and engagement for the school year.
Make Necessary Accommodations
Consider holding daytime and evening activities to accommodate your parents. Perhaps the daytime event could include a mini-tour of the school to show education in action.
Do you have a large population of parents that only speak a foreign language? Consider providing a translator to accommodate these families.
Make it welcoming
The little details scream welcome. Put up signs for designating parking, guides to the front entrance, signs showing the direction to classrooms, and people to greet visitors at the door.
Include them in the learning. Consider giving your visitors an opportunity to check out the technology, do a science experiment, or learn a new concept.
Involve the entire school family
– Don’t forget your support staff. Be sure to open that cafeteria and include the café staff, bus drivers, custodians, and the school secretarial staff. Bus safety, maintenance procedures, office procedures and nutrition of meals can be displayed and discussed
– Involve your students. Students are a valuable resource for a successful open house. They can direct parking and act as greeters and hallway chaperones to direct parents to meeting places and classrooms. Student behavior and demeanor are strong indicators of the school climate, so take the time to explain what is expected of them. Some schools have implemented student-led back to school nights, where students plan, prepare and run the entire event themselves.
– Make it fun and enjoyable. Don’t bore your parents. Remember, like yourself, they have
already put in a full day, so make any presentations fun, enjoyable, and brief. Provide classroom handouts or direct parents to a website with the details about school and classroom policies and highlight only the main points in your presentation. Consider sending them home with a thank you gift…perhaps a pencil or bookmark with your school mascot and name.
Plan ahead, foster a healthy school climate, prepare all participants and host a successful open house or back to school event that strengthens the relationship between the school, parents, and students. What do you do to prepare for back to school and open house nights? If you have any other ideas that you would like to share with readers, send them our way (email firstname.lastname@example.org), and we would be happy to add them to this post!