By Rachel H, Triad Smarty Pants and Guest Blogger Amy B
School days are just around the corner!
Most school systems in our area will be hosting Open Houses during the next two weeks. Even most preschools will have a “meet the teacher” day. Since I taught in the school system for a number of years, I have written a few words of advice to parents as they head out for the Open House nights. I also enlisted the help of my friend, Amy Beveridge, to give you some pointers on the Middle School and High School Open House evenings. Read below to get the skinny on upcoming Open Houses and add any of your own tips in the comments section…
For Preschool – Most schools will have individual times for parents and their children to come in and meet the teacher. You will usually have a short amount of time, so use these few minutes wisely! Most important issues will be written out by the teacher and he/she will probably give you a packet of information to take home.
The most important things to do at this time are to introduce your child to the teacher, let him/her get a feel for the classroom, and find out how you should handle the first week of school. (i.e. – Does the teacher like you to walk your child to the classroom door for the first few days? Should you always walk them to the door? Is it better to drop them off in the carpool line or let them walk in alone from the front door? Where should you pick up after school? What are the bathroom procedures? Does the child need to ask for permission to go, or can they just go when needed? Where is the bathroom located?) All of these are great questions for the beginning of the year.
Take the advice of the teacher. Most have been doing this for a long time and chances are that they have taught a child just like your own at one point in time. They will know what will work best as far as easing them into the school year. If you have any specific concerns about your child (anxiety, special needs, fears, learning disabilities, etc.) ask the teacher if this is a good time to discuss the issue or if you should schedule an appointment the following week. Remember that there is usually a parent waiting to come in immediately after you, so if your concern is warranted, you want to have plenty of time to discuss this at a later date.
On to Elementary School – the majority of schools have an Open House night where all the students and parents are invited together to come “meet the teacher”. Most times it is a “drop-in” type set up, so they will have many hand-outs and paperwork for you. (Take note that there will usually be a curriculum night within the next month or so where you can ask specific questions to the teacher and will also receive much more information on subjects taught. This is usually where they will have parents sit down in the classroom and have more of a “meeting” type format.)
If your child is in 3rd-5th grades, you may have more than one teacher to meet at Open House, so plan your time accordingly. You, along with the teachers can show your child where he will sit, and help him find his cubby, desk, or table. Show him what he will do when he enters the class on that first morning. (where to put bookbag, where to sit, etc.) Most of all have fun and show your child how much fun this school year will be! The teacher will guide you along, but keep in mind that there are an average of 25 other families there who want to meet the teacher as well, so here are a few of my Do’s and Don’ts.
*Ask the teacher if he/she prefers you to walk your child to the classroom, walk to the front door of the school, or drop off in the car-rider line if your child will not be riding the bus.
*Show your child the route they will take to get to their classroom from either the bus parking lot or the car drop-off.
*If your child will be going to a separate classroom for another subject, speech class or resource class, show your child where that classroom will be as well.
*Make sure the teacher has all your correct contact information and the information on how your child will be brought to school and taken home. (bus, car, carpool, after-school care, etc.)
*Introduce your child to the teacher and make sure your student knows how to shake hands and make eye contact.
*Sign up to volunteer in the class. Most teachers will have some sort of sign-up sheet out that evening. If you do not have a lot of extra time to offer, teachers love parents who will send in any type of supplies or goodies needed.
*Don’t spend more than a few minutes talking to the teacher. This is a quick hello, nice to meet you, move on time. Remember the 25 other families.
Your child may have special needs or concerns such as anxiety, fears, learning disabilities, etc. This is NOT the time to discuss. Tell the teacher you would like to schedule a meeting to get together with him or her and discuss these issues. Better yet – email the teacher and set up a meeting time at that point. Believe me – the teacher definitely wants to know anything like this that may be going on with your child. The teacher always has the student’s best interests at heart. Although, discussing these issues on Open House night will not prove beneficial and it is difficult for the teacher to keep all the conversations from that evening straight! If it is a major issue like a severe peanut allergy, be sure the teacher knows about this prior to the first day of school.
*If you know the teacher personally or have had a student in his/her class in the past, don’t get caught up chatting. It’s easy to do because teachers are so incredibly awesome, but respect the fact that others would like to meet the teacher as well.
*One other idea for a child entering a new school is to take your student over to the school a few times during the summer to play on the playground, walk around the school and just talk about how fun the first day at the new school is going to be.
Middle School and High School Open House:
*Each middle and high school runs their Open House night differently. Some have a drop in at your convenience schedule, others have parents pick up their child’s class schedule and run bells like a normal day. Either way, both are equally important for you to put a name and face with who will be teaching your child this year.
*Teachers might be seeing up to 130 kids a night, plus their parents, families, little brothers and sisters. Use the time you have with the teacher to put name and face with the class and to gain all contact information. If the teacher has a handout about the class or list of supplies, make sure you grab one of those. Another idea is to leave your contact information with the teacher—better to have the information straight from the parent and not the student.
*Open House is NOT the time to address special concerns of your child. Teachers will be more receptive to listen and even remember your information when you contact them one on one. Usually the most effective way to contact high school & middle school teachers would be through email, so make sure you have their correct address (and even webpage address) on hand. If needed, set up a parent conference before school starts if you have specific concerns that you’d like to discuss with your child’s teachers.
Other tips for HS and MS:
*Bring your school supplies, don’t forget your own pen and paper for the night.
*There are **BIG** changes this year with high school schedules. The seven period class day and four period class days are combined for a new hybrid schedule. Your child might have three 45 minutes classes that last all year and then two 90 minute classes per semester. Ask questions and make sure you understand what works best for your child since classes are randomly assigned.
*Check the class levels! This seems to be the most common error. If your child struggles in English, but you find that they were incorrectly placed in honors English class by mistake, it’s best to change the schedule BEFORE school starts. Most students are reluctant to change after classes begin and they find out how many friends are in their class!
*If your child is embarrassed to hang with Mom and Dad for Open House — AS IF — don’t worry, feel free to run the schedule by yourself. They’ll receive all the information again on the first day.
*Open House also provides info on bus routes, and for high school you can find out about parking–you can even buy your child’s parking sticker that night (over $100!!)
*Check into traffic patterns–where the buses drop off at school, where you’d pick up your child after school and if your teen will be driving, make sure they know where the parking entrances are located, policies for campus parking and routines.
*Ask if the teacher updates their webpage, that way you can keep up with assignments with your student.
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Thank you, thank you, thank you! These are terrific!
From a fellow teacher – these tips are great. Thanks for letting parents know the main reasons we host open houses. And yes, we always want to hear about special concerns with children, but during the open house is definitely too crazy of a time to approach any of those subjects. Schedule an appointment at a later date. I also think the part about asking the teacher his preference on whether or not you should walk the child to the classroom is very important. Most teachers really want you to build your child's independence by NOT doing this. But for the first few days it is not usually an issue. Just check with your specific teacher.
Thanks for taking the time to put this together!