Preparing for Go-to-School Night
Go-to-School Night is one of the first and most powerful chances you have as a teacher to create a great first impression with the Ps & Gs* (parents and guardians) of your new class (or classes) of students. Often, this hectic, anxiety-filled night comes much earlier in the new school year than many teachers might like. Other teachers, however, are just happy to have this night in their rearview mirror as quickly as possible. Either way, it’s important to best use this night to kick off great relationships with these Ps & Gs for the year ahead.
To prepare for Go-to-School Night, consider these strategies for success:
- Know your basics and cover them.
- Create stations.
- Create handouts/takeaways for each station.
- Create a checklist/roadmap to help Ps & Gs navigate the stations.
Cover the Basics
For starters, be sure to cover the most critical basics.
- Have a clean an inviting classroom.
- Dress professionally; your appearance counts. Dress for this event as you would for an interview. Neat and well put together should be your goals.
- Showcase your teaching persona. (For more on this topic, check out our teaching persona and image posts: part 1 and part 2.)
- Organize your desk. Remember, Ps & Gs will be wandering all around your classroom. Consider the first impression your desk will make, too. Invest in some fresh desk accessories for this event. Check out Desk Set 1 and Desk Set 2 from teacherpeach.com.
- Don’t forget student desks. These will get close scrutiny. Spruce up the desks by buying new colorful pencils, an inexpensive way to set the scene for learning. Take a look at the Connect and Correct pencils or the Common Core Standards-focused Stuck? pencils. Ps & Gs will easily take notice of them on Go-to-School Night.
Organize Informational Stations
What kind of experience do you want Ps & Gs to have during your Go-to-School Night? Do you have a sense of their expectations? They may be anticipating a presentation-filled evening with minimal interaction; others might be hoping to speak with you directly about a particular issue related to their child. As much as Ps & Gs are invested in their child’s education, it’s also likely that many will come to your classroom after a long workday, without having had dinner, and still with a long list of to-dos after they leave you. Some might show up late or may only have a small window of time to spend at Go-to-School Night.
To showcase your creativity and to respect the time of those you are meeting, create stations throughout the room for Ps & Gs to browse at their own pace. Organize the stations in a logical manner. Have your students help you create signs or activities for these centers. Meanwhile, create a roadmap of your stations so your Ps & Gs can easily navigate the room and can quickly grasp your intent.
You can even create a digital slideshow or a video that runs on a loop so that you can give a virtual presentation to some Ps & Gs while still being able to mingle with other Ps & Gs. (You can literally be in two places at once!)
Create handouts with professional information about yourself, including contact info and availability times, that Ps & Gs can take with them. If you have a web page on the school’s website, that’s another great place to post your presentation for those Ps & Gs who cannot make it to Go-to-School Night.
Make Activity Stations
Create a digital slideshow presentation to describe your literacy and math centers or to showcase social studies and science approaches. Invite Ps & Gs to “be the student” and explore centers on their own. This allows Ps & Gs a chance to connect and introduce themselves to others and experience a taste of life in your classroom. Include handouts to show important benchmarks or the Common Core Standards that students will be learning. Provide strategies for Ps & Gs to use at home to improve their child’s progress in different content areas. Most Ps & Gs are eager to know how to help, what you expect of them, and where to find tools for their child.
A Perfect Time to Identify Volunteers
Directly asking for volunteers and/or donations from Ps & Gs is often the job of a designated room representative; if you do not have such a partner assigned for your class, consider making a sign-up sheet and a donations envelope. Even if you don’t have a room rep or assistant to help, many Ps & Gs are happy to take on a “job” and will be delighted to solicit the others on your behalf.
Go-to-School Night is the perfect time to line up volunteers for the entire year. Create a volunteer sign-up sheet. Be specific about when you may need volunteers for field trips or events as well as “general” volunteer availability. In addition, have a sign that lists/pictures materials the classroom still needs. You can include a big thank-you poster signed from all the kids, showing everyone’s appreciation in advance.
Managing Go-to-School Night
Work to develop positive relationships with your student’s families—a major goal of Go-to-School Night.
Greet Ps & Gs at the door. As Ps & Gs go through your room and/or stations, circulate the room, answering questions and providing feedback. Be approachable and welcoming.
Some Ps & Gs might try to monopolize your time. While their enthusiasm might be refreshing, Go-to-School Night is about brief introductions. Deeper conversations belong in separate meetings or conferences. So as not to offend Ps & Gs, have a sign-up sheet for in-depth discussions. Be sure your sign-up sheet has a section for Ps & Gs to record their preferred contact info, email, and topic of conversation.
Follow Up After Go-to-School Night
After Go-to-School Night, follow up and thank Ps & Gs for their time. This is a perfect way to leave a lasting first impression. Use the You Know Your Child and Partner Thank You Note Cards for this purpose.
These card sets not only have a striking design in vivid colors, they send positive messages. The inclusive wording of the messages makes these cards appropriate for guardians and other family members. Including a personal note would help underscore to Ps & Gs that you value their child and, like them, you will work to ensure their child’s educational growth, success, and overall well-being. Ps & Gs want to know that you, as the teacher helping to shape their child’s young viewpoint on the world, are truly on the same side and that together you can work as a unified team on each child’s behalf. This emphasis on a strong home-to-school partnership really sets the tone for a great year.
How do you plan for a successful Go-to-School Night? Share your ideas below. In addition to what you’ll find at teacherpeach.com, please let us know if there is a new product you think we could create to help get every school year off to its best possible start!
*NOTE: At Teacher Peach, we refrain from using the term “parents” because we recognize that there are so many diverse ways to create a family unit. Often, students go home to extended families, perhaps caregivers, grandparents, or other friends or relatives. We recognize that it is important for teachers to identify and welcome all of the adults who are important to each and every student.