For many teachers, Go-to-School Night is stressful, exhausting, and nerve-wracking. While some veteran teachers know exactly how to craft an impeccable 90-minute experience for the important adults in the lives of their students, this one evening can be extremely draining for many new and seasoned teachers alike—and it’s on a school night! So, to help you get the best results from your Go-to-School Night, check out these Five Winning Strategies.
Strategy 1: First Impressions Work Both Ways
Most likely you will be meeting some families for the first time while others may be long-time families with whom you have a history from having taught an older sibling. To be sure you put your best foot forward, strive to make a strong first impression/new impression on new and familiar families alike. You will be spending more time each weekday with their child than they are. Be sure they see you as the confident professional that you are. While the dress code for your school may be relaxed, many teachers find they are better received when wearing a blazer, and generally sporting a more polished look—without being overdressed. Don’t forget that a few well-chosen accessories also send a strong, clear message. Check out Teacher Peach’s the “Because It’s All About the Kids” journal. It’s a great place to jot down notes and ideas from the families while communicating that their kids are your top priority.
Strategy 2: Your Image Begins at Hello
As was the case with your students, you have to remember and recognize many family member names and faces. You will need to greet many faces, each looking to you for recognition and awareness about their child. Because Go-to-School Night occurs so early in the school year, it can be tough to match new student names and faces with their family members. Prepare in advance simple name tags that list family members and student names. Place the name tags on a table so families see them as they enter your classroom. People value being expected. By doing the name tags ahead of time, you benefit in two ways: You’ll gain extra familiarity with the names and by controlling the tags, you can quickly scan the name tag to see the name. Use the “Teachers Only” set of retractable Sharpie® markers so you can see names from afar. Use capital and lowercase letters to help you spot names from a further distance. Be sure to set out some name tags and markers for extra, unexpected guests.
Strategy 3: Stress Your Priorities in Many Modalities
Just as some students learn better by listening and others thrive on visual cues or kinesthetic experiences, the same is true for many adults. Think about the range of experiences you want family members to have in your classroom—across a range of modalities. Consider what people will see, hear, notice, touch, and observe. While you may want them to focus on your Smartboard presentation, eyes will wander. Be sure you’ve looked at your room from many vantage points and listened from different places. Sit in the seats of various students around your room to get a sense of the focal points adults will encounter. Straighten bookcases, tack up signs, and remember that even the stickies on your desk will be read upside down, so keep confidential notes tucked away. To signal a student-centric environment, consider displaying some fun stress balls and other tactile materials for adults to play with during your talk. To spruce up your stress ball collection, check out these stress balls to help you stress your priorities to families.
Strategy 4: Your Turf, Their Children
You rule your classroom as the authority figure. However, many adults coming into your room on Go-to-School Night are used to being the bosses in their worlds. Bridge this gap by focusing on the common denominator: the kids. Family members want to see evidence of their student’s presence in your room. Be sure their student’s work is on display. If it is too early in the school year to display a lot of student work, hang a Welcome Poster for each student around your classroom on clothesline. If you’re looking for a place to start, check out Teacher Peach’s Welcome Kits—which come in sets customized for grades K–3. By adding a quick photo or self-portrait of each student, family members will immediately feel a greater connection to you.
Strategy 5: Anticipate Early Departures
While you may have orchestrated the perfect crescendo to your presentation, people—for various reasons—may not be able to stay the whole time or wait to speak with you personally at the end of the evening. To “close well,” send a personal, hand-written note. Be sure that when family members come in, they sign in. Collect and confirm current contact information. Sending an individual thank-you note can go a long way toward cementing your commitment to staying connected. If you can’t send one to every family, at least connect with anyone who left early, raised a specific point, or asked a question. Stress your willingness to connect during the school year by enclosing a slip of paper with your contact info and meeting times/process. Check out these cards from Teacher Peach that underscore the connection between you and family members—for all sorts of family units. These cards showcase your recognition of the powerful role that families play in the plans for success for each of your students.
What are your special tips and ideas for creating a great Go-to-School Night? Let us know below. Check out all of the great products at teacherpeach.com, designed to make any Go-to-School Night just a bit more special—for you and your students.
Need more strategies for Go-to-School Night? Check out these posts: