13 Open House nights at 6 different schools, and it’s basically the same routine: 2 hours in the middle of the week on a school night, to come “meet the teacher” which actually means being rushed through a student’s schedule, complete with bells and passing periods (to understand what a student experiences—even though at some point most parents have been students with a schedule), and around 10 minutes to “visit” with a teacher who may or may not have other parents/guardians in the room.
Being completely honest: I’m not a fan of Open House/Meet the Teacher Night. It doesn’t actually allow for very meaningful conversations to truly happen, and I think it’s perfectly understandable why attendance is low when Open House is held on a school night. As teachers, we are usually just coming off a long day of teaching a set of still-new-to-us students. On the same note, most parents/guardians are either just getting off work, taking time off work, or dealing with finding a babysitter. Is this kind of meeting really convenient for teachers or parents?
Something I realized after tonight’s Open House is how happy I was to see my former students and their parents, and be able to (quickly) tell them how proud I am of them and how much they’ve grown since they’ve been in my class. Isn’t THAT what building a stronger school community is about? Building and MAINTAINING relationships? Not just when a kid is in your class but for the years after as well? But of course I only got to see a couple of former students because they were too busy following their new schedule that no longer includes my class.
A couple of weeks ago, I emailed my administrators about doing Open House differently next year and hope that changes are considered, because I knew it was too late to change things for this year. Still, I at least tried to do things differently in my own classroom:
Instead of trying to greet every parent/guardian at the door, I asked everyone to step in the room and sign in, grab an index card and explore the room if they’d like. Then I introduced myself and my student teacher, and brought their attention to our “Things We Read” and “Things We Write” table, and asked each student to find their writing to share with their parents.
This opened student-led conversations. My student teacher took this a step further by encouraging students to get their SSR book from the classroom library and talk about it as well.
Finally, I explained how reading and writing are essential components of our class, and I asked each parent/guardian to use their index card to write a note to their student. I asked them to remember what it was like to be a teenager in high school, and to write about what they struggled with the most as a sophomore. Then I asked them to close the note with words of encouragement. The students were NOT allowed to see the cards; we are taping them to the inside of their class folders and they have to wait to see them until tomorrow or Friday. I told them we’re doing this as a reminder to our students that even though they may feel overwhelmed this school year, they do have support. I was moved by some of the notes and can’t wait for the students to see them throughout the year:
I did ask some of the parents and students for suggestions on how “to do Open House”, and here are my favorites:
1) Have a dinner/snacks gathering of some sort either before, during, after. Make it causal.
2) Have it on a weekend and make it an open picnic or pot luck gathering. Teachers can wear specific school shirts and mingle with anyone and everyone.
3) THROW A BIG PARTY!
4) Have a pep rally for the parents; let them compete against teachers in a friendly game/competition.
5) Have it during PD week but ask that students/parents show up to help any and all teachers with room set up and prep.
Again, those were just some of my favorite ideas. I think Meeting the Teacher is critical but we’ve got to figure out a way to make it more meaningful for both parents and teachers. I’d be happy to hear anything that’s worked for your school!