New backpacks are getting worn in.
The new shoes are a bit scuffed.
The mounds of paperwork are flowing in, your hand is probably tired from signing your name so much.
Right in the middle of the pile of paperwork is the notice for this year’s Open House.
Ok, don’t panic. This is a different year, new teacher and you have a new opportunity to get a new game plan for this year’s Open House.
This year’s open house is extra important to us because this is Tween Girl’s last year of elementary school. We want to be aware of things happening in the classroom that may prepare us for middle school next year. Studies show that parental involvement decreases once a child reaches high school. The tween years are already a roller coaster ride, so we want to make sure that we are showing Tween Girl that we will remain an advocate for her when it comes to not only her well-being but her education as well and open house is a great kick off to show her that.
Now, in the past, you may have treated open houses like an informational where the teacher does all of the talking and tricks you into signing up to volunteer for the Fall Festival. Or a time for you to show up and sign more papers and look at some of the work your child has completed during the first few weeks of school.
But isn’t that the purpose of Open House?
Yes and no.
Most teachers will tell you a different side of the purpose of an open house.
In my preparation for Tween Girl’s open house, I reached out to a few teachers just to pick their brains about how parents can get the most from open house. Their responses are not shocking or too much to ask. Really just simple and practical things we can ask or discuss, things that we may already know to ask or just have forgotten to do so.
Before the big evening, get your game plan ready of what to ask and what to discuss. Not sure what to talk about? Here are some ideas:
Routines and Rituals
No, this does not involve witchcraft or sorcery. These come in the form of the process for turning in homework, class schedules for things such as gym, art or music, or the types of curriculum that will be used for the year. According to one teacher, teachers love to explain the classroom rituals and routines. This is especially worthy of knowing for us because it gives us a head start on teaching Tween Girl better organizational skills for middle school next year.
Best ways to stay in contact
Hopefully, you’ve filled out the emergency contact sheet (remember that big pile of paperwork your kid brought home on the first day?). If so, you’ve given the teacher and the school the best way to contact you now you need to know which method is best when contacting him/her. That will either be email, the class website or apps like Edmodo or ClassDojo. This is a great practice to start now before middle school because the teachers’ time will become even more limited because of the numerous classes/students they must manage.
Sorry, but I had to include this one. I know, it makes me cringe as well but studies do show that when a parent is active in their child’s school, the child is more likely to attend school regularly, earn higher grades and have better social skills. Many parents contribute by being the classroom parent, the chairperson for classroom parties or festivals. There are parents who “volunteer” by sending in classroom supplies (yes, believe it or not, they do run out of glue sticks!) or snacks. Edutopia has some great advice on how working parents can volunteer. My advice here is to be honest about the amount of time you can dedicate to volunteering at the school. Many times, parents who work outside of the home feel guilty because their time is very limited during the day. Let your child’s teacher know your work schedule and offer to help in nonconventional ways. Many teachers appreciate this and see that you are committed to helping.
Ways to enhance learning at home
Ask the teacher if they have any recommendations of websites, books, apps or other ways that you can help your child at home. Again, enhancing learning at home can open the gate to testing the waters with middle school subjects.
No discussions of your child’s individual needs
Open house is not the place for each parent to voice concerns about their child’s individual needs. Of course, the teacher wants to know these things, just not at open house. This type of discussion is best reserved for a 1:1 conference between the teacher and parent. Keep in mind, the teacher;s time is limited and he/she probably has a script ready for open house because they so much information to cram into such a short amount of time.
The fact that you’re showing up for open house speaks volumes to teachers. It’s one of the first steps a parent can take to show that they care about their child’s learning environment and that they are there to help make sure it’s great.
Open house is only one night but don’t let that stop you from communicating with the teacher and school year round. After all, you’re the parent of a tween. Once they hit middle school, you will be interacting with a multitude of teacher’s with varying needs. Open house is one way to get some practice for what’s to come.
How do you engage with your child’s school and teacher(s)?