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A Back to School night is like having a fish on the line…you can either reel it on, or let it get away. At Back to School events, your families are there. They want to learn, they are hopeful their child will succeed, and they want to be involved in supporting that success.

At the end of the day, the goal of a Back to School night or Open House is not to communicate all the rules and procedures, but to open the lines of communication and begin to establish an equal partnership between home and school.

That’s why it’s so important to take the time to really think through what you say and what you do at your Back to School Event.

Here are some of my “dos” and “don’ts” for back to school nights:



Just hold one event.
Offer a couple of times that parents can come by in the evening and during the day. And, add a virtual option for parents who simply can’t physically make it into your building. And, remember to record your virtual back to school night for parents or caregivers who need to participate on their own time.
Make it an “all school” event.
Consider holding a back to school event or open house for each grade level. This will help parents with several children.
Record an automated phone call about the event.
Send handwritten notes inviting families.
Involve just school staff.
Invite other parents to serve as greeters or mentors for families new to the school. Provide interpreters if necessary. Give families a chance to talk with each other by sitting them at tables and providing an “ice breaker.” This will help you create a sense of community and belonging for parents. Or, break your parents up into smaller groups and consider having them put together questions they have about the school or your class.
Do all the talking.
Spend time listening. Ask parents to talk about their favorite teachers or ask them to fill out a short questionnaire with information about their child. This will help you get to know your students, and this will help parents feel that their knowledge and input is valuable to you. You may want to even acknowledge the expertise parents have by saying "You are the expert in your child and I need that expertise to help your child be successful."
Make a long presentation.
Be mindful to keep whatever presentation you make short, to the point and as engaging as possible. You’re not there to “teach” parents, you’re there to make a good first impression for the relationship you’re building.
Go over all the rules. expectations, and regulations.
Cover the basics, and send the rest home in a very short well-written handout. Instead, think about doing a mini demonstration of a lesson or share a bit about why you got into teaching. For help on crafting a short handout, download my playbook.
Just say “goodbye.”
This is the most important part of the back to school night so be intentional about opening the lines of communication by explaining how you will stay in touch with families and how they can contact you.

The most important thing you can communicate at a Back to School night or Open House is that you value your families. Think about it, at the end of the day, your families may not remember all the rules, facts about your life, or even the lesson you taught…what they’ll remember is that you made them feel welcomed and respected. That can help keep them coming back throughout the school year. If you’re interested in improving the way you reach out, welcome, and communicate with families, let me know.

I’d love to share my experiences in family engagement and communication with you or your team. Download my free playbook or sign up for your free consultation.

Patricia Weinzapfel

Author, Educator, Journalist & K12 Communications Expert

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