Last year I attended my 58th open house presentation and the 58th is the one that has had the most lasting impact.
A Memorable Open House
The teacher welcomed each of us at the door, asking us which student was ours, and then mentioning something specific that she knew or appreciated about our child. I sat down after entering the room, assured she already knew my child was a devoted hockey player with a passion for science. Next, she introduced herself to the room as a coach, explaining she wasn’t an athletic coach, but since she always desired to be one she asked the students to call her “Coach”. I found this title to be an acknowledgement of the fact that she saw herself as an academic coach or someone who supported students in solving problems on their own and honing their academic skills. She continued her ten minute session with a chemical experiment. While she conducted this very interesting experiment, she explained how it related to: what the students were doing in class that week, what they were going to learn through the year (both content and skills), and why she believed chemistry was important to life outside of the classroom. In the last two minutes, she explained why she chose to teach chemistry and why she loved teaching sophomores. She concluded by offering her availability and support to us as a coach, a teacher, and parent. I left excited that my child was in her class and confident she had my student’s best interest at heart.
After attending the ten minute chemistry session (amidst 14 others that year alone), I asked myself, “what do parents and guardians want from Open House?” As an educator of twenty plus years and a mother of three, I set out to answer my own question.
Open House as an Elementary School Parent
As a parent of an elementary school student, I attend Open House yearning to know my precious baby (inevitably cuter, more intelligent, and more gifted than all other children to ever walk the earth) is in good hands all day, every day. Share your story, a piece of yourself, so I can rest assured that my child will thrive under your care. Tell me what I can do to support my child develop healthy learning habits.
Open House as a Middle School Parent
As a parent of a middle school student, whose natural spark is fading in the face of insecurities, I attend Open House in hopes of finding a partner, an ally. Let me in on your tricks of the trade. How do you ignite passion for learning, incite curiosity around your discipline and cultivate joy in your classroom? How do you get the tweens to talk to you and each other? How do you know if my tween’s insecurities are getting the better of him/her/them? Let me know you will reach out if something goes awry.
Open House as a High School Parent
As a parent of a high school student, I am overwhelmed! I want so many things for my semi-adult baby who is now bigger than me. I want my teenager to be happy, to have positive relationships with his/her/their teachers, to have solid friends, to make good choices, to be interested in what they are learning, to do well in school, to care, to get into a good college or assume a lucrative job after high school, and the list goes on. Tell me what you want for my child in your class and as a high school student. Show me you have passion for your subject, compassion for my child, and an understanding that life is a balance.
Use Open House as an opportunity to build a positive connection between home and school. Foster an alliance with the parents and guardians in front of you by:
- sharing who you are, including your why,
- expressing your love for your students – let us know you have gotten to know them
- expressing gratitude for being entrusted with your students
- communicating your passion for your subject/grade level,
- allaying the fears and concerns of parents/guardians,
- requesting specific support be provided at home,
- articulating the importance of maintaining balance in life, and
- relaying your excitement for the year to come.
While it is important to convey the content students will learn, how they will be graded, and what they need to do to be successful, this information can be communicated on a syllabus, in a handout, or through an email prior to Open House and simply referred to during the Open House. Leave every parent knowing you are excited about teaching their child, confident about the work you do, and aware of the support you will provide.
Focusing on establishing a positive relationship with parents and guardians, ensures we will be on the same team.