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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

Want to Engage Parents? Flip Your Open House!

By Peter DeWitt — September 13, 2014 2 min read
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Open house can be a really intimidating process. There is so much new information to process. There are new people to meet. And new rules and regulations, or a review of the old ones that may have been forgotten. Not to mention the first day jitters of starting a brand new school year.

And that’s just for the teachers and principals!

Imagine how parents feel? Especially those parents who are new to the school community, or those who have their first child entering into school. They sometimes have a habit of walking in thinking that school is the same as it was when they were young...and in many cases it may be the same.

It’s often been said that, “You have one chance to make a first impression.” Too often principals stand in front of an audience of parents who attend open house and share the rules or introduce new teachers. One person with a microphone, while everyone sits in their chairs politely...and wait. They wait for the information to come that they need. Other more seasoned parents go through the motions because they have been through the same open house over and over again.

It’s the school version of Groundhog’s Day.

It seems as though Open House can be a very one sided experience. The principal talks while the parents listen...or just show up physically and float off into daydreaming mentally. Parents deserve more out of Open House because it is one of the most important events of the school year. It’s where school leaders can model how to engage with parents.

If school leaders and teachers have not experience Open House yet this year they can put a twist on the event by flipping the information out ahead of time. Whether its information about new state standards, anti-bullying legislation or something about branding your schools that you want...no...NEED to share with parents, try creating a short video to send the information home first, and let parents have time to digest it before they come to the meeting.

How to flip is really up to the person flipping. The whole point of it is to provide information before a meeting in order to dive down deeper during the meeting. The word “flip” sometimes makes educators want to roll their eyes because they believe it’s a gimmick but it’s really a viable way to communicate with parents and teachers, and can help create a more engaging school climate.

Here is how:

  • Write a short Word document covering the information you want to share with parents
  • Grab your tablet, laptop or iPad
  • Use a free app like Touchcast
  • Find a couple of engaging pictures (including students from school!)
  • Cut/paste the Word document into the teleprompter section of the video
  • Practice reading the teleprompter in an engaging way. Use your voice!
  • Cover two or three topics that are most important
  • Record the video
  • Upload it to YouTube
  • Write an e-mail to parents stating why you flipped the information and that you want them to engage in dialogue at the meeting. Give them homework!
  • Cut/paste the explanation in an e-mail
  • Include the link to the video
  • Engage in dialogue at open house

Try flipping information for Open House, and then move on to other important information parents need to know ahead of time. And have fun with it. School is about learning but it should also be fun.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.