Student Achievement Opinion

Did You Know It Was Back to School Night?

By Starr Sackstein — September 19, 2014 2 min read
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The vertical team of English teachers are ready to go, 6th-12th grade teachers lined up with syllabi in hand excited to make connections with parents.

The room fills up with parents and we start to introduce ourselves. After each teacher has briefly said hello, we split the room up into grade levels for parents to get more personal and specific attention.

As our guests filter to the appropriate teacher, I sit eagerly, smile wide on my face, a neat pile of syllabi waiting to be shared. Sitting next to me are my 11th and 12th grade teaching colleagues also waiting expectantly.

And waiting.

And waiting.

Until the night is near over and not more than 5 parents attended for the entire upper classes.

Back to school night was supposed to be my opportunity to communicate to parents about the switch in grading systems and the many wonderful expectations I have for their children, but they didn’t come.

Although I understand the purpose of this important night for younger students, parents of older students just don’t find it useful after they’ve been in the same school for several years. At least that’s what I’m guessing or perhaps they visit with their younger children’s teachers.

So it got me to wondering, “what did we do wrong and more importantly how can we fix it?”

Perhaps the traditional back to school night isn’t appropriate for the parents of older kids. Perhaps we need to do it another way.

With the revelations that have come with flipped classrooms, maybe it’s time we flip back to school night. What I’m thinking I’m going to do is make a short video introducing myself to the parents of my seniors and juniors so that they can have a face with my name, as well as a personality. I’d like to tell them about each of our classes and the various ways they can be involved in their almost-adult-children’s learning.

Here’s what I’d like them to know:

  • That we are learning rigorous and exciting material that they are always encouraged to participate in.
  • Classes are challenging but supports are in place to ensure their children’s success
  • There will be a new kind of communication about grades in the classes. They can expect detailed explanations of their children’s learning, but not actual grade on assignments.
  • Risk taking is encouraged and rewarded in class. Being wrong is a part of that process, so it will be supported.
  • No homework will be given nightly, although long term assignments and projects will be given that sometimes may need time at home.
  • Reading is really important and they should encourage their children to read, but no logs are required.
  • We have class hashtags on Twitter that they can follow to see what kinds of material we are learning. They can feel free to post their own questions and pictures of what learning time looks like at home.
  • They are encouraged to read student blogs about reading and comment on them regularly to participate in conversations.
  • They can contact me about anything, at any time and the best ways to do that.
  • We are partners in their children’s success.

After I film this video, I’m going to post it to YouTube, tweet it out and then share it via email too. I’ll encourage my students to share it with their parents like I did the welcome letter at the beginning of the year.

Because let’s face it, parents are busy, I get it, but our ability to build a relationship to support their children is important too. Without judgement, I want to provide them with multiple opportunities to get involved and that’s just what I’m going to do.

How do you involve the parents of older students in your classes? Please share.

The opinions expressed in Work in Progress 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.