Last night was Open House Night at my school.
For those of you thinking about entering the teaching profession, Open House is another one of those necessary parts of your job.
Every school holds their Open House differently, but basically it’s when parents come and walk through their students’ classrooms to meet the teachers and take a look at student work. There is a lot of hand shaking and smiling.
At my school, it starts at 6:00 p.m. and ends around 8:00 p.m. Other years, I’ve gone home at the end of school, then I’ve returned for Open House. This year, however, I stayed at school, and spent a few hours decorating my classroom with student work. It made for an especially long day.
I’ve been through quite a few of these events, so over the years, I’ve learned some things to help make Open House a little less stressful. I thought I’d share them here.
So, here are 10 ways to make Open House a success:
1. Have something that will keep the parent’s attention besides you. I like to have a PowerPoint slides show running on the television screen. I connect my computer to the TV, and loop the slide show so it runs by itself. I have a slide show with about 100 slides that have images relating to the topics we are learning in class. Other teachers have photos of their students at work on the slide show. The science teacher on my team has a small mini lab that parents can work on with the help of their students. The point is to give the parents something else to focus on instead of you. Parents can also watch the slide show while they’re waiting their turn to talk with you.
2. Have some soft music playing in the background. This is just added decoration to a room. It makes it a more pleasant, relaxing experience.
3. Don’t discuss grades. Some parents will want to know their child’s current grade in your class. They’ll want to know which assignment is missing or what they received on the last test. You don’t have time to look up grades or missing assignments. Tell them that they can set up an appointment with you later if they want to go over their student’s grades. Use the excuse that you don’t have the grade book with you. If you start with one parent, you’ll have to give all the parents a grade report, and that will make for a long night.
4. Make each conversation a positive one, even with the students who drive you crazy. I never like parents to leave my class thinking that their child is a bad kid (even if he/she is). I always make sure that the student’s strengths are highlighted in my conversations. All students have strengths. Here are a few quotes I like to use to put a positive spin on the student’s weaknesses: “He’s a little too social sometimes.” “He could spend some more time studying for tests.” “I know if she spent more time on the project, she would get a better grade.” It may be a struggle in some cases, but find the good in the student. Give the parent something positive to take away from Open House.
5. Have a project due a day or two before Open House. You want to be able to post current work around the room.
6. Have contact information written on the board. Put your email address or website address or phone number on the board so parents can contact you.
7. Bring water. You will get thirsty after talking to parent after parent. This is a big one. Trust me.
8. Have a sign in sheet. Giving extra credit to students who have their parents show up is a good incentive in some cases. A sign in sheet helps you keep track. I stopped using it a few years ago, because at my school, there is never a shortage of parents showing up.
9. Use Open House to ask for donations of classroom supplies. Have a wish list posted somewhere. Ask for anything and everything. You’ll be surprised how generous parents will be. I had a parent who owned an embroidery shop give me a great deal on t-shirts for my newspaper staff. This year, my school leadership club used Open House to raise money for the victims of the Japanese disaster. They raised a lot of money.
10. This one I left blank on purpose. I’d like for you to fill it in. What do you do to make Open House a success?
Open House can be a tiring affair, especially when you’ve been there since the morning like I was. I must admit, however, all that tiredness went away when parents told me how much their child was enjoying my class, and how appreciative they were for making this year their best year ever. Comment like those make Open House worth all the time and effort.
Thanks for reading. Hope it helps.
Photo by: http://www.flickr.com/photos/23929749@N03/