Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School Night...Don't Be That Parent

Last year I attended my first Back to School Night (B2SN) from the other side of the desk.  It was for my daughter's pre-school and I hate to admit it, I became one of those parents who talked during the presentation.  (Full disclosure, I was talking out in the hallway, all the parents couldn't fit in the classroom).

For my friends who have children in middle school and above (or at least in a grade where they are no longer in a self-contained classroom and rotate through several academic teachers each day).  For the inside scoop of B2SN for elementary school, you would need to ask an elementary school teacher.

Here are the ins and outs of B2SN from a middle school teacher's perspective:

1) Teachers will filibuster the whole time frame.

Typical presentations are about 10 minutes long, and most teachers will talk the whole time.  We don't want questions.  Although most questions are innocuous and for clarification or information (What projects are you planning this year?  How much homework do you give?  etc.)  every so often though you have a parent that has a bone to pick, and sometimes its not necessarily something you can answer either because you don't have access to the information or it's confidential.  However, and its is thankfully VERY rare, some parents are out to make the teacher look bad.  You probably will not have time for questions.  If you have a legitimate question, just email the teacher.

2) B2SN is not Parent/Teacher Conferences

After my presentation, some parents will line up just to introduce themselves to me.  There is no problem with doing that and it is a nice gesture.  Just remember that I will probably shake the hands of over 100 parents that night so don't be upset if I run into you in the office a week later and don't remember who you are.

Don't ask me "Guess whose parent I am, my child looks just like me?"  I probably will fail that, I don't notice small details (my wife can confirm this as true).

But the big thing NEVER to do is use B2SN to have a conference about your kid.  First, with teaching over 150 students I am just finishing getting to know your child's name after 2 weeks, let alone their strengths and weaknesses.  Also, it is a little awkward to talk openly about your child with other parents all around and if I discuss your child, well, it will cause an avalanche effect as the next few parents will want to talk about their child as well.

My school announces over the intercom that B2SN over so parents get the hint and stop any spontaneous conferences.  My principal has even had to go rescue fellow teachers b/c of parents that won't leave.  DON'T BE THAT PARENT!  You will become fodder for discussions in the faculty lunch room.  Again, if you have a concern, email me.

3) It's the Social Event of the Month

Yes, you will see people you have not seen since the end of the Little League season.  Just do the teacher a favor, at least be seated by the bell, and keep your talking low.  I always wanted to address the parents talking during my presentation.  I should wait until its a parent I already have a good relationship with.  Giving them a "detention" could be fun.

4) What I will discuss.

I'm never quite sure what parents need to know, so I stick to what someone in my church who had kids in my school told me.  He said, "I just want to know who will be teaching my kids."

First, I will pass out an information sheet with all the minutia of the class (contact information, grading system, etc.)  Then I tell you a little history of who I am, why I'm a teacher, how long I have been teaching, my family etc.  I try to make the presentation enjoyable.  I have played the Theme to Welcome Back Kotter and The Who's "Who are You" in the background as I talked, I have had a student present to the parents who I am and how I teach (thank you Megan), and one year created a slide presentation in the old MTV "Pop Up Video" format (my students wouldn't get it, but I'm sure some of their parents did) After that I will tell you a little about the course, what we will be learning, and how I will go about educating your child.

I conclude with telling them they can reach me at the following phone number 24 hours a day, 867-5309, but they should ask for Jenny.

And I won't leave time for questions : )

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