When it comes to your Back to School Night or Open House, first impressions can make your school year a LOT easier. Meeting parents and students can be daunting if you are a newer teacher, but here are five ways to rock your classroom open house.
Have Your Space in Some Sort of Order in Time for Classroom Open House
I know that if you’re a new teacher, you’ve probably been Pinteresting classroom décor ideas since you were a student teacher. You may have been in your room all summer as soon as the floor wax dried pulling it together. However, if you were just hired a week or a day before Open House, creating a room for your students in a time crunch can induce panic, migraines, and all sorts of other weird symptoms.
If you’re in a situation where you have 24 hours or less, cover the bulletin boards with paper and some border and go. Don’t worry about finishing them. Put a little “Reserved for Amazing Student Work” sign on them, and relish your done-ness. If you don’t even have time for that, your school probably has volunteers, assistants, and other kind people willing to jump in on your behalf and do whatever you need. Ask for help!
A relatively organized space will make both you and your families feel comfortable at your Back-to-School Night.
How to Decorate Cheaply and Quickly for Open House
If you don’t have ANYTHING to decorate your room, run to Dollar Tree. Check the teacher area, of course, but I find the best junk from the party section. They should still have their summer stock left. Get a few inflatable parrots and some fringy banners and make your room into a cheap luau. Cut leis apart and you have a cute flowery bulletin board border. 24 hours? 20 bucks? No problem.
Have time and need to order online? Here are my affiliate links for some cool summer themed Dollar Tree stuff. I may make a small commission if you purchase through my links, but you won’t pay a penny more.
- Banners for your walls
- Leis for bulletin board border or banners
- Inflatable luau party critters
- Beach Back Drop for family photo ops OR to just cover the wall until you can get posters
- Cute Things to Hang from the Ceiling or on Your Walls
Leave Clear Instructions
Let your families know where things are in your room. Do you want them to sign up to volunteer? Mark the location of the sign-up sheet clearly, and leave a few pens beside it. What fees do you need to collect? Display the amount and directions on how parents should pay. Do you need packets of information signed? Post a checklist. Do you have a place for school supplies? Let parents know where to drop them off.
You can create your instructions with colorful markers on your whiteboard. You could also create a Power PointTM or Google SlidesTM presentation to project if you have the technology. Once you make this presentation, you can file it away. With a few changes, it will be ready to go for next year.
Organize Student Desks
If you’re district is like mine, parents have stacks of paperwork to sign on that first Classroom Open House or Back to School Night. When I visit my own children’s classrooms for the first time, it feels more like I’m applying for a home loan than getting my kid back in school.
The first thing I do is get students’ names on the desks, even if I only have time for a cute sticky note rather than a taped-down student desk tag. I like to pile the information on one side of the desk and the papers that need signing on the other. I leave a specific checklist on the desk of page numbers in manuals that need to be signed or of documents.
Consider Open House a Party of Sorts
I actually love this time of year. I enjoy meeting my new people, and I love it with my former students come visit with their younger siblings. To me, Back to School Night and Classroom Open House are fun parties. I find a playlist of steel drum instrumentals on Spotify and run it through my computer. Sometimes, I display a photo presentation from past groups I’ve had. I may also project an “all about me” slide. This sort of display will give families a picture of what to expect from me this year.
It’s important to me to make it a point to visit with every person that comes into the room equally. I don’t want a parent to sit alone filling out paperwork and not hear much from me. Parents, like some students, can be shy and uncomfortable in crowded social situations. While it’s good to give people space, don’t leave them out.
That said, there will be at least one parent who tries to have a conference with you right then. If you feel a conversation go this way, free yourself quickly so you can talk to other parents and students. Tell the talkative parent, “This information is very important to me, and I want to be able to give it the time and focus it needs. I would like to call you on ____________ day/tomorrow to hear more about it.” You could also schedule a conference for the following week after you spend a bit of time with the student.
This is a biggie! Our district directive is to call or meet with each parent during the first quarter. We also send newsletters home or display them on our class webpages. In the perfect world, you would have time to call each family before school starts to introduce yourself. In our world, that ain’t happening. I like to leave a personal note on each student’s desk when the families come in for Open House. That way, they have a little something to take home in the form of an encouraging message from you.
Check out my free notecards for back to school season here!
This is the single most important piece of advice I was ever given as a new teacher. You were chosen for this position because of your knowledge and the vibes you shared in your interview. Do you have a wicked sense of humor? Bring in jokes or silly puns to your parent presentation. Are you into writing? Make a poem for your new families and share it. If you’re a beach bum like me, give each kid a shell to decorate. Let your personality shine!
Before You Go
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