It's that time of year again: time to head back to school! So, what is back-to-school night? Do you have to attend? Discover the answers to your questions and more. Get the details on what you'll learn, how to be prepared, and activities you might participate in.
What Is Back-to-School Night?
Most schools offer a back-to-school night for parents of the children in their district. It allows parents to connect with the different teachers, aides, and administrators within their child's school. A back-to-school night is offered in elementary, middle, and high school. The setup of the night might be different for elementary and high school, but most provide the same information, including rules, curriculum, schedules, etc.
Back to School Night vs. Open House
A back-to-school night is generally the same as an open house. It's just a different name for the same type of event. It's an open time for all students' parents to meet with the people who work within their child's school and school district. It's not a private conference, however. Therefore, you aren't going to get one-on-one time with the teacher to discuss your specific child. It's a time for parents and children to meet and connect with teachers, administrators, and staff.
Is Back-to-School Night Mandatory?
Parents are not mandated to attend a back-to-school night, but attendance is highly recommended. Often, there is a presentation as well as important handouts containing information that is pivotal for starting school. For example, you can get basic flyers detailing the school calendar year schedule and holidays, emergency contacts, bus schedules, and more. For older students, you also learn their class schedule and locker assignments.
When and Where Is Back-to-School Night?
The timeline for a back-to-school night varies by school. They are typically offered in the early evening on a weekday, so most parents can attend. They are also scheduled either the week before school begins or during the first week of school. Generally, they run about an hour long.
Typically, the night starts in the gym or auditorium, where principals and other administrators introduce themselves and discuss general school information. You are then separated into groups to meet your children's teacher or teachers.
Why You Might Want to Attend Back-to-School Night
When the flyer for back-to-school night arrives in your email inbox or with the mail, you might roll your eyes or sigh. It's just another thing you have to fit into your already hectic schedule. But there are a few reasons you might not want to miss this vital school ritual.
Meet the Teacher
Unless you've been in the school system for quite some time and have multiple children, you might not know every teacher in your district. A few days to weeks before school begins or the prior year, you will get a teacher or multiple teacher assignments for your child. Back-to-school night is your chance to meet the teacher and learn a bit more about them. You can also exchange email addresses. Teachers provide a form for you to fill out about your child. This helps the teacher get to know them a bit more. They also offer handouts with their contact information for you to have for your records.
Learn the Rules
On back-to-school night you may learn the basic rules and information for the classroom and school. Many teachers provide a clear overview of classroom rules, from homework to discipline policies. Some teachers might even provide you with a handout for you to sign. For middle and high school, you might get a presentation from the principal discussing the overall school rules and guidelines in the student handbook.
Curriculum and Schedule
Private and public school systems have a primary curriculum they adopt, but each teacher offers a unique take on their teaching style and approach. This is the night for you to learn how they run their classroom, discover the different teaching tools they use, and get tips for helping your child at home. For example, elementary teachers might review their homework packets, reading requirements, and more. In a high school back-to-school night, you'll get an understanding of homework and late work policies the teacher adopts.
Visiting the Classroom
One of the advantages of back-to-school night is the ability to visit the classroom. You'll be able to see where your child sits, the resources available in the classroom, different modifications the teachers use, and the overall basic setup. It allows you to see the world from your child's point of view.
Sign Up for Volunteer Work
Teachers want you to get involved in your children's learning. You can typically find a volunteer sign-up sheet for everything from snacks to helping on field trips. You can also provide the teachers with your schedule, so they know which parents are available to volunteer at different times.
Meet Other Parents
You don't just meet teachers; you meet other parents too. It can help you connect with the parents of your children's friends and exchange contact information. You'll also get a glimpse of the other parents you might be working and volunteering with during the rest of the school year.
Tips for Getting the Most From Back-to-School Night
A school orientation night can be hectic. There are a lot of parents trying to navigate the school. Having a bit of strategy and being prepared can ensure you make the most of your time.
Many teachers and administrators will give you a quick presentation covering the essential rules. Writing down important information like email and conference hours can save you an email later.
Once a presentation is finished, teachers and admin typically open the floor to parents for questions. Ask anything they didn't cover. It's important to know:
- Make-up and late work policies
- Attendance and tardy policies
- Where to check progress or school grade systems
- Discipline procedures
- Homework expectations
- Parent involvement expectations
- Procedures for students that struggle
- Field trips or other special educational learning
Bring Your Kids
Unless the back-to-school night is strictly for parents, bring your children. Allow them to meet and interact with their teacher. And they can put a face to the name. It might help to lessen their anxiety about the coming school year. They can also connect with the kids who will be in their class.
Unless you have an only child, you typically have a few teachers you need to meet. Make sure to meet teachers you haven't met through your other children. For example, if your high schooler had the same elementary teacher, you have an idea of how they run their classroom, so you can opt to meet with the high school teachers. You might also divide the children. For example, one parent might visit the elementary school teacher, while the other visits the middle school teacher. Be strategic to make the best use of your time and cover the most ground.
Help the Teacher Know Your Child
Personalized questions about your child or behavior are better left to an email or one-on-one conference, since many people are competing for the teacher's attention. However, you can provide the teacher with a little note about your child. Many teachers might ask about this in the form, but you can come prepared with a well-thought-out description. Make sure to note fun things they like, their interests, allergies, behavior issues, etc. This can help the teacher get to know your kid before the year starts.
Are There Activities?
Some orientation nights are strictly for parents, while others invite both parents and students to attend. Some schools try to make back-to-school nights fun by providing different activities for attendees. For example, teachers might set up a series of stations that parents and students go through to get the forms and learn about the class. They might also have a little craft, scavenger hunts, bingo games, etc. It just depends on the school and the teacher.
Back-to-School Night Done Right
Back-to-school night is an excellent way for you to learn more about the school, curriculum, rules, and staff that will accompany your child for the next school year. It also gives you a little glimpse into their classroom life. While it might be hard to fit it into your schedule, it's definitely worth it. Plus, it's a good way for you to bond with teachers and get your kiddos excited about school.