What parents need to know about my classroom on back-to-school night

I’m writing this post for entirely selfish purposes.

Tonight is back-to-school night, and I need to get my head around what I want to say. Things are different in my classroom this year in some pretty significant ways. I’m all workshop (finally!). I’m not giving them grades until the end of the semester (now for the 4th semester–read about my gradeless journey here). I’m on Schoology for the first time.

So that’s my list I think of what I need to share with parents in the ten minutes I get with each group (parents run through a mini-version of their child’s schedule). But what do I want to say about these things?

  1. Resources: I’ll show parents how to find resources and information about my class–on my school webpage that parents have access to (including this document that I’ve written just for parents).
  2. Grades: I’ll refer them to this document on my school webpage and talk about why I don’t put grades on individual assignments but focus on feedback instead.
  3. Schoology: I’ll show them the Schoology page for their student’s class and point out where the critical resources are (like where to find info on assignments and where to go to see what happened in class if absent). I’ll invite them to ask their student to take them on a tour and let them know that I can get them parent access codes for the course if they want to have their own direct access.
  4. Workshop: I don’t have a huge amount of time for all of this information, so I need to figure out what one bit of info will give the parents the best vision of what this means. I think the portfolio is the answer (freshmen, seniors) because this will help me to communicate that students have lots of choices about their work but it’s all held together by the what the portfolio will ask them to have completed by the end of the semester.
  5. Reading: I’ll tell parents that they should expect their students to always have a book going for my class. Right now the seniors are reading Into the Wild. Right now the freshmen are reading choice books.
  6. Flexible attendance: This is an issue for my seniors only, but in a few weeks we will move to our flexible attendance model where Fridays are optional for students who are totally on top of their work. We’ve been doing this for several years and have found it helps us to better differentiate the course for our students. What I need to tell parents is why we do the flexible attendance thing and that it’s perfectly fine for them to check the box on the parent letter that says “no, I do not want my student to have the option to attend on optional days,” no matter what their child says.

And this goes without saying but I always start by telling them how awesome their children and how much fun I’m having already getting to know them. And I always end with an invitation to keep in touch and information about how to get in contact with me.

How do you spend your 10 minutes with parents on back-to-school night?

This entry was posted in grading, not grading, presenting, relationship, teaching, technology, workshop teaching. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What parents need to know about my classroom on back-to-school night

  1. Susan Stensrud says:

    I believe that most parents need to learn two things from teachers at back to school night; they want to know their kids are happy and safe in our classes and where to find the homework. I try to cover these topics first

    • Sarah M. Zerwin says:

      Absolutely. It has been so interesting for me to attend my kid’s back-to-school night in middle school, which runs on the same format we use. These are indeed the things that I find myself wanting as a parent in those presentations. Thanks for reading the blog, Susan!

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