Making the Most of Back to School Night
By now all kids are back to school and are getting the hang of this year’s new routine. Whether you have a 4-year-old or a 14-year-old, one child or three, it is important and worth your time to attend Back to School Night each year.
Your child will spend more time awake with teachers than with you at home! It is beneficial to place a face with a name so you know exactly who your child is talking about OR so you can ask your kiddo questions during your time together - especially if he or she is the type to respond “Nothing,” when you ask, “What did you do at school today?” Meeting your child’s teacher in person will give you an idea for the teacher’s personality and the style of the class. Attending Back to School Night will also give you a clear sense of expectations for the year, as opposed to getting it second hand from your child.
Here are a few tips for making the most of Back to School Night.
ARRIVE ON TIME
The world of education is very different compared to the business world! Educators’ lives and schedules are run by bells, so much so that they have scheduled times of when they can eat and use the restroom. Subsequently, if you miss five minutes, you miss a ton! If the school is not in walking distance to your home, be sure to leave enough time to find parking, as a good portion of your town will also be attending the same event. You won’t get a grade for being unprepared or late, but you do want to make a good impression!
Have your child’s schedule on hand or the notice from the building principal with the evening’s schedule. A schedule will not only inform you of the start time and where to go, but it will also inform you of where you can catch other teachers and educational specialists who may also work with your child. You will also want to have a notepad and pen, or have the notes app on your phone handy. Teachers will often share their contact information and important tidbits about their classes which you will want to remember.
MORE THAN ONE CHILD...
… in the same school? Have a plan! Whether everything is happening at the same time or the grade’s presentations are staggered, you want to try to not miss anything. Perhaps you have a spouse, partner, family member or friend who can attend the presentations for the other child. If this is the case, this person should be prepared with your name and email, in case the teacher asks for that information on a sign-in sheet. If you have no choice but to fly solo, make a decision on which child’s classes you will attend (perhaps based on upon the child’s age, academic or social-emotional needs) and mention it to your other child’s teachers, so they are aware. They may be able to provide information to you so that you still stay “in the know,” even if you were not able to attend. And if by chance you have twins or multiples… good luck! 😊 In all seriousness, let the teachers know. They will be sure to work with you!
REMEMBER IT IS NOT A CONFERENCE
While every school and district runs their Back to School Nights in a different manner, one thing is clear – Back to School Night differs from Parent-Teacher Conferences. During conferences you have a slated and uninterrupted time to discuss specific student concerns. During Back to School Night, the teacher shares general information to all parents at the same time. Consequently, this would not be the time to share or ask specific questions about your child’s needs. Be sure to email your child’s teacher to share important information or contact your child’s teachers to schedule a conference to address specific concerns you may have.
DON'T FORGET ABOUT "THE OTHER" EDUCATORS
The four core academic content areas are absolutely important, however, there are other teachers and specialists who get to know your child well! Don’t forget about the special or cycle teachers who teach areas such as art, music, computers and physical education. If your child has an IEP or 504, you may also want to stop by and say hello to your child’s Case Manager or School Counselor (click here to read on how School Counselors can help your child). Speech Therapists and Occupational Therapists are usually available as well. Although these specialists may not be your child’s main teacher, they spend a lot of time with them and provide your child with specific individualized attention.
BE RESPECTFUL OF THE EDUCATORS' TIME
Educators are such an integral part of your community that it may be very easy to forget that most may not live in your community. While your biggest challenge that evening may have been rushing to get home from work in efforts to find a parking spot at the school, teachers and educators’ biggest challenge is staying at the school after the sun goes down (for many past their bedtimes!), being away from their own families for an evening, and having to make the long drive back home. If you would like to introduce yourself and you noticed time is running out, a better option might be sending them an email the following day. This would make a long lasting impression instead of rushing at the end.
The next ten months are ones filled with learning, adventure and possibly challenges for your child, which may impact your household in some way. It is beneficial to build a partnership with the educators in your children’s lives; meeting them during Back to School Night is the first step to building a positive working relationship.
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Vanessa De Jesus Guzman is an Educator and Licensed Professional Counselor with nearly two decades of experience in working with children and families. She is the CEO of Free to Be Mindful - located in Ridgefield, NJ - which provides counseling and mindfulness education for kids, parents and educators.
Vanessa has been featured on the Today Show and is passionate about helping others Learn, Grow & Inspire… all with mindfulness in mind.