There is an adage, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” This could never be truer than on the parents night most schools sponsor during the first weeks of a new term.
Your job as principal is much more than making sure the cookies and punch arrive; you should focus on getting your school—especially the teaching staff—off to a great start. This is important for all teachers but even more so for first-year teachers. Schedule a “sit down” with new teachers—and many of the experienced staff—to go over plans for parents night, what they intend to say to parents, and how they intend to conduct themselves during the time they have to make a good first impression.
Following are some starting points for these conversations with your teachers:
- Make sure you are professionally dressed and your classroom is impeccable.
- There should be twice as many chairs in place as students.
- Meet parents at the door of your classroom rather than waiting until all have filed in, sat down, and been called to order.
- Go over the basics of a good handshake and eye contact.
- Do your best to connect parents with their student. Show you already know their child as an individual. For example, “Right, right. You’re Janie’s folks. You went to Yellowstone this summer. She was telling me all about the geysers and your trip.”
- Once everyone is seated, reintroduce yourself and clearly go over your contact information, stressing how important communication is for you to help each child.
- Skip going over the classroom rules. The litany of “thou shalt” and “thou shalt not” is a negative start to what needs to be a very positive, personal, and interactive experience. Rules such as lunch accounts, absences, and tardiness, as well as the list of needed school supplies, can be combined in professionally-prepared packets and handed out as parents leave the classroom or building.
- Go over the positive things you want to achieve with their child this year. Focus on the singular. For example, “During this year, your child is going to have wonderful opportunities to explore new worlds in science [math, history, etc.] by learning about [x, y, z].” Some exciting displays here can work wonders.
- Commit yourself to a few promises to keep with parents. These promises should focus on how you will relate with their child. For example, “I promise to communicate with you about your child’s progress at least once a week” or “I promise to devote myself to your child’s understanding of the complex, fun material we’ll be covering this year.”
- Conversely, ask parents to make some promises to you. For example, “Will you promise to keep me informed about anything that happens that might interfere with your child’s learning?” or “Can I get a promise you’ll do your best to ensure your child attends school every day?” Take some time to get buy-in here.
- Stop frequently for questions. At the same time, ask questions to check for comprehension.
- Practice good classroom teaching movement and management by moving about the room, addressing questions throughout. As the time for the meeting’s end nears, position yourself once again at the classroom door to shake hands and thank each parent for coming.
Those are the kinds of things teachers should do during parents night. What should the principal do?
- Make a last-minute check to ensure the building is in top shape prior to parents’ arrival.
- In the days before parents night, visit with all the new teachers about their plans for the night. If possible, visit with more experienced staff as well.
- Once the initial rush of incoming parents is over and the general welcome is finished, many principals retire to the office to catch up on paperwork. Skip that tendency. Instead, head out into the building to look in on classrooms, check how things are going, help parents find rooms, visit, and answer questions. Have positive body language throughout.
- Once again, as the time nears for the end of parents night, position yourself to meet parents, shake hands, and thank as many people as possible for coming.
- Overall, be seen and be welcoming.
Article taken from NorthStar for Principals.
Original title: “Building Walk: You Never Get a Second Chance: Preparing for Parents Night”
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