Six steps for the working parent and all other parents to manage back to school night. It’s already happened and you’re either feeling pain for not having gone OR you went but . . . .

First, school districts don’t consult individual parents to ascertain what’s best for their schedule.

Second, with a rush of parents crowding the classroom, there’s not much benefit for the parent when it comes to learning the child’s function in the classroom.

Third, teachers, administrators and even custodians are on their best behavior. After all, the school is on display for visitors.

Here’s what you oughta do:
1) Make your own back to school appointment to visit the teacher(s). Be sure to have ready a full list of questions

2) Operate from a knowledge base as to what you expect, find out how the curriculum fits your expectations, and be ready, if necessary, to adjust accordingly.

3) Ask for and discuss school policies regarding appropriate dress, student cell phone usage, campus/playground security, bullying, truancy, suspensions, expulsions, parents visiting classrooms.

4) Make yourself known to administration: Principal, Vice Principal, cafeteria folk and the custodians.

5) While your contact information is on file at the school, make sure to emphasize to those you meet with that you want to hear from them. Provide best times for contact AND make sure to let them know evening is good for you.

6) Turn missing back to school night into your personal journey to your child’s school on a regular basis

The above are key ingredients for improving your child’s class performance, and it gets done without being part of the pack. It gets done without participating in an archaic tradition that needs to be abolished.

“I generally don’t attend back to school night but I work during the day, so why would you even suggest, I start making a daytime appointment at the school?”

                             When you have a dental appointment, what do you do?
When your child is sick, what do you do?
When there is a family emergency, what do you do?

Your child’s education is as crucial as dental work and health attention. Think of education as a true family emergency.

This Post Has 7 Comments

      1. Jean Troy

        No I usually was like yourself I made my prescence known way before back to school night. I would go if my little “darling” was part of the program otherwise I did one on ones.

  1. Laura Monteros

    Back to School Night isn’t intended for one-on-one with the teacher, but to simply present what goes on in the classroom and the teacher’s expectations–sort of like a syllabus. I always liked going and I don’t think it’s really archaic, but being in the school whenever you can is so very important for your child. For one thing, your child knows you care enough to make the effort. For another, teachers, administrators, and staff will make more of a connection with your child. It’s not that they think, “Oh, Ms. X came to school so I’d better be on my toes” but “Now I can put two and two together, and I know Ms. X is willing to work with me to educate her child.”

    1. Shirlee Smith

      Great perspective Ms Monteros and I’m sure there’s many who see things as you do. I hope we’ll also hear from some of those teachers who complain year after year about the “special night” and I hope we’ll hear from some of the many parents who don’t find going to be a good thing OR hear from some of those parents who have never been.

      Thanks much for adding your voice to the discussion!

  2. Thelma T. Reyna

    Hi, Shirlee. You wisely state in the article above: “When you have a dental appointment, what do you do? When your child is sick, what do you do? When there is a family emergency, what do you do?
    Your child’s education is as crucial as dental work and health attention. Think of education as a true family emergency.”

    Very, very true and vital! Parental involvement in schools has been shown in much scientific research to be one of the most critical factors in children’s academic success! My daughter, who lives in Chicago, sends her two children to a public magnet school in her neighborhood. This school is highly diverse, does not have budgets bigger than the many low-performing schools in Chicago, but it does have INTENSIVE PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT ON ANY GIVEN DAY. Parents volunteer on the playground, on the athletic field, in classrooms, as well as serve on Principal Advisory Committees, fundraising programs, etc. Their school, The La Salle Language Academy (a PUBLIC SCHOOL), was just named a National Blue Ribbon School, one of only 355 in the entire nation of almost 100.000 schools! Parental involvement is critical in our schools! Keep spreading the word, Shirlee, and thanks for always being such a staunch education and child advocate.

  3. Bill Allen, Jr.

    Dear Shirlee,

    Once again, your blog is outstanding! Laura was correct, Back-to-School Night it NOT for one-on-one consultations or meetings between parent(s)and teacher. Conscientious and hard-working educators will have a detailed course-content syllabus; titles and displays of books, periodicals or other learning tools that are to be utilized; units of curriculum; diagnostic testing tools for the subject nature; different test formats that have been or will be used; grading scales; and differential aptitude approaches to help ensure potential success for all students at varying learning modality levels within the same class. For future individual parent-teacher conferences, the teacher should provide the necessary contact information and tell parents what they wish for the parents to bring for a meeting.
    Usually Back-to-School Night is a “Dog and Pony” Show; which serves as the “best foot forward P.R.” community evening for the school. Astute and exemplary teachers will know what to “REALLY PROVIDE” for parents/family/guardians—-so that they (parents) will feel truly informed, emotionally comfortable that their child is in “good hands” of getting a “functional”/advanced education, and communicative/open enough to want to plan for other appointments. By staying in communication with parents THROUGHOUT THE SEMESTER (and NOT simply for the “special night,” would more often than not…ensure a greater academic success / and a higher sense of self-esteem on the part of the students. Many times, Back-to-School Night felt as if it were an “obligatory sham” to good/great teachers.

    With all of the myriad of school shootings and tragedies on our school campuses throughout our nation; and the unfortunate numbers of children and youth attempting to murder parents, it is more than obvious that—-we are NOT succeeding in making our children / youth feel as if they are an important, needed, valued and “healthy fabric” in the “quilt of society.” Instead of “Back-to-School Night” we need to be having Town Hall Meetings to make strategic plans and have community mentors—-in truly helping and educating our students.
    “No one is born with skills.”
    —–Kenyan Proverb

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