Last evening, I suffered through an hour and a half of a Back to School night for my 6th grade daughter. It is bad enough that the building is not air-conditioned and yesterday hit temps in the 90s, but the presentations were what made it almost unbearable. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve been there and done that with twenty-four of my own Back to School/Open House presentations. I never enjoyed doing them, but they were a contractual obligation. However, I can’t recall a single one in which I simply went over the “rules”. I always did an in-depth discussion of the curriculum.
The night was poorly attended. I had anticipated this, as I don’t remember any of my own evenings having more than six or seven parents from a class of thirty students. I only recognized a few faces from my daughter’s elementary school, which was always packed for each event the school held. Perhaps they have older children and knew they wouldn’t be missing much.
In every class we attended, there was ten minutes of an overview of the rules, how to access the teacher webpage, and how to contact the teacher. Then it was a five minute passing period to head to the next class. Not one of the teachers was able to get through their entire presentation in ten minutes. The most creative of the presentations was a Kahoot game consisting of the same information. In the best presentation, there was a two-minute overview the curriculum. In the worst, I couldn’t even begin to tell you what the teacher said, because I was too focused on counting the number of misspelled words that were written on the board. I left feeling a combination of dismay, anger, and sadness. However, I decided to approach the situation from an authentic challenge perspective.
How can we increase attendance at Back to School Night?
Here is what I propose:
- Stop with the PowerPoint presentations
- These only consist of the aforementioned information that is easily obtained on the school website or by simply reading the stacks of packets that come home in the first week of school!
- Move the night to later in the school year
- Ideally this would be around the end of the first marking period and would be scheduled approximately six to nine weeks after the start of the year.
- Allow involvement of your learners in the creation of the night
- Make this part of a homeroom/advisory authentic learning experience and have learners design the evening.
- Create a showcase of learning
- This is the perfect opportunity to provide a forum for student presentations of learning. This qualifies for what I call a non-stakeholder audience, but it gives learners a space and place to show off their accomplishments.
- This is what will help parents understand the curriculum, as they will see it firsthand!
- Disclaimer: This should not be a “research paper in disguise” set of presentations, but rather a showcase of the authentic challenges the learners have been empowered to solve.
I’d gladly put this type of a Back to School Night on my calendar for 2016!