QUESTION: My daughter is starting fourth grade at a new school this year and we want to make a good first impression at Back to School Night. What questions should we ask? Is it okay to meet with the teacher after the meeting or will that appear too needy?
First of all, I hope you are finding the decision you made regarding your school to be a good one. You and your daughter are probably feeling a range of emotions about the new environment, from nervousness to excitement to apprehension. Make sure to acknowledge those emotions in your own way. If you suppress them without talking about them as a family you run the risk of letting certain emotions build up and cause problems later on.
Next, I’m glad that you are deciding to go to Back to School Night. This is a critical opportunity that teachers take to communicate face-to-face with parents about many topics. You can expect to hear about curriculum choices and textbook programs the teacher is using. In addition the way the teacher will be assessing your child and using state or school standards to guide instruction will come up. Often, Room Parents will introduce themselves and ask for volunteers for upcoming events and field trips. This is a great way to take a step toward involvement with the other parents. Since you are new you may be walking into a community of families that have been together for several years, and you may be feeling a bit left out. Remember, it is up to you to help these other parents get to know you. Come a little early, smile and introduce yourself. Friendliness is your best tool in this situation. Finally, you may hear from administrators about state testing, fundraising, and other all-school topics since this is an ideal time to reach out to parents when they are invested and open to the work that lies ahead for the school year.
It’s a big night; one that both parents should attend. We all know that work schedules are hectic, but making time to bring your partner with you communicates that the FAMILY is on board with the program, not just one parent.
As far as questions, you should take notes during the presentations and record your questions as they come up rather than raise your hand and interrupt. Most schools don’t offer a huge amount of time for the actual presentation. As a teacher I like to take this time to inform my families of as much information as possible and answer questions via email, phone call, or appointment. If time permits, I am always happy to talk to parents after the group-talk, but often it’s a chance to introduce ourselves rather than get into lengthy conversations about a point or two that came up. So, check your questions and if they require a longer explanation, you probably should wait to ask it at another time. More than likely, you’ll get a much more focused and attentive teacher who can take time to discuss your questions rather than rush through them on the actual night.
Remember, this night is special for you, the other parents, and your teacher, so come with an open mind and an attitude of genuine curiosity.