At this point in the year, you probably come home from school each day feeling as if you have run a marathon. Sleep has never sounded more appealing and you hope another task is not added to your to-do list. But before you can relax for the day, a calendar alert reminds you open house is right around the corner.
After teaching for several years, I thought this night would become easier, but the evening continued to bring a feeling of anxiety. While some teachers breeze through the open house experience or love the evening, I struggled each time. Recently, I realized I was making this night much more difficult on myself.
Here are some of the changes I made to make this night easier for me. If you are someone who also gets anxious about open house, perhaps these tips will make your event less stressful for you and more meaningful for attendees.
Plan, plan, plan
Do not wait until the last minute. While losing track of time at the beginning of the year or putting this night on the back burner may seem appealing, preparing for your presentation before the big day is imperative. If you are a veteran teacher, save your resources and store them in a place that is easy to access.
Also, treasure the opportunity to support one another in preparation for the night. Share resources, if available, and lead by example.
Structuring your open house
If you have the opportunity to speak to a group, keep your presentation short (7 to 10 minutes), sweet, and engaging. Depending on the way your school district structures open house, you may instead have quite a bit of time to prepare for.
The table below gives suggestions for content for different time frames.
For teachers who have parents circulating freely throughout classrooms, or even for parents who are unable to attend, record and share your presentation on your school’s website for parents to watch at their leisure.
The first impression you have with parents is one that sticks, especially when parents are not the ones seeing the teacher on a daily basis. If a parent has faith in a teacher, it is more likely they will be on the teacher’s team when a child comes home with an issue. Therefore, open house is yet another opportunity to build a collaborative, respectful classroom community.
Make this night fun by including a raffle or game. I loved creating a kahoot for parents to play at the beginning of my presentation. This not only breaks the ice but also ensures parents are engaged.
Parents not only want to discover what their children are learning in school but also want to learn about you. Where did you go to school? What are some of your hobbies? Parents are well aware teachers have lives outside the classroom, so find ways to showcase some of your interests and talents. This information might provide some potential opportunities or ideas to further connect with their child.
Different mediums for adult learners
You might have a clear vision and understanding of the information you are sharing with parents, but by the time the visit ends, much of that information will either be lost or forgotten. To prevent this, provide all important information in writing and on your website for parents to revisit.
Make sure all speakers scheduled to present in your room (classroom parents, PTA, etc.) provide important information to each family for future reference.
As parent questions that arise during an open house can be lost during the excitement of the night, here are a few additional ways to collect the queries for future reflection and insight during open house:
- High tech: Padlet, TodaysMeet, Q&A in Google Slides, Survey Monkey/Google Forms
- Low tech: question jar, parent/student information sheet, Post-it “parking lot” on butcher paper
After you have collected this useful information, share questions and responses to the entire classroom community. This feedback can also provide you with additional information to include in your presentation the following year.