10 things to know about Back to School nights

Tina Berrum with PODER2Educate assists Lake Travis Elementary School parent Tomas Correa with the online student enrollment process at the Lake Travis ISD Educational Development Center. Back to School nights are a chance for parents to see what their kids do all day. Marco Alvarado/Lake Travis school district

Back to School nights are upon us. I know we have two this week and if I still had a kid in elementary school, I’d have three.

Before you go, keep these things in mind:

  1. This isn’t the day to get personal. In elementary school, your child’s teacher has 20+ students. In middle school and high school, they could have 150+ students. You’re not going to ask questions like, “How is little Johnny doing?” or try to convey information about what your child needs from your teacher. Schedule a time to meet with the teacher at another time or send a follow up email.
  2. Ask questions, but ask general questions that apply to everyone. Sometimes teachers, especially in high school and middle school, have to give the same presentation five or six times. They might skip a step. Make sure you leave with the basics: what are they studying, how are they graded, what kinds of projects will they be doing, where can your kids find the work if they are unsure or are absent from school. Bonus if you find out why the teacher is passionate about what they teach.
  3. Your teachers have worked a full day. Don’t hang out at the end of the night to talk to them. They want to go home to their own families, their own beds.
  4. If your teachers ask for your information, give it to them. This is a great chance for the teachers to confirm your contact information. It also gives them a record that you were there and sends the signal to them that you’re invested in your child’s education.
  5. Compare notes. Talk to your children about what you learned at back to school night. You might even ask them in advance what information they want to know or are unclear about in their class or classes. If your children say one thing and a teacher says another, send a follow up email.
  6. Pace yourself, you parents of middle-schoolers and high-schoolers. Sometimes you actually cannot physically get to every class, especially if your kid has a schedule that takes them from the gym at one end of the school to a math class at the other end of the school and up a staircase in a four-minute passing period. If you have a kid that actually gives you the schedule ahead of time, study it and figure out if you need to skip a class or two to get to the important ones.
  7. Eat something before you go. You hangry and hundreds of other hangry parents isn’t going to be good in narrow hallways. You also won’t be able to take in the teacher’s information.
  8. Be patient with the other parents, especially if it’s their first time in the school. They have no idea where they are going. Try to help them if you happen to know or look for a student volunteer to ask. If you do get lost, ask someone rather than spend all your time wandering in the wrong direction.
  9. Do not bring your student. It’s already a lot of people in the hallways, and your student already has been there for hours. Let your student be at home doing homework.
    Do bring a jacket, a bottle of water and something to take notes on. It gets very cold in some classes, hot in others. Water keeps  you thinking and less hangry and a lot of teachers have visual presentations rather than paper, so you’ll want to take notes or take a picture of their digital presentation.
  10. Ask teachers what they need from you. Many will have a wish list posted. Ask if they need help with chaperoning or if you have a talent that applies to what they teach, identify yourself and your skill in a follow up email.

Remember, they are just as nervous to meet you as you are to meet them. Everyone’s trying to make a good impression as we start this school year.