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news & tips

A collection of helpful articles on teachers and teaching

Back to School Night

This week we are supposed to be hosting our annual Back to School Night for the parents of the students that we teach. Past years have proven that in our district, Back to School Night is not a well attended venue. Parents work, or they’re busy; many don’t speak english, some aren’t even aware of the event. In short, the night is spent giving a course overview to a few parents who venture our way.

For us in visual art, Back to School Night offers an opportunity for parents to see the environment in which their kids learn and create. Work is on display, materials are in view. It is a chance for us to proudly advertise our programs and share what we do. This year, however, is going to be different. Our administration has decided to “re-structrue” Back to School Night so that instead of parents visiting all six classes that their children attend during the day, they will line up in the cafeteria and wait in conference lines to chat individually with each teacher for two minutes about their child. Wait in line? We are asking parents to give up one of their nights to wait in line?

Last year our school didn’t even have a Back to School Night. The administration didn’t see the necessity of it. This year, that very same principal has turned intimate welcomes in individual classrooms into an educational “Costco” in the cafeteria. What parent will want to waste most of the night waiting in lines? What staff member won’t be exhausted by the end of the night from having to “conference” with dozens of parents expecting a mini meeting about their child?

Staff input is not solicited or appreciated by the administration at our school site. Any attempt made by a staff member to offer suggestions or question a decision is perceived as critical and oppostional and is met with reprimand and vilification. Thus, we have a staff who is afraid to question even the most absurd decisions. Like this one. So we, along with the parents, will have to endure the lines, the lack of personal environment, the inability to show parents, rather than tell them, what their kids are doing.

I am curious to know how other schools are structuring their Back to School Night. As a teacher, do you see it as an opportunity for an overview or an interview? As a parent, would you prefer standing in line to talk to teachers or visiting their classrooms instead? What do you think?

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