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A Teacher's Open House Suggestions

Only one parent spilled her box of 100 crayons last night and no one fell out of his chair,” I tell my class the morning after Curriculum Night. The kids look at each other and laugh.

Yes, it’s that time of year again when parents are invited to visit their children’s schools and classrooms. This evening can have many names — Back-to-School Night, Open House, Curriculum Night — and it often takes place a few weeks after the start of school.

Here are my Open House Night suggestions for parents from a teacher’s point of view.

Go early. This evening is somewhat social and you might want time to chat with other parents.

Recognize that teachers are nervous. This isn’t most teachers’ favorite night of the year. They and their classrooms are on display. Make this a positive experience for everyone. Teachers like it when parents enter the classroom with a smile on their faces and leave with a thank you on their lips.

One Mom’s Suggestion

Before attending Open House Night, ask your child about her experiences in class, advises Media, PA mom Margaret Darnington. “See if she has unanswered questions or doesn’t understand something about the class,” she suggests. “Doing that can give you a good question to ask.”

Take the handouts home. It’s discouraging when they’re left on a child’s desk. Handouts are often meant to be kept at home where parents can refer to them. For extra credit, bring a pad and pen to take additional notes.

Keep questions general. Most teachers welcome questions, but occasionally a parent will try to engage the teacher in a discussion of a controversial issue. Keep in mind that most of what’s taught is state- or district-mandated, nor do teachers usually have a say on issues such as early dismissals or bus delays.

Leave a note for your child. Even if your child can’t read, leave a friendly note. His teacher will read it to him the next day. He’s proud of his classroom and wants you to share his pride.

Honor closing time. When the night’s over, a handful of parents always seem to linger. Most want to ask individual questions about their child. This is not the time. Arrange a conference with the teacher, which will give her time to prepare and assure you of privacy.

Leave the kids at home. Open House is an evening for adults. It’s awkward for the teachers and an annoyance for the other parents who’ve arranged child care to have kids present.

Polly Tafrate is a freelance writer, mom and elementary school teacher.

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