In many states school is back in session, and parents couldn’t be happier. One of the goals of teachers and administrators is keeping those parents happy by communicating with them on a regular basis. Sure, we send papers home to be signed and schedule regular call-outs on automated systems, but one of the best ways to communicate with parents is to provide a few opportunities for them to come into the school to get that information (and more) first hand. Of course, we are talking about open houses, student/parent orientations or whatever else they may be called.
There are a few key elements that will make your open house a huge success. I will explain five:
5 Elements of a Successful Open House
1. Be respectful of their time.
When scheduling open houses, start and end on time. We are all busy and the easiest way to lose a parent is to begin your program 20 minutes late or let it drag out 30 minutes past your scheduled end time. Also, start at a reasonable time which takes into account work schedules, traffic and bed times.
2. Create a quick agenda and stick to it.
If you are like me, I could talk about my students, faculty and staff all night long. That’s not what an open house is designed to do. In my opinion, open houses are the first of many opportunities parents get to meet with teachers and learn about who?, what?, where?, why?, when? and how? their son or daughter is going to be successful at your school. Most of that information should come from the teachers.
A sample agenda should include:
- a greeting (possible theme for the year, overview of successes from last year),
- key introductions,
- logistics for the evening,
- observed challenges witnessed during the first week and solutions (parking, pick up/drop off),
- a couple of speakers (PTSO, business partners) which should be limited to 3 minutes each
- and then release to teachers’ rooms.
3. Teachers run the show.
The department heads and teams should decide what pertinent information the parents will receive on open house night. There should be a common message, direction from the administration and then their syllabi, expectations and keys to success in their class.
4. Feed them.
Following the meeting with teachers, it should be customary to provide a little snack and drink for the parents who took time out of their day to invest in their child’s education. The teachers usually volunteer this time as well. Appreciation is needed, expected and is a must. Snack time is crucial to providing an informal atmosphere where parents and students can relax. It’s also customary that the hosts (faculty and staff) show good manners and snack as well.
5. Saying “thank you” is just good manners.
Thank every person you come into contact with for coming out (teachers and business partners included). Send out an email, call-out, etc., expressing your thanks. Place a thank you bullet point on your agenda at the faculty meeting. People need to feel appreciated.
A successful open house is one of the keys to beginning a successful year. Making the time valuable will ensure they come back.