Open House Tips

My hands are clammy as I set out my materials in the cafeteria.  As a "specials" teacher, I don't get to use my fun, decorated (and safe!) room to introduce myself to parents tonight.

Now, this is not my first open house, but it's my first in a new  school, in a new system, with all new parents to wow -- and woo. All they know  of me is what got mentioned in the Opening Day newsletter and what their children are saying at home. Hopefully both sources are reliable, but you never can tell.  I've gone over what I'm planning on saying several times, trying to come up with the best approach.  I want these parents to know that their middle schoolers are getting the best music and drama classes around!

In the end, I give my spiel with the same attitude I display for my students: I am positive, I am upbeat, and I am professional.  Sure, I  forget to tell the 7th grade parents that their children will learn to play  "Smoke on the Water" on guitar, but they leave my table with a syllabus and a smile.  That's pretty successful, in my book.

My tips for having a great Open House:

1. Plan ahead. Make copies of your grading scale and expectations, as well as your syllabus or a list of what you plan to cover in class.

2. Make sure you know (and use) your buzz words.  In my drama classes we start each term by playing games, but when I explain this to parents, I say, "We  experiment with exercises that help improve focus and observation skills."

3. Hang student work up in your room.  It helps parents see what you're doing in class and lets them see their child's work without getting into a personal parent conference.

4. If a parent asks you about their child, just say "If you can stay for a minute at the end, I'd be happy to make an appointment with you, but tonight is really just an overview of my class."  It lets the parent know you value their questions, but also helps keep things on track.

5. Be CALM!  Parents, like students, can smell fear, but they're also a little anxious to know who's teaching their child.  Start out with a little joke to ease the mood if things feel scary, and then launch into your speech, whether they laugh or not.

--Abigail Cordell, Chorus, Music & Drama, Watertown Middle School