Back to School Night can be a complete waste of time or an effective tool to help students succeed. You choose. The first several years of my teaching career, I did exactly what administration told us all to do at Back to School Night. I repeated everything I had included in the course outline letter I sent home with students the first week of school. It included the class procedures, expectations, rules, grading system, due dates, homework, etc. Then I realized rereading it aloud was a complete waste of time and insulting to parents. They had already read, signed and returned the letter to me.
Instead, I began to use Back to School Night to help students become more successful. I wrote the night’s agenda on the board each year. The first few items were the main topics from the letter, (so any administrator who entered the room would see that they had been covered). But the rest was what I wanted the parents to do to help their children learn.
1. Eat dinner together as a family. (I explain that all studies show students do better in school and in life if they had dinner with their family at least five nights each week while growing up.)
2. Check homework. (I remind parents that I assign homework Monday through Thursday each week. It's posted on my website each Thursday for the upcoming week. It's never oppressive or “busy work”.)
3. Turn off electronics one hour before bedtime, and be sure students sleep the recommended number of hours for their age group, 8-10 hours for teenagers. (Studies show that electronic use before bed is detrimental to sleep quality. What is learned each day is moved from short term memory to long term memory during sleep.)
4. Make sure students have a nutritious breakfast each morning. (Students eating a full, healthy breakfast have more success in school than those who drink a fruit smoothie or eat a granola or power bar for breakfast. I also give parents ideas for how they can do this without it becoming oppressive.)
5. Give their children the book Seven Habits of Effective Teens by Sean Covey, son of Stephen Covey who wrote Seven Habits of Effective People. (The book shows teenagers how they can get what they want in life, makes them happier and easier to get along with at home and at school.)
After I started using Back to School Night to influence the behavior of parents, to get them to do what would make their children happier, healthier, better rested and ready to learn, student success increased. It also had the side benefit of making me feel like going to Back to School Night was not a complete waste of time.
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Photo Credit: Morguefile
Photo Credit: Morguefile