Getting the most out of Open House

September 18, 2015 | Posted in: Early Learners, Elementary, High School, Middle Years

School has been in session only a few weeks, and now it’s time for Open House. For many parents, the experience is one of shuffling around crowded hallways and classrooms with only a vague understanding of what it’s all about. However, Open House can be an important event for parents, teachers and children. Here’s how parents and caregivers can make the most of it.

Keep in mind that Open House is a general, getting-to-know-you type of event. Teachers expect to introduce themselves and provide an overview of their plans for the year, relevant school policies and procedures, and to answer general questions from parents about daily schedules and homework assignments.

If your district event encourages kids to attend, it is a chance for them to show off their classroom, their work and to introduce you to their new teacher.

For parents, it’s a great opportunity for a glimpse into your child’s school world, to gather information and to meet other parents of children in the same grade as yours. Parent Today’s story about back-to-school stress talks about the value of making connections in the school.

Before you go, learn as much about the school’s policies and procedure as possible. Most schools have websites that contain lots of useful information including their calendar and the student code of conduct.

Learn about the state’s standards for your child’s grade level. You can find New York’s Learning Standards here.

Then learn about your child’s curricula. Many schools post this online as well.

With all the talk about Common Core, many people still don’t understand the difference between learning standards and curriculum. Standards are the expectations of what students should learn by the end of a given school year. Curriculum is the way children are taught, the specific reading, math, science and social studies programs used to empower children to achieve the standards.

Standards are the end. Curriculum is the means.

Talk with your child about bright spots or concerns they have regarding school. Teachers appreciate hearing when students embrace a particular teaching approach, and conversely, can often help brainstorm age-appropriate ways to address a child’s concerns.

However, don’t head for school with a list of questions specific to your own child. There just isn’t time at open house for your teacher to engage in an in-depth discussion over a single student. Open House is more of a “big picture” kind of event.

Now that you’re at the open house event, take notes. Teachers typically mention several things in a general way that you may want to look at in more detail later.

Expect to hear about:

  • The school day schedule,
  • Classroom behavior expectations along with school discipline policies,
  • The grade-level curricula used by the teacher,
  • Homework expectations,
  • Any special events or field trips planned for the year,
  • How the teacher will communicate with parents.

Now is your chance to ask questions.

  • What is the best way to contact the teacher?
  • Are there opportunities to volunteer in the classroom?
  • How can parents support their children’s learning at home?

If you have specific questions or concerns to discuss about your child, it’s a better idea to connect with the teacher through a note, an email or by scheduling a conference where everyone involved can focus on your child’s situation.

The most important thing is to go. An informed, involved parent or caregiver can help make a child’s school days productive and enjoyable.

Copyright ©2015 by Parent Today and Capital Region BOCES; Used with permission

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