Back to school open house events can be so informative. Here's how to get the most out of the experience according to teachers.

By Fiona Tapp
Steve Debenport—Getty Images/iStock

Depending on your personality and even your own experience of school, the start of a new school year can either fill you with dread or excitement. I taught for over a decade and September still means new pencils and planners for me even though I no longer run on an academic calendar!

Your child's school open house is a chance for you to see what goes on in class each day and connect with the people that make learning fun for your little one. It's a great opportunity to network with other parents and make a good impression but it can also be nerve-wracking or overwhelming to attend.

Here is how you can make the most of this experience.

Talk with Teachers

Teachers are so busy on a normal school-day, that it can be difficult to check in with them and get any type of update on your child's progress. At the open house, they are ready and prepared for questions and have the time to chat.

You can also seek out other teachers that might not have your child in their homeroom but who still interact with them on a daily basis like phys ed teachers, or after school activity providers.

If you're not sure what sort of questions to ask teachers, Ryan Ricenbaw, former high school principal and Find Your Grind Chief Educator, has the following ideas:

  • What will my child be learning in your class?
  • How will you know if they are struggling?
  • What important life skills will they develop in your class?
  • What kind of communication should I expect from you and what do you expect of me?
  • What do you need from me in order to support you at home?

Ricenbaw says that this sort of conversation starter "demonstrates to the teacher that you are an engaged parent, who wants to be informed and supportive, and that you are focused on your child's learning, not just their grades."

Check Out Extra-Curricular Activities

Take a look at the bulletin and news boards at your child's school open house to find out what extra learning opportunities are taking place this year. Your child might like to sign up for a new class, club or field trip or learn a new skill entirely like picking up a foreign language or a musical instrument.

You'll also get acquainted with the classroom setup and can then ask better questions of your child during term-time as teacher and author, Cindy McKinley Alder, explains

"While at the open house, let your child show you around the classroom and school. When she comes home from school, instead of just saying, "How was school today?" You can ask something specific like, "How is your plant experiment going?" Or "What centers did you visit today?" Or "What is your classroom job this week?"

Scope Out Volunteer Opportunities

It can be really difficult for working parents to attend school events especially if they are announced at the last minute. During the open house, you can express interest in any volunteer opportunities ahead of time so that you can organize cover at work.

You may also be able to find out about school events that fit better into your schedule like helping out at a weekend bake sale or an evening theater rehearsal rather than having to book a weekday off work.

School open houses often have information about joining the PTA or getting involved with other aspects of school life. You might have the sort of skills needed for fundraising or event planning that could really help your school's administration team.

Meet Other Parents

School events are a perfect opportunity to network with other parents and make new friends, after all, you have at least one thing in common already. You might find that your child also connects with peers during this time and you can take the time to meet their parents and perhaps organize play dates or get-togethers.

Give Your Child Confidence

Tours around the school on open house evenings are usually open to students too and if your child is starting at a new school or even just a new grade this can give her a sense of confidence and peace of mind. Make sure she knows where to find the bathrooms, her homeroom, the office and any other important area she may need to navigate in her first few days.

Find Learning Resources

Welcome evenings are an excellent time to inquire about any special resources or services your child may need to support their learning.

You can ask to speak with special education teachers and chat about provisions they have in place to help every child soar.

Bring a Notepad

Lauren Tingley, a first-grade teacher, and mom from California understand both sides of back to school events. She advises parents to take copious notes during the evening.

"Back-to-school night can be completely overwhelming for parents. Especially if you have multiple kids and you are trying to make it to each classroom (or school) on time to meet the teacher and hear what they have to say. Often, there is so much information given there is no way you are going to remember it all. Grab a notebook or take notes in your phone, then when you get home and have some time, review them with your child as a family so that everyone is on the same page," she says.

Get Your Child Excited About School

If your child doesn't attend the open house, Tingley recommends that when you get home you tell them how much their teacher is looking forward to having them in their class.

"Even if the teacher didn't say this directly, it's true. Teachers entered the profession to help kids, and we love meeting our students at the beginning of each year. This will automatically set the tone for a positive start to the school year and make your child feel welcome and supported," she says.

An open house is your chance to get to know your child's school and their teachers better, so make the most of it!

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