Like so many aspects of teaching now, a lot of back-to-school nights are moving online. The need to introduce yourself to parents and get them information remains the same, but fulfilling that requires making some adjustments. To help, here are four ways to make your virtual back-to-school night easier and more effective.
Ask for questions ahead of time
This school year is definitely unique, and there’s a good chance that parents will have more questions for you than normal. To make sure you have time to address their concerns, try asking for questions in advance.
You can address the most common questions during your planned event, or if your school is doing an asynchronous back-to-school night you can make a frequently asked questions page. If parents have questions that are more distinct, complex, or specific to their child, you can suggest setting up a parent-teacher conference to discuss them further.
Use video to show your personality
As long as you have a webcam or a phone with a camera, this tip is easy to implement for a live virtual back-to-school night: Just turn your video on! If you want to add extra flair, some video conferencing programs like Zoom and Microsoft Teams let you set custom backgrounds. You can create your own or download premade ones.
For an asynchronous back-to-school night, record a welcome video and ask to have it included in the teacher introduction material. While you record your video, make sure you look and sound your best by recording in a quiet place with plenty of light and talking to the camera directly while it’s at eye level. Adding some soft background music to the video as well can help keep the audience engaged and set the tone you want.
Give a virtual classroom tour
To give parents an even better idea of what your class is like, show off the spaces you use to teach your students, whether they’re physical or digital. Take some photos or record a short video of where you teach from. Take it a step further and record your screen while teaching a lesson and share it with the parents.
To really stand out, you could also build a virtual classroom using a graphics tool such as Bitmoji. It takes some time and creativity, but the result can give parents a great sense of the kind of classroom atmosphere you want to foster.
Digitize forms to share
Back-to-school night is a prime time to get the stacks of paperwork you need parents to fill out, like student information sheets, transportation forms, and volunteer sign-ups. Even if you can’t print out the forms and set them up at a parent workstation, you can use tools like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to get the job done. Just email the forms or post them somewhere parents can access and wait for their responses to roll in.
Adapt these tips to fit your school’s virtual back-to-school night format and you’re sure to stand out as a teacher who gets things done and works to make a good impression on parents. All it takes is some planning and the right use of technology.