You got through the beginning of the year! You established routines and forged connections. Is it time to get some well-earned rest now?
Of course not! It’s time to make connections with the community. That means that it’s time for meet the teacher night.
For me it was always hard to meet new people, but dozens of them over the space of a few hours in the evening, right after teaching? The thought made me downright panicky.
Not all of those families were happy to meet me either. They may have had their own bad experiences with teachers. Their student may have been annoyed by a grade I gave them, or an appointment I didn’t have time for. Whatever the case, this was not always a friendly meet and greet.
No matter how your meet the teacher night goes there are steps you can take to make it stress-free or at least more stress-free. Here are 8 simple things you can do to de-stress this year’s meet the teacher night.
1. Take time to center first
After a long, stressful day teaching there is nothing appealing about meeting with a throng of anxious parents and guardians. The very thought can be daunting.
Don’t carry that nervous energy through the night with you though. That’s a recipe for an even more draining night.
Before you open your door to the evening take time to center yourself. This may be with yoga (we have a great 30-minute flow). You may use a guided meditation. I was a big fan of the honest guys YouTube channel. I even had teacher friends who would light a candle in their rooms. Pro tip: know how sensitive your fire alarm is before attempting this!.
All that breathing not your thing? Have PostMates or a similar service bring you a nice dinner to enjoy either alone or with teacher friends. Or have a special drink delivered like a fancy iced latte. Whatever you need to savor a few peaceful moments.
If you have time, maybe take a walk in a local park, or around your school’s track if they have one.
If exercise centers you, have a change of clothes ready and sweat out that anxiety!
Find some peace before you face the questions of a ton of strangers.
2. Keep it simple
I usually review the syllabus, classroom procedures, and expectations. Even though families may have already signed these items, it’s always good for review (because a signature doesn’t necessarily mean they read it). I also like to cover what students will gain, the skills they will develop, and how my class will help them in their lives.
Think about what you already have. What would be meaningful for teachers to know and go through? Try to pick from those items that are already created. I’m confident that within your computer files and file cabinets lay hidden treasures.
You don’t have to re-invent the wheel every year. Once you find a system/activity that works, update it as needed, and keep it in a nicely organized place that will be easy to find next year. Maybe create a Meet the Teacher Night folder?
3. Have a meaningful quiet activity planned
That way it doesn’t become a one-on-one parent-teacher meeting if that’s not what you intended.
A teacher friend of mine has families write encouraging notes to their students. Then before testing in the spring, she gives the notes to the students as a confidence booster.
Perhaps have families fill out an informational card or paper on their student. This could be super valuable insight on the student’s history or enjoyed activities. It could even be as simple as: What should I know to make this school year a success for your student?
Maybe you already have a video tour of your classroom? Maybe students created something special for their families, that they could look at and admire. Just make sure you’re not piling on too many extra tasks to your list for this night. Try to use items you’ve already made 🙂
4. Be intentional
On top of de-stressing the day of, structure your whole week to absorb the stress and additional work from meet the teacher night.
Be sure to block out extra time for yourself that week. Being proactive with your self-care will make a huge difference.
Pack yourself lunches for the week that delight you. That can help you take your mind off any concerns you might be feeling over the upcoming event.
Since you will be working later than usual that day, consider giving yourself an evening off to make up for it. Don’t grade, go see a movie, or read a book you’ve wanted to for a while. Restore the balance of your time towards yourself.
After conquering meet the teacher night, maybe plan a happy hour for that Friday to celebrate all your hard work. It’s fun to share stories with other teacher friends. One year, during meet the teacher a bird flew into my co-teachers room and the honor society spent a zany half an hour trying to remove it humanely. That was a story best told with drinks and friends at a joyful happy hour.
Whatever you do, be intentional about your time and how you’re feeling. Be sure to advocate for yourself. Be fiercely protective of your time. You’ll feel better and that will make the event go better for everyone.
5. Involve your students
Prior to the event have your students prepare some of what their parents see.
That may be a welcoming bulletin board. It may take the shape of each of them having their journal or other daily work they do in that class at their desk in a place in the room it could be quickly found. It may be something as elaborate as a portfolio, or something as simple as a hand-written message to their parent.
I find having something available for the student to show their parent if they end up coming along or not, is a nice way of showing students and families that in your class students come first and what they work on, or think are priorities to you.
It can also be a nice starting point with a parent to show them some of what goes on in your class on a daily basis.
6. Set expectations
Different parent-teacher events have different focuses. Some allow for time to meet with individual parents and address concerns, others don’t allow for that time.
Maybe you plan on having no more than 10 minutes with each parent because you want to get to everyone. Perhaps you prefer they make an appointment to speak to you one on one at a different date and time.
Whatever it is you plan for the evening, make your intentions known clearly. I would suggest both writing them on your board and explaining them as families walk in.
You don’t have to apologize for these expectations. You don’t need to explain them. This is your class and your time. You structured it the way you did intentionally. You did it with their and your best interest in mind. For that, you owe no explanation.
Being clear with everyone will help to combat misunderstandings which could cause difficulties in that relationship down the line.
Best to be polite, clear and firm in your expectations right from the beginning with families.
7. Have a system to handle contingencies
Many things can come up at a meet the teacher. That’s partly their purpose.
The first system I would have in place is a sign-in. A good form for this would include:
- Their name
- Their student’s name
- Their preferred method of being contacted
- A place for them to include that contact information
This sign-in could be used later when you want to contact this person to talk to them about their student’s progress. Pro tip: the first time you talk to them, try to make it about something the kid did well or at least about something neutral like a class change.
You can also use the sign-in to establish the order in which to talk to parents and guardians. It’s fair and public so no one will be surprised or offended when you talk to someone before them.
Another form to have handy is a request for a follow-up one-on-one meeting. This could be paper, in which case I would put it on a clipboard next to the sign-in.
It can also be digital. If you have access to student laptops or tablets you can have it open to a google form for the parent or guardian to fill out electronically.
Either way, don’t worry about these forms until tomorrow at the soonest. Tell families either on the form or in your handout materials that requests for meeting will be followed up on in 3-5 business days to give you plenty of time to respond when you’re ready.
In addition to this, some people feel comfortable voicing comments or concerns in writing. Maybe they have notes for administration and that will be much easier for you to send along in writing.
For this, I would also have a form and a suggestion box for them to go into. That ensures a measure of privacy and invites honesty from families.
Families will appreciate your interest in their needs and your organization. It will put them at ease to have a system for all their contingencies.
8. Treat it like a date and have an out
Sometimes families can’t take a hint. At 8 pm when the whole event is done, you may find that a talkative or concerned parent has you cornered.
You try to end the conversation. You direct them to our system for scheduling a follow-up one-on-one meeting. You remind them you have to go home, since you teach their student in the morning, politely, yet they continue on.
You are stuck.
The way that I handled this was with the buddy system. Before the event, a few other teachers and I agreed to leave together.
This was part of having help setting healthy boundaries, but it also helps with the case of the lingering parent or guardian.
When the event was over we would go collect each other from our rooms. If there was a parent that had a teacher friend cornered, we could help them extricate themselves.
Most people when faced with the reality of closing time, and in this case, very kind bouncers, will leave.
There was never a time that a parent or guardian didn’t finally leave when faced with 3 other teachers also anxious to get home. It helped them see that they didn’t have to go home, but they couldn’t stay here.
Do it your way
Hopefully, you found these tips helpful. If this is your first meet the teacher or your 30th, it is going to go ok. You’re a professional who is in this job because you want to be a positive force in the lives of kids and families. That is going to shine through.
As long as you stay true to yourself and your teaching, they’re going to love you!
Have some great tips to share about meet the teacher or a funny story to share? Put it in the comments below!