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Back-to-school night basics

Make the most of back-to-school night. It's a valuable opportunity to learn important information about your child's classroom experience.

By Marian Wilde

Along with shopping for school supplies and adopting earlier bedtimes, back-to-school night is an important ritual marking the beginning of the new school year. On this night, your child's teacher explains her goals for the class and for your child. She shares information about her teaching style and methodology, how she grades and the requirements for a good grade. You'll find out what supplies your child will need for the year and what projects are coming up.

Your child's teacher might be a little nervous about meeting all the parents, even if she's done this 20 times before. Arrive with a friendly smile and introduce yourself. If you know each other already, say hello and refresh her memory as to your name and who your child is. She meets lots of parents throughout the year and may not remember your name, although she may recognize your face.

Schools will often start with a general meeting in the auditorium and a brief welcome by the principal. Then parents separate to visit their child's classroom.

Six Steps to a Successful Back-to-School Night

1. Find out if you can bring the kids.

Your school's administration may have a no-children policy for back-to-school night, believing that parents should be free to focus on meeting the teacher and listening to his presentation. However, more and more schools recognize that arranging for childcare, getting the kids home and then returning to school is challenging for parents, and have started to offer childcare at the school for the evening. Be sure to find out what your school's policy is and make the necessary arrangements.

2. Devise a strategy if you need to visit more than one child's classroom.

If you have more than one child at the school, you'll need to strategize. If your older child has already had the teacher that your younger child now has, you might decide that visiting your older child's teacher is the priority for the evening. If both parents are able to attend, you can divide and conquer or take turns in the different classrooms.

3. Bring a pen and paper.

Brenda Lofton, 2006 Louisiana Teacher of the Year and a middle school math and science teacher recommends coming prepared to take notes: "If the teacher says you can contact me and these are my conference hours, you need to write down that information. Also, teachers may give information through a Power Point presentation or maybe something written on the board. So bring something to take notes with."

"I usually go over homework procedures, discipline procedures, the different things that are expected and then give parents time to ask questions," says Lofton.

Comments from readers

"This is very helpful. I love it. I will bring pen and paper to write information down. Thank you very much."
"Exactly, what I was looking for. Will be attending my first back to school night for my lil KG"
"Good ideas. As a mom of four, I always keep up to date on these 'back to school nights'. It's always interesting to meet/see my children's teachers, etc. "
"Great article. I mentioned it in my podcast Link4Learning at In this episode I addressed ways that parents can find out what their children are learning."
"This is great advice. I am going to include this link in my next podcast so others can hear about it."
"Great article. This was exactly what I was looking for. Thank you."
"Thank you so much for all the good tips and information we receive during the year, they are very helpful and interesting. We are the parents of a first grader girl."
"I fine this very informative. This a great idea...."
"Very informative article specially when the B2S night it's this upcoming Monday and our 3rd grader is new to the state, to the system and to the school. Thx! very helpful and will definitely take pen & paper! : )"
"As a parent of a boy just starting KG, I found these tips very useful and valuable. Thank you"
"This article was very helpful as it is aiding in jogging my own personal memories of backto school night, some 22 years ago when I started Kindegarden. Now that I have my own youngster starting school, it was a great refresher to recall what to expect and what is expected of me as a parent. Thanks a lot"
" Thank you, I find this very helpful and informative."
"As a 8th grader I am very excited for school! I think the tips are great to get ready and know the teachers!"
"Great information for a positive relationship and great year for students, parents, and teachers."
"We are the parents of a boy who is starting kindergarden this fall. I really enjoyed that article and I have jotted down things to ask at the meeting. Bravo! What a great resource."
"Great article! Keep them coming."
"Great Info. One thing I want to mention - I will take my child to meet her new teacher (insted of looking for childcare for that night, as it was suggested in the article). She already knows when it is and it is very exsited. Of course it will be kind of hard to do that if you have more than one, but I think she will fell much better not going to a total stranger on her 1st day of the new school year. I have even taken her to the PTC's last year and I think it helped her relize better what her teacher's expectations are (she enjoeyd it too, and I think the teacher was very comfortable with her being there). Agan thanks for the tips and keep up the good work. "
"I found this information incredibly helpful and interesting. I even shared it with family and friends. Thank you for all you do to help us to help our children succeed in school. "
"The site has helped me understand the American Educational system. It also answers most of the questions i needed to ask with respect to resource materials. Thank you. Keep the great work going."
"I want you to know that I agree with your statement 'you'll want to know how often and if you should expect to receive it on a particular day of the week, so you'll know to remind your child.' Yet at my son's elementary school I have been told by the administration that I am out of line by wanting to remind my child. That it is the child's responsibility to remember for themselves. I don't know what you do with adults who act like children."
"great site! Lots of good info!"
"THe article was very informative please keep em coming"