Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Open House

I came in quietly tonight. But despite my attempts to just have a night where I went straight to bed, Sir Coolman lit up my room. I pulled the mirror from the drawer to see his face. “And how did things turn out?”

“Before I even got there, the place was packed.” Starting at 6:00 PM, parents had filled the parking lot of Longleaf to attend the first Open House event of the year. Because of the number of students and family members, the school hosts two separate Open House events: one for VPK – 3rd grade, the other for students in grades 4-6.

I had had the opportunity to observe, and occasionally provide input, during the first night of Open House. But unlike the mainstream classes, the class I am observing has less than 10 students. Because of this, specific times were provided to individual families so that an even that was more like a parent-teacher conference took place for each student in the classroom. Because there is so much to talk about in regards to the progress and needs of these students, this was an excellent idea that enabled specific questions to be answered and input given.

“Did you come to any conclusions based on what you saw tonight?” Sir Coolman asked.

“Actually, yeah,” I assured him. During each session, I had noticed several components the teacher used which might make foundational guidelines for any future Open House events I attend. So I rattled off a short list of what I saw:

  1. 1. Be positive AND realistic. No matter how much we want our students to succeed, it is important to acknowledge both the strengths and needs in the classroom. The only way to help them grow is to acknowledge where they need some extra attention.
  2. 2. Address both social behaviors and academics. Especially for students with special needs, both of these areas are important. Social skills are one the absolute most important skills for students with special needs. Any weaknesses in the unspoken curriculum of social acceptance must be addressed to ensure success through life.
  3. 3. Provide student work. Show parents exactly what their students have been doing in class. Provide work that illustrates any specific points you need to make parents aware of.
  4. 4. Show what you're teaching. Parents like to know what is going on in the classroom each day. Provide them with a quick overview of current lessons and what's to come in the near future.
  5. 5. Reach out in kindness. A teacher’s job is to help prepare a human being for life in the world. But even the most practical strategies and instructional methods are rendered nearly ineffective without parental and community support. Build rapport with families in the child’s interest and gain a stronger edge on helping them learn.

“I say! That’s very insightful. Good work, old girl.”

I turned to him in irritation. “Just a hint for the future, Mr. Mirror Man. NEVER call a woman in her early thirties old anything.”

“Noted,” he smirked before fading away.

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