NEA Today asked participants in NEA’s Teacher Leadership Institute—which prepares teachers to lead and transform their profession—for their favorite ways to welcome families back to school. Here’s what they suggest:
1. Provide snacks!
Provide refreshments or dinner for families. This way parents and caretakers won’t worry about rushing to cook dinner. You can even turn it into a fundraiser by selling food items.
2. Keep it short and simple.
Avoid jargon. Not everyone understands academic terms. Since many people are coming from work, keep the event to one to two hours.
3. Make it informative.
Create a slide deck with important information, dates, and student goals. Include a class syllabus, schedule, and how to access grades. Provide families with multiple ways to contact you.
4. Make it collaborative.
Reassure families that you are part of their child’s team and that you can all work together to support their child’s success. Families sometimes need to hear this. Let folks know you appreciate the investment they are making in their kids by attending. Provide families with opportunities to meet teachers in different grade levels and content teams.
5. Create a welcoming space.
Ensure that your classroom is clean and organized. Stand by your door and say hello as each person walks into your room. Translate materials and have interpreters available so everyone feels heard and valued. Meet people where they are—step away from the judgment zone.
6. Roll out the red carpet.
Show off other spaces like the library, computer labs, and music rooms. Showcase your clubs, student organizations, and extracurriculars to let families know all your great offerings. Invite community partners to let families know how organizations support your school.
7. Be practical.
Provide child care for younger siblings, with a safe play area overseen by trusted adults in the building. Schedule back-to-school night at a time convenient for families. Consider a virtual option or a recording for families who can’t attend in person. Save conversation about areas of improvements for parent conferences. Have extra handouts. Ask them to fill out a contact card! Sometimes the information in the attendance system is outdated.
8. Find ways to engage families.
Ask families to share what their students enjoy most or how they would describe their child—or have them write a note of encouragement for their kids that you can give them on those tough days. Hook a commitment now: Do you have any classroom trips or activities planned in which you would request families’ support? Now is the time to pencil them in!