Here are my best tips (not that you asked) for a successful meeting with a group of parents in your classroom:
- Tell them some things about your personal life. You don't have to go into nitty gritty details, but both they and students are curious as to who you are (not just "what" you are in terms of a teacher). These bits of information help them connect with things in their own lives.
- Talk about what homework "looks like" for your class. Is it reading? Practice problems? Journaling/Blogging? Many parents have the impression that homework means there is a worksheet. Sometimes this is an accurate reflection. Also share how often homework may be assigned and some estimates about the completion time.
- Give parents some suggestions about how to talk to their kid about your class in order to keep the communication lines open. What should they ask about? Are there topics upon which students could elaborate? Give parents some gentle questions to use in order to gauge kids in conversation and reflection about their learning so that it doesn't have to look like the "third degree."
- Provide a handout with your contact information---including the best times to reach you and your preferred means of communication (phone? e-mail?). Gather the same things from them.
- Take a moment to talk about your most important classroom procedures, but don't spend the bulk of your time here. Hand them a syllabus. They can read it later.
- Share ideas for parental involvement. Are there events where you need chaperones? Can they spare a box of Kleenex? Would you mind if they sat in on a class or lab? (Their child might!)
I'm hoping for another successful introduction to parents this year. Only some will attend the event, I realize, but at least it is a start to knowing these families. We'll have the next ten months to fill in the details.