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At its best, Back to School Night it a time to engage parents and colleagues, garner support, advocate for your discipline, and demonstrate your worthiness.
1. Have something for people to do.
Create an interactive exhibit of some kind. You could have a doodle banner and markers available, or a giant weaving installation parents can add to. Need something easier? Cover your tables in butcher paper and put out crayons!
2. Be your own P.R. person.
Advocate for what you do and encourage discussion. Provide a document parents can take with them. 10 Lessons the Arts Teach from the NAEA or this list of questions for parents to ask their students are great choices. You might even consider having a document available with quotes from past students. Share local art happenings and opportunities for family outings. Show how you put donations to good use and how you celebrate student excellence.
Make sure people know about any social media sites you maintain related to your classroom and invite them to follow you! If you want people invested, convince them why they should be. Want people to be impressed? Be impressive.
3. Wow them with your preparation.
Be well prepared and show people you mean business. I compile example rubrics, class rules, and other pertinent paperwork in a “Back to Art” packet for parents. In an effort to keep things upbeat and positive, I make sure to have a computer open with the school virtual art gallery running. Parents get a glimpse of the impressive and exciting work their students are about to engage in.
4. Create a school-wide theme and make a visual impression.
One of the ways I woo visitors on Back to School Night is by designing the school-wide theme for our return. Beautiful banners, well designed graphic art posters, and arrows leading to my room all help. Employing students as docents leading parents through the work is also a great way to get the conversation flowing.
5. Create a party atmosphere.
Make your space somewhere people want to be. I create a special art-inspired YouTube playlist for the evening, display student work from the previous year gallery-style (a virtual slideshow if the work isn’t accessible), decorate with balloons, and play an inspirational video like the one below.
6. Partner with the P.T.O.
Members of the P.T.O. are generally amazing advocates and if you help them, they’ll help you. You can work together to make each of your events better. Ask them how you can be of service. Attend a few meetings. Be available and volunteer. These are the parents of your students and they often have the power to shape a community’s attitude. Make sure they have only wonderful things to say about you and what you do for their children.
7. Offer optional parent surveys.
Consider creating a survey for parents to complete about their children and their interests. What parent doesn’t love to share about their child? I often glean valuable insight this way. It also helps me put a name to a face when I already know something tangible about a child.
With these seven tips under your belt, Back to School Night in the art room will be a resounding success!
How do you prepare for Back to School Night?
Do you have any great tips to share with AOE readers on how to make an impression?
Magazine articles and podcasts are opinions of professional education contributors from across the nation and do not necessarily represent the position of the Art of Education University or any of its academic offerings.