Parents did not feel connected to the middle school the way they did at the elementary level. We thought that one tradition we could look at doing differently was Open House, where teachers typically presented and parents sat in the classroom and listened. What if we broke from past practice and instead used the time to talk and have fun together? That was the idea we wanted to put into action.
Open House was completely revamped to be festive, active and promote joy. The children proudly showed their parents what they could do and it was valuable that parents heard this from their children (this being an age when parents feel more disconnected academically). Other fun activities were mini golf and making ice cream with the consumer education teacher.
Teacher teamwork was responsible for unleashing some of the joy. They dressed up in costume to do a mummy craft and the language arts teachers did glow in the dark language arts. They embraced the idea and took teacher engagement as a measure of success. From a staff of 45, almost 30 teachers participated. It seems they understood that their investment of time and creativity would bear good results with students and parents. For the parents, the revamped Open House represented a new, shared experienced upon which all could build.
One means of growing has been creating more opportunity for parents to learn about extracurricular options for their child. For example, in an event-style fair we invited sponsors of clubs to set up tables and provide information about cool offerings like chess club, Odyssey of the Mind, music club, robotics club and so on. The music teacher promoted learning to play an instrument. It was new and exciting for parents of transitioning 5th graders to see the showcase of activities that would be available for their soon-to-be middle schoolers.
We are also learning to start small and really listen to the challenges and experiences our families are facing. These valuable insights aid decision making, whether it is event planning, improving communication or other issues.
Whether it is transition or any other school routine, open your doors and invite families to come and learn. Parents want to support their children and their education but often don’t know how. Even a small change here or there can be an invitation for parents to engage. The more parents build solid relationships with teachers, the more they become partners in their children's education.