Teacher Tips how to Survive your first Open House

Disclosures: I love open house, and my teaching experience has been in middle- and high school English, so these tips will be slanted toward passing nay, acing your first open house for bigger kids.

Open house is a wonderful opportunity to meet the parents of the children who will be in your classes. It should be an opportunity for pleasant, professional exchange of information, and not a source of stress for the teacher, even if he or she is facing parents for the first time. Meticulous preparation is the key to a landmark open house.

The teacher should make sure the classroom is clean and looking sharp. Desks, including the teacher’s, should be neat. Walls should be decorated, with superior student work if practicable. I made a point to put my contact information on the whiteboard, because I felt and still feel that close communication between the teacher and parents is a critical component of a quality education. The teacher should arrive early, although many schools have a meeting immediately preceding the open house, so most teachers will be on time for the main event. The teacher should also take care to dress professionally: it’s so much easier to project confidence when one feels sartorially secure.

As for the open house itself, the well-prepared teacher will meet parents at the classroom door. I found it helpful to pass out a syllabus or written set of expectations for the class. I’d then be sure to welcome each parent with a handshake or at least a moment of eye contact, and offer each parent a seat.

Be sure to start on time! You will have latecomers; parents might be lost and will certainly be out of their element, but treat latecomers as an opportunity to demonstrate how you can integrate a small distraction into your “lesson” without missing a beat. If you wait until everyone has shown up, you risk irritating those who were punctual. Similarly, wrap up on time. Parents will have other classes to get to, and only a few minutes to make the transition. Any lingering questions can be dealt with after the open house or privately.

The teacher’s main goals at the open house is to introduce him- or herself, to make the parents feel comfortable with the trajectory of the course, and to enlist the parents as the teacher’s allies in generating powerful and lasting education. With these goals in mind, the teacher should be relaxed and open. Be smooth. Be confident. Be the professional the principal hired. Show the parents that you are the right person to be teaching their children right now. With these tips in hand, the novice teacher will score enormous goodwill dividends on open house night.