What the heck is there to survive? Do you fear that the parents will put you up against the wall and shoot you? Even if some of your students would like to see that happen, it isn’t very likely, at least in the US educational system. While I never enjoyed those occasions, with their bad food, amateur pies and weak citrus drinks, I always tried to make the best of them.
In my fast failing memory, these are some tips I followed back in the days when Aretha Franklin’s advocacy of r..e..s..p..e..c…t gave me and other teachers positive relationships with all students and their parents. You may not enjoy doing them, or even shrink in terror, but open houses are necessary outreaching devices to get the parents to participate, at least for that one day, in their children’s education … or lack thereof.
While there in the midst of the crowd, don’t look like you really feel: hostile, bothered, and muttering to yourself: I’d rather be anywhere else but here. Offer smiles, handshakes and friendly greetings. Tell parents positive things about their kids, even if you can’t think up any without resorting to no-no words that come immediately to mind. Such as future killer, little devil, dirtbag, poop for brains and others that are truly graphically accurate. After all, there is some good in every student in your class, even if you nor any cop nor psychiatrist can possibly see it.
If a parent corners you with some difference of opinion, or actually threatens you with bodily harm, try to steer the anger away from the general crowd. If possible, invite him/her to your classroom for a private, one-on-one discussion. Don’t ever expect to win any argument, especially when a parent insists that the little darling with the IQ of a garden snail deserves better grades. Just mention (dirty lie) that you’ve seen considerable improvement lately, and if the parent can get the student to try just a little bit harder, the grades will improve. Yeah, just like the city’s school board will suddenly offer teachers a big raise.
Try not to spend too much of your time during an open house with just one family. Get out there and mingle. If demonstrations for a classroom full of parents are required, get prepared in plenty of time to have your kids perform. There’s nothing more calming to unhappy parents to see and hear their little darlings sing, except maybe in some parts of San Francisco, “God Bless America.”