The beginning of the school year brings lots of new and exciting things for schools, teachers, parents, and students! One of those is always Back to School Night.
All parties involved will get to interact with each other. Teachers get to meet the parents of their new students, parents get to check out the school facilities if they're new, students get to mingle with new friends after school hours. But unfortunately, it is very rare that every single student and their parents will show up.
Whether they didn't come due to time constraints, language barriers, or simply didn't know about it, they miss some of the important interactions that happen at Back to School that often lay the ground work for future teacher/parent/student rapport. Here, we'll give a few tips on how to make sure you're still engaging these parents and pulling them into the classroom-sphere!
Tip 1: Send an attendance poll
If you already have parent phone numbers collected, send a poll to your classroom before Back to School asking who will be there! With TalkingPoints' handy-dandy polling function, you have the capability to send parents a poll that they can respond to with a simple number indicating their choice. For help on how send a poll, see the "How do I send a poll?" article in our Help Center.
Your poll can say something like, "Hello parents, I'm really looking forward to seeing everyone at Back to School Night and hope you're just as excited as I am! Please let me know if you're coming by responding to the options below!"
Although this is a small step, and doesn't directly engage the parents who don't come, sending a poll and asking who will attend will help parents feel like you value their attendance. It will also give you a better sense of attendance, and plan to follow-up with specific parents accordingly.
Tip 2: Send copies of handouts
Teachers and schools normally pass out lots of handouts at Back to School. From school calendars, to class schedules and norms, make sure the parents who didn't attend don't miss out, by sending copies or pictures of the handouts through TalkingPoints.
If you have a School or Teacher Premium account, you'll be able to attach send PDFs directly, otherwise, with our standard Teacher Plan, you can easily take or save your handouts as pictures and attach them to your message by clicking on "Picture" below where you compose your message. You can choose whether you want to send these to everyone, or specifically the parents who didn't attend, but regardless, I'm sure they'll appreciate being kept in the loop and having access to these documents!
Tip 3: Send them the key points
In addition, or instead of sending them copies or images of handouts, try sending any parents who missed the event the key points from the evening. This can be a cool alternative to handouts, since you may not have all handouts translated to be accessible to non-English speaking parents. But if you send a message with a couple key points from the evening, TalkingPoints will do the majority of the heavy lifting for you of translating what you want them to know!
By sending out some key points, you will also be helping absent families to feel like they were there after all, and help them know what to expect for the coming year.
Tip 4: Schedule a one-on-one meeting
There's nothing like face-to-face interactions. That's part of the beauty of events like Back to School, where teachers and parents get to interface in person, since all parties involved are normally so busy. If a family didn't make it to the event, that's sadly one less opportunity to talk to them in person. TalkingPoints can help you make up that lost opportunity for contact by messaging them to schedule a separate face-to-face meeting if you, and the parents have time, even if just for 10 or 15 minutes before or after school.
You can say something like, "I really missed seeing you and your student at Back to School night, and would love to try to schedule a time to meet with you before the school year speeds up! I am free during __ and __, let me know if either of those times work for you to meet!"
Tip 5: Ask if they have any questions
This tip may be a slightly straightforward, but Back to School is a great chance for parents to ask questions to teachers and schools. If they didn't make it out, chances are that they have a bunch of questions that they would like answered.
A message as simple as "I'm sorry to see that you couldn't make it out to Back to School night! If you have any questions for me about my class, what your student will be learning, any regular assignments that they will be working on, or anything else, message me here and I'll be happy to answer."
Even if the parent doesn't send any questions in return, this little gesture will make them feel like you are available to keep them informed, even if they don't have the ability to come to the school or events often. They won't feel like they're missing out.
Tip 6: Stay in contact!
This is one of the points that we like to harp on the most here at TalkingPoints. Being in contact with families isn't hard, but staying in contact with families will make all the difference! Keeping frequent contact with parents will keep them way more engaged in your class community, and more importantly their children's education. Something as small as sending a few messages a week will make you feel accessible to parents, even if they didn't get the chance to attend Back to School! :)
We know the beginning of the school year can feel extremely hectic building relationships not only with new students, but also with their families. We hope these tips will help you better engage parents in your classroom, specifically those who were not able to make it to Back to School, but feel free to apply these tips to all of your classroom families!
If you loved any of these tips, or have any other pointers for how you try to engage families during the Back to School period, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may even get featured in a blog post!