The beginning of the school year signals many different events. One I have always loved and hated is Back to School Night. I always want to meet the parents of my current students and get excited to share all of the great things I have planned for the year. However, the thought of standing in front of these adults always causes my stomach to do A LOT of flips and turns (even though I’ve done it more than 20 years!). It doesn’t seem to matter that I have started speaking in front of others as part of my professional development. It’s always that worry that I won’t have enough time to get through everything AND that these are the people that are going to be judging me all year. Whether teachers like it or not, parents judge you on how well their child likes you and what is learned. It’s a fact I have gotten accustomed to, but still not something I am comfortable with. This year, though I decided to try something new with the parents, just like I do with their kids. I flipped my Back to School Night!
For those of you not sure what the “flipped” concept is, it’s where (typically) students watch a video or learn something online.The teacher is then free to answer questions and work with the students on the concept 1-on-1 or in small groups instead of lecturing to the whole class. (Check out the Flipped Learning Network for more information.) I have tried this model a few times in my classroom with the students. Now was my chance to try it with the parents.
A week before the actual event, I sent out a QR code (made through the URL shortener Goo.gl) for parents to watch a video I had recorded about my classroom. Because I know 10 year olds pretty well, I also did an email blast about the video a few days later and included it on my website. These last two seemed to reach more of the parents.
The video was nothing fancy. I used Screencastify to walk parents through the basic presentation I would have shown them when they came to school. I loved that I could use the same presentation and include myself in the bottom of the screen so that parents could get a personalized feel. I had to record it more than once to get over a few nerves and technical difficulties. However, I didn’t spend as much time doing it as I thought I would. (Need to get over that I don’t like watching myself or hearing my voice online issue that is common with a lot of people!) I also created a Google Form for parents to fill out after they watched so they could tell me a little about their child and ask me any questions in advance. By using Goo.gl and the form, I was able to track how many views my video had and I had a chance to think about the parent questions. (More people have viewed the video than have regularly showed up for the night presentation every year.)
Back to School Night was finally here. The nerves were less than normal. I was still meeting with the parents, but they had already seen me talk about the classroom. The pressure had been taken off. Instead of standing in front of a bunch of parents this year, I got to talk to small groups of people about specific topics they wanted to know more about. I also got a chance to speak specifically about a few students with their parents one-on-one without waiting for our conferences in October. Usually none of this happens because I am so crunched for time that parents get less than 5 minutes to ask me questions and NEVER do you talk about the kids specifically! AND many of the parents told me how much they loved the video. I had set up computers around the room for those who hadn’t had a chance to watch the video. Once they were done, they found me to talk about their questions and comments. Parents who weren’t able to come for the event got a chance to watch it and still participate in their student’s education. A former student’s parent commented that she wished all teachers (including me back when I had each of her sons!) would do this. She has 4 kids and is never able to get to ALL of their Back to School Night presentations. Flipping it would have allowed her to be more involved in all of what they were doing.
Now that I have flipped my Back to School Night, I have no plans to go back to the way I have always done it. The ability to have conversations with the parents rather than me spewing information at them for 25 minutes made a huge difference for all of us. My biggest regret is that I didn’t figure all of this out sooner.
Please check out my video and let me know what you think!
20+ year teacher, mother of 2 kids and 2 dogs, wife, lover of all things M&M, interested in tech in the classroom, and changing up my teaching