I look forward to Back to School Night every year. I find it to be a fabulous opportunity to spend valuable time with each family to really understand their needs and goals for their student. Being a special education teacher means that I have a more consistent group of parents and/or guardians compared to my general education counterparts. This also means I can be creative with how I use this time to best serve my families. Below I share what I do before, during, and after Back To School Night for my special education classroom.
At my school, Back to School Night is from 6pm – 8pm. I schedule 10-minute consultation blocks for my families. I like to send out schedules well in advance, and give families multiple modes to attend. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, families can choose to attend in-person, phone-in, or attend via video conference. If families cannot make the day work, I give them the option to schedule for a different day.
As mentioned, being a special education teacher limits me to a consistent group of parents and/or guardians. Feel free to take advantage of it and use the time to best serve your families.
Your new parents are likely to have questions about your program. I always like to have an overview of my program prepared. This overview could answer questions such as the class profile and your teaching style. I would also re-read students’ IEPs beforehand. This allows you to clarify any confusions you may have with the parent.
I also like to collect and be prepared to share student work samples. I have found that families really appreciate seeing concrete examples of their student’s work.
All in all, be prepared to answer any parent concerns. I think of Back to School Night as a open house to my classroom. I like to showcase all the awesome things that students are accomplishing in the program.
Grounds to Cover
I like to create an agenda. I will start with soliciting burning questions from families. Then I like to present an overview of my program. I also like to share student work samples. This helps explain student levels and program overviews. I then go over the student’s IEP with the family, and discuss how minutes and goals are being addressed and met within the program. Finally, I like to end with an opportunity for families to ask last-minute questions. 10-minute blocks are tight, be succinct with what you want to talk about – option to email program overview beforehand.
I check in with families 2 weeks after Back to School Night. If families have concerns, they would typically have reached out to you; if they do not have concerns, I still like to keep the line of communication open with the families. Two weeks is a good amount of time because you could collect data and report on any intervention discussed during Back to School Night.
While it is true that no two Back to School Nights will be identical due to family and student needs, these are tried and true components to include in Back To School Night in Special Education. Did I miss any of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!