Open House Night: Meet the Teacher

It was one STEAMY week back to the classroom this week. In Minnesota, we had a week long heat wave of 90 degree weather with heat index levels anywhere from 100 to 110 degrees. Don't get me wrong, we have summer here (no, it's not cold all year long), we have 90 degree days in June, July, August and even sometimes September, but not this kind of heat. Minneapolis (who actually started with their students this past week... they are really the only ones up here to start prior to Labor Day) ended up canceling school Thursday and Friday after trying to keep up with the heat. Many schools up here don't have air conditioning throughout the building. For example, my school only has air conditioning in the library, gym, office and then the 'new wing' of our building which houses the music room and the kindergarten rooms. The rest of us sweat it out. Not to mention as you move farther away from the new wing, the temperature increases 15 degrees or so with every 5 steps it seems. Anyways, where was I going with this.... oh ya, it was HOT!

We had teacher workshop days Monday-Thursday and they tried to keep us in the air as best as they could (as some schools in my district do have air throughout the whole building). Thursday evening was our Open House and my room was a balmy one.

At our school, we have Open House before school starts. It's a chance for families to come to school, find out who their teacher is, sign up for conferences, check out their new room, and bring in supplies. We then start school the following week with our students. One incentive that helps get families to come is that they don't get to find out who their teacher is unless they come that night.

That being said, I had a GREAT turn out. I meet 24 of my 27 third graders this year and I'm SO excited for this new year with them all. I snapped some photos before they arrived to show how I got prepared. I tried some new things that worked great (and some things that didn't).

Communal Supplies

 This year, we changed our supply lists a bit and some of it is now communal. That meant we had to set up places in our room for them to dump these supplies.

I used book bins that we got at a professional development to separate them. Not everyone brings their supplies in this night and they actually were the perfect size!

I also hung up signs for less obvious spots:
-loose leaf paper in the crate
-another bin for rulers
-pencil pile
-post-it note basket

This ran pretty smoothly and I'll do this again next year. I also posted a sign for what individual supplies go in student's desks.

Sign- ups
Families were asked to let me know daily transportation plans for after school as well as for the first day of school. Although this was on the checklist for them to do, many did not without me reminding them. Not everyone did it, but it is a start. This was pretty typical last year as well.

I also tried something different this year with volunteers. Last year, I had a lot of them. I sent home an individual sheet for each student. That meant, I had to go through all of them to make a master of what kinds of volunteers I had and such. So I tried a sign-up at Open House.... and it failed. I either don't have any interested volunteers or people were too hot to stick around and fill it out. I'll be sending home the individual sheet the first week in hopes I get at least a few.

Book Labeling

Last year, I wrote the student's names onto their math book on a label and put it on their desk for Open House. One of my teammates thought to have the students label their own books this year, so I thought I would try it. For 1 reason, that meant less labeling for me. For another reason, it gives them some ownership.

The downfall to this: again, not everyone did it, even though it was on the checklist. The following day, I had to walk around, peek in desks and figure out who didn't do it so I could put the books into their desk. Next year, I'll go back to doing it for them or change my check list to make it more obvious... we'll see.

Curriculum Table
I set up a table with a few different curriculum focuses. I had sample homework so they would know what it looked like. I had a sample RW binder/notebook so they could see how we'll track our reading progress and such. I also had an example of a writing project from last year in a class book we made, and lastly, just invited them to browse through the math activity book. 

Birthdays I added birthday tags for who's birthday is in that month. I did blur out any names of actual students on the following slides. I am trying to celebrate half birthdays this year to celebrate those kiddos who have summer birthdays so we'll see how that goes. 

Checklists & Forms

Last year I did a checklist... this year I did a checklist... I'll be revising it next year to make it more user friendly and to the point so that families do what I truly need them to do to help the first day go smoothly.    Some things I had them do was to find their attendance/lunch button and move it so they know what to do the first day, find their mail box, look through the classroom library and make a book suggestion, visit the communal supplies drop off section, label their books... it just got to be too much. So that will change. But hey, ya learn something new each year! I also gave them a pencil to go with our door decoration (again, blurred out the name).

 I also created a brochure that included our daily schedule, information on snacks, water bottles, and our website to name a few topics. I separately had a packet of forms (that way, they either all come back- or none). The forms included a home contact sheet with detailed info that was super valuable to me last year (such as- when would you like to be contacted, best means of contacting you, who lives with the child at home and their relations, etc). I also had a form where parents could share detailed info about their child including questions like, what motivates their child, their interests, their fears, their personality, and others. Lastly, I included a page about birthdays and whether the family wants me to recognize the child's birthday or not (as some cultures do not). On the back of the checklist was a letter from me.

Here is one final look of my room from my desk/small group area before open house. Many of the materials were on the student's desks ready to go. Oh- one new thing I did which I definitely would do next year: Nicknames. I had 8 or so kids who according to records say they go by a nickname. I'm always hesitant to just go with the nickname since sometimes kids and families change their mind year to year. This year, if a child had a nickname on record, I left a little note with 2 post-its. One post-it had their nickname, one had their given name. The note said to leave the name they wanted on their name tag. That way, I don't have to change them. I actually had 2 kiddos who wanted their given name- not their nickname. So I'm glad I did that.

I'm trying to get in the mindset that I'm teaching on Tuesday... it's a bit hard for me right now. The first couple weeks are so hard because we aren't in a routine. We are an RC school (Responsive Classroom) which means we put a lot of emphasis on routines, expectations, and modeling. So the first few weeks is heavily focused on getting those structures in place so behaviors are limited during our days. It's totally worth it! But it does take a while to get into our normal routines. Here's to a new year with new beginnings and new things to learn, for both me and my students!


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