Saturday, September 19, 2015

Not Another Parent Night!

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Are you thinking, Oh No!!! Another parent night, what am I going to do? Do you stay up worrying the night before?, or feel butterflies in your stomach? Are you self conscious about getting up and speaking in front of parents? Well, if you answered yes to any of these questions, you’re not alone.

My teaching partner and I came up with a way to make parent night fun for everyone, including ourselves, since neither of us likes to get up in front of an audience, other than our classroom, lol!

It happened one afternoon, after the kids had gone home.  We wanted to do something different for parent night.  Suddenly, the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words,” came into my head, and I had an ah ha! moment. Why not show parents what our program is like instead of telling them.  That’s how our Parent Night Video Program began. 

We prepared for the taping by making sure we got the go ahead from the principal as well as all the teachers who work with our students. Next we let our classes in on it, and they just loved the idea.

When the appointed day arrived, we were at the front door, camcorder in hand, to tape them as soon as they got off the bus. We were  greeted with waves and hellos as they entered the building and proceeded to their homerooms.

Mostly, we recorded  the kids, but we also wanted to show our teaching style so the parents could get to know us a little. We went back and forth between rooms creating a short video of both. This can be tricky because the kids were alone for a few minutes just about every period. It’s amazing how much you learn about yourself and your charges when you watch yourself teach. We always made sure that we captured each child doing something, we never wanted anyone to feel left out, or for any parent to say, "I didn't see my Sally."

After period one ended, which was either history or science, we’d escort them to Unified Arts, taping while walking. Some of them would be sewing, others would be doing woodwork, art, or metal shop. Again we would go back and forth between classes doing our filming. Parents loved to see them in action, we’d hear “oohs and ahhs,” as they saw their little ones using power equipment, or sewing machines, and cleaning up after themselves. They were in amazed at the types of things the kids did, especially in metal/wood shop, without losing fingers or limbs. 

When Unified Arts were over, we would tape either English or math classes, continuing to make sure that everyone was included.

At the end of a busy morning, we'd switch groups and get ready for lunch. which was a real trip. We filmed them going through the lunch line and showed the cafeteria staff serving their food. Watching their child eat, and what they threw away was eye opening for many parents.

Back to class to continue taping either math, english, world history or science classes.  As the day drew to a close, you could still see us taping the children while in homeroom study period. and as their buses were being announced over the loudspeaker.  Our ending statement says it all, “The last bus has been called, the room is empty, and quiet and sometimes we like it like that.” We always get chuckles from the parents because they can relate.

Our final step, before parent night, was to send notes home letting them know that they will be viewing a  presentation of,  A Day in the Life of their Child. Then we do some edits.

During the day of parent night, the class got to see the final production. They were treated to popcorn or some type of snack and we'd all sit back to watch ourselves in action. 

Parent night finally arrived and our production was ready for viewing. We would introduce it and tell them that the video will probably answer every question that they might have and it usually did. Jokingly we called ourselves Marin & Filipek DeMille, after the Hollywood director Cecil B. DeMille and the parents had a chuckle over that. The ice had been broken and we were ready to begin.

Of course, there were times when the unexpected happened, like the video player wasn't working, or we couldn't find the TV that we signed up for. We’re all human, and these things occur. We took it in our stride and the parents were understanding. Eventually, we got everything up and running and all were happy.

The best part was to watch the reactions of the parents as they watched their kiddos in action. They marveled at how busy they were and how much work was accomplished throughout the day. Most had never seen how their child behaves in school and they just loved this. Better still, they realized what a difficult job we, as teachers have trying to tame these middle school children.

At the end of the film, we have received standing ovations, as the parents are thrilled with what they’ve just seen. We’ve made a great impression and we can rest a bit easier knowing that we’ve completed a successful parent night.


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