I have been the Principal at Merton Intermediate School, a school of about 500 4th-8th graders, for six years. During my tenure in Merton, we have had Parent Information Nights for each grade level. It has been my expectation and at times I have been asked by our staff the reason for these nights. In thinking about the reasons, I have come up with four that I see as the primary purpose of these nights.
#1- Parent engagement
This is by far the most important reason for me. We are always struggling to have parents come into our school. Open House draws in parents before the school year begins and we have nearly perfect attendance. Conferences bring in most of our parents as well. Concerts are well attended, too. I see Parent Information Nights as a venue to allow parents to learn about our teachers, our grade level expectations, and our student information system. This doesn't really happen at Open House. Students and parents get to meet their teachers but having an in depth conversation about curriculum or expectations is difficult to accomplish. We hand out curriculum guides and other pertinent information but seldom do parents get to ask questions about the materials they are given. Parent Information Nights provide this venue and allow the staff to share a little about themselves.
#2- Parent volunteers
At an Intermediate School, it is sometimes difficult to get volunteers. This is especially true of our middle school parents, partially because the students don't really want their parents in our school. Having a Parent Information Night allows the staff to let parents know of the variety of volunteer opportunities- room parents, chaperoning field trips, running copies, leveling reading books, and making bulletin boards.
#3- Sharing student work
What a great venue to show off what the students have done to this point in their classes. Teachers could share activities and projects that the students have completed or are working on to showcase the great things they are doing with kids. That's a win-win in my book.
#4- Professional responsibility or "Because I said so"
In my time in Merton, I have required grade levels to have Parent Information Nights. This allows our staff the opportunity to share the awesome activities that occur in their classrooms. As educators, we are not really good at discussing the great things that we do with students each and every day. It is a great opportunity to spread the good news as well as opening the lines of communication with our parents.
Do you have Parent Information Nights and if you do, what else could I add to my list?