Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Success Story: Flipping Back to School Night

     Although I have spent the last 18 years of my life teaching (mostly second grade), the thought of lecturing to a room full of adults on Back to School Night terrifies me! Each year, I pour over my Keynote presentation. I've used cute fonts, interesting quotes, imported videos of their children -anything to catch their attention and pull them from their serious stares. The truth I've found: Parents don't want to listen to a 45 minute lecture about procedures and curriculum at the end of a long day any more than I want to deliver that lecture. They want to feel like their child is in capable hands and in a safe and nurturing environment.
     So, I started thinking why not "flip" Back to School Night and free up my time for something more engaging? How would I do this?  Would a community of parents who are used to a "sit and get" style be ready for this? A quote from Angela Maiers came to mind: "Courage is the ability to enter the unknown by confronting challenges, taking risks, and overcoming fears." It was time for me to be courageous. Here's what I did.

·      One week before Back to School Night, I emailed all information home -schedules, curriculum links, helpful articles, etc. If it could be emailed, it was.
·      I informed the parents that I was trying a new format. Just as we ask our children to come to school with an open mind, ready to participate and learn each day, I would be doing the same with them. I explained the "flipped classroom" and asked them to do their reading at home in advance.
·      Because I had 45 minutes to present, I chose 5 "pillars" that define my classroom. I chose Community Building, Divergent Thinking, a Growth Mindset, the Importance of Wonder, and Bridging Kids Toward Independence.
·      During the first week of school, I took pictures as children participated in activities that demonstrated these "pillars."
·      I designed an interactive presentation, where parents would participate in a series of actives that would parallel experiences their children would have during the school year. The process went like this: 
1.    Lead the parents through an activity
2.    Show them a Keynote slide explaining what they just experienced (one of my five "pillars")
3.    Show a final slide with pictures of their children participating in similar experiences, highlighting the importance of each "pillar."
·      Parents' questions and/or concerns were addressed in my “Importance of Wonder” section. Sticky notes were on each desk so they could write down their own "wonders," that I would answer later individually. Interesting to note, I didn't receive any questions. As I read the wonders after parents left, I saw things like, "I wonder why chickens don't fly even though they have wings?" and "Does the tooth fairy get money when she loses a tooth?" They had caught the wonder bug, and bought into this new style.

Here's what I learned:  This works!  I've never received so much positive feedback. My BTSN presentation was referred to as "so much fun" and "innovative & engaging." I also noticed that my typical BTSN nerves dissolved as I kicked into teacher mode and started doing things that I do every day.  In summary, there will be no more 45-minute parent lectures from me. I’m sold.  I encourage you to rethink your BTSN!

Contributed by Mary Beth Miller, Grade 2 Teacher at Oak Avenue Elementary and LASD Lead Learner

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