I already addressed the teacher’s role at back-to-school night and what parents can learn from that session. Now I want to address the parents’ role. Of course, this is not the night to have a personal conference about your child. That opportunity will come during parent-teacher conferences, or if you feel it is necessary, you can make a private appointment sooner.
Back-to-school night is the chance for you to ask your child’s teachers what the children will be learning, and what you can do at home to compliment what is taught in class. Should you read to your child every night? Should you practice his letters and numbers? Should you try to teach him how to read? Depending on your child’s age and stage of development, the answers to these questions might differ, but your child’s teachers will have basic rules of thumb that they are happy to share with you.
As a teacher of three year olds, I would encourage parents to follow their child’s lead on what he is ready to learn. For example, if you are in the grocery store, ask him the number of each aisle. If he has no clue and is way more interested in playing with the packages in the cart, don’t push it. He will let you know when he is ready to begin recognizing numbers. If he does show an interest, give him more difficult tasks to see what he is capable of learning. If he recognizes numbers, begin asking him simple math problems, such as, “if I have one green apple and one red apple, how many apples do I have all together?” If he knows the answer is two, you can make the problems more difficult.
Another opportunity you have at back-to-school night is to find out how you can help out in the classroom. Can you provide a healthy snack? Maybe come in to read in the library, or talk about your job? Teachers love having parents help out in the classroom, and your child will be thrilled to have you also. If you are able to plan ahead, that might make taking time off of work or other responsibilities easier. It will also help the teacher with lesson plans.
In our class, we ask each parent to bring in a disposable camera so we can take advantage of photo ops as they occur. Once the camera is full, that parent has the pictures developed, and gives them to the parent who is in charge of putting the yearbook together. Ask your child’s teacher if you can contribute any supplies.
Finally, this is your chance to meet your child’s peers’ parents. When my son was two, he spoke constantly about two little girls in his class. My husband and I made a special effort to meet their parents, and we ended up becoming family friends who enjoyed watching each other’s children grow. It is wonderful to find people who are in the same situation as you, and can share your questions and concerns.