Most schools have been through their openings days for staff and students – or will be this week. Now it’s time to think about families. As is the case for students and staff, we should begin by thinking about relationships first.
The fall issue of Ed. (Harvard Graduate School of Education’s magazine) has a piece about open houses “
Scenes from an Open House” by Lory Hough. It was the subtitle that caught my attention, however, “
Why Do We Continue to Blow It With This Annual Back to School Event?” Drawing on the work of Karen Mapp, the article makes a strong case that we should reexamine some our practices when it comes to open house and offers some ideas for other ways of doing things.
Mapp challenges us to move open house beyond lectures about school and classroom rules and homework policies. She suggests that family-school partnerships be
relational, interactive, collaborative, developmental (build capacity) and
linked to learning.
Some open house examples I have seen implemented by teachers over the years, include having parents:
- Participate in a Responsive Classroom-style class meeting (relational and interactive).
- Solve a math problem based on the new standards or engage in a “thinking routine” used in the classroom (interactive, linked to learning)
- Fill out index cards describing one important thing about their child the teacher should know or hopes and concerns for the coming year (collaborative)
- Sign-up for an individual “listening conference” with the teacher early in the year to help the teacher get to know the child and family (relational and collaborative)
Mapp suggests Open House should send the message that “
We care about you. We want your engagement… Families should leave feeling excited about the year and have an understanding about learning goals. They should learn at least three or four things their child will know by the end of the year and they should definitely feel included.”
No small order! But one worthy of consideration as we plan for this fall’s open houses.
MESPA Executive Director