Conversations Episode 107 - Back to School Night

This week we discussed Back to School Night, debating what parents want to hear, what we want to say, and what our administrators expect us to say.  


11:29:16mariak : hello everyone.

11:29:19mariak : just setting up

11:29:19Cathy E : howdy

11:29:29mariak : it's chilly up here

11:30:12Cathy E : just nasty here

11:30:16Lisa Parisi : Amanda!

11:30:24Cathy E : been blowin a nor'easter all weekend

11:30:28marragem : Hi everyone!

11:30:40Sheila : Morning all!

11:30:54Sheila : What time zone are you in now Amanda?

11:31:13Sheila : Should be doing ustream shortly

11:32:10marragem : Only 12 hours difference at the moment

11:33:26marragem : no conversion...i don't have to think. You are all exactly the opposite to me :)

11:34:51marragem : oooh!

11:35:29marragem : saw Little Miss badges at the markets yesterday. There was one for Mother of the Groom

11:35:35PeggyG : Hi everyone-had problems logging in! Great to see you!

11:35:46Lisa Parisi : Hi Peggy!

11:35:49Sheila : Hi PeggyG

11:35:55marragem : can't believe it's only 2 weeks away, Maria

11:35:58PeggyG : Sorry I missed you last week but I listened to the recording :-)

11:36:01marragem : Hi Peggy

11:36:21PeggyG : Hi Amanda! Love having you here!!!!

11:36:45marragem : Thanks, Peggy. An easier timezone at the moment.

11:37:09Sheila : Hi cybrarianliz!

11:37:18Sheila : Love the name!

11:37:26cybrarianliz : Hey and TYVM

11:37:42cybrarianliz : I am here cuz I saw Lisa tweet!

11:37:56PeggyG : do you have parent conferences before back to school night?

11:38:11marragem : We have a Parent Teacher Night some time in the fisrt 2 weeks of school. Have an Open Day in May for prospective parents - normally of Prep students.

11:38:34PeggyG : family nights---feed them :-)

11:39:00cybrarianliz : at our middle school we have "open house" during the first two weeks of school no official parent conference time

11:39:38cybrarianliz : and Peggy I agree

11:39:43cybrarianliz : feed them and they will come :)

11:39:44marragem : that's a good idea, Sheila

11:39:50PeggyG : we always did a BBQ and found that dads will come to that--we keep the entire evening informal--no scheduled presentations and we often got former students back to see their teachers too

11:40:15marragem : We have a welcome back BBQ but no Open House

11:40:39PeggyG : our BBQ was both welcome back and Meet the Teacher Night/Open House

11:41:47marragem : Our kids have a Meet the Teacher in the last week of the school year. They already know who their teacher will be before the go on summer break

11:42:55Lisa Parisi : Hello Jen!

11:43:00PeggyG : that's great Amanda! You must not have a transient population. We always had tons of changes over the summer so waited to announce teachers until right before school started

11:43:20Cathy E : @Peggy who pays for the BBQ?

11:43:26cybrarianliz : so do you think its better to have a "schedule" for back to school night or to just let them flow around?

11:43:47Sheila : Good question!

11:43:50mariak : Would anyone like to join the skype call to add another voice to the Conversation...would love to hear other voices.

11:44:41mariak : BTW - I do hear "other voices" - just now I'm inviting them to be broadcasted!! :p

11:44:42marragem : I guess not Peggy. Always been this way - at least in Queensland. We have a few new ones arrive in January but not enough to change the practice

11:44:57PeggyG : we found it better to let them flow around :-) with multiple children it was always so complex to try to work out a schedule for everyone. There are many ways to share info about your classroom/plans without making a presentation

11:45:40marragem : I'd love to Maria but I'll wake everyone here. Only a little townhouse. I would not be popular!

11:45:55PeggyG : we did many of them as scheduled events but got much more positive feedback about the informal setup

11:46:16Cathy E : That is great, Lisa, our attendance is not that great.

11:46:52PeggyG : special area teachers definitely get more "traffic" with an informal night

11:47:29marragem : gee - our specialist teachers never meet with parents

11:47:50PeggyG : how sad Amanda!

11:48:19jenorr : Our specialists teachers are in the hallways throughout Back to School Night available to parents. Our special ed and ESOL teachers go into the classrooms where they work to meet and talk to parents.

11:48:56marragem : it is, Peggy. Unless a parent requests a meeting, they are not part of our Parent Info nights of conference nights

11:49:19PeggyG : those first impressions are soooo important!!

11:49:41Lisa Parisi : Yes they are Peggy

11:49:46jenorr : Lisa, I think that issue, the talking all about the test, is so common these days, sadly.

11:50:32PeggyG : @jenorr do your specialists like that arrangement? seems like it devalues their role as a teacher

11:51:47jenorr : @PeggyG I don't know. In 14 years there I've never heard a complaint, but it's an interesting question. I think some are relieved to not have to make their room "parent-ready" in the second week of school and others may be annoyed to have to come and stand in the hall. Our librarian opens the library up for the evening and is there to talk to parents. Many do stop by there.

11:53:07cybrarianliz : Sorry to have to go so soon..thanks for the idea-sharing. My chores and minions are calling me.

11:53:10PeggyG : we always had to work hard to get parents to understand that specialists are teachers with important things to teach and not just people who provide preps for classroom teachers. Our specialists were in their rooms greeting/meeting parents just like classroom teachers

11:53:18Lisa Parisi : Thanks for coming, Liz

11:53:27PeggyG : bye Liz-have a great day

11:54:04jenorr : @PeggyG Did a lot of parents go to their rooms?

11:54:13marragem : One day I'll get to it!

11:54:39PeggyG : yes the kids love to take their parents there :-) with an informal plan and not scheduled times it worked really well

11:55:01Sheila : Hi Minhaaj!

11:55:14Sheila : :)

11:55:38jenorr : @PeggyG That's wonderful. I'll have to share that idea with our administration. I know our students adore going to PE, music, art and such and their parents would enjoy seeing those things as well. Do your students attend Back to School Night? (Ours typically don't.)

11:55:40minhaaj : Hey Sheila!!

11:55:50PeggyG : the challenge is to get parents and kids to leave :-) I always got on the intercom as the principal and announced that it was time to go and thanked them for coming

11:55:50minhaaj : Its been a long time, since i was here last time.

11:55:57mariak : Hi Minhaaj!

11:56:02minhaaj : Hey Hey Maria!!

11:56:09mariak : @minhaaj - it's been so long...

11:56:10marragem : I'm teaching the littlies next year! Yikes!!!!

11:56:24minhaaj : Yea feels like eternity. Man i missed that place :)

11:56:26PeggyG : yes our back to school night was for the whole family and all the kids come including those who moved on to Middle School/High School

11:57:22PeggyG : having a BBQ made it easy for them to come because they didn't have to prepare dinner that night

11:57:46minhaaj : Hey Peggy, Lisa :)

11:57:53jenorr : It's great to hear about how other schools have done/do Back to School Night. There are so many fabulous ideas.

11:57:59PeggyG : Hi Minhaaj! long time no see! Welcome back!

11:58:09minhaaj : thanks thanks. feels good to be back.

11:58:29PeggyG : what time is it where you are Minhaaj?

11:58:36minhaaj : I am in Sweden atm

11:58:36jenorr : How early in the year is Back to School Night for others? Ours is the second week of school and there isn't much to show yet.

11:58:42minhaaj : 6 pm

11:58:43PeggyG : it's almost 9:00am in Phoenix AZ

11:58:58mariak : @jenorr - do you have a night for parents - I know you have many parents who speak other languages

11:59:00Lisa Parisi : Hi Joes

11:59:03Lisa Parisi : Jose

11:59:03PeggyG : that's a great time for you Minhaaj :-)

11:59:08Lisa Parisi : Just stopping by?

11:59:11PeggyG : Hi Jose!!!

11:59:20Jose Rodriguez : hi.. just checking in .. we have a program over at Puentes..

11:59:21mariak : Jose ? Are you lost.

11:59:25minhaaj : hehe yea i have been hopping around a lot of places.

11:59:26Jose Rodriguez : funny,..

11:59:33Jose Rodriguez : good luck.

11:59:42minhaaj : i have been here some real crazy times.

12:00:29PeggyG : we always had Grandperson's Day in November right before Thanksgiving. Great day to have both parents and grandparents come to school to see what the kids are learning/doing

12:00:30Sheila : I bought  book about his travels!

12:00:43minhaaj : hehe did you!! thanks for your 8 dollars lol

12:00:59jenorr : @MariaK We have Spanish, Korean, and Vietnamese translators at our Back to School Night and lots of parents bring their kids (even though it is discouraged) to help them understand what is being said.

12:01:30PeggyG : great idea @jenorr!! kids are often the best translators!!

12:02:13jenorr : I love watching the kids interact with their parents too. It gives me so much insight into their lives.

12:02:24Lisa Parisi : Yes, Jen.  Always interesting.

12:02:35PeggyG : love it Maria!! we had those days too--Muffins for Mom and Donuts for Dad :-) Usually done in some classrooms and not whole school

12:03:06marragem : We have Tissues and Tim Tams Day One

12:03:16Lisa Parisi : Why tissues?

12:03:26PeggyG : so true @jenorr!! You can learn so much about the kids and the family dynamics when they are there together--in a very short amount of time

12:03:34marragem : all the Mums crying

12:03:37Lisa Parisi : LOL

12:03:38PeggyG : love it Amanda!!!!

12:06:42minhaaj : I hope you are better with to-do list than i am :)

12:06:43PeggyG : if you use the technology as you present in many varied ways it covers the message and models the tools

12:06:50Lisa Parisi : Yes, Peggy

12:07:12Lisa Parisi : Minhaaj, one of my favorite things to do is cross items off my to-do list.

12:07:31PeggyG : when Meg Wilson gave her presentation requesting funding for iPads for special ed to her governing board she used the iPad to demonstrate and they were so impressed they approved it immediately!

12:07:37minhaaj : hehe i am envious. i love to pile em up and then work 18 hours in a row to get them done.

12:07:43Lisa Parisi : LOL

12:09:26PeggyG : great point Lisa!! one computer can be a challenge in a family with lots of kids and homework expectations that require the computer

12:10:35PeggyG : providing alternatives for those who don't have internet access is really important

12:10:44PeggyG : exactly Lisa!!! great idea!

12:11:02Cathy E : I have many students who do not have computer access at home

12:11:51PeggyG : that would be a great future topic--alternatives for kids who don't have computers or internet connection at home

12:12:53PeggyG : Liz Kolb's new book is out this week--Cell Phones in the Classroom :-)

12:12:59Cathy E : Exactly Maria, there are a lot of parents who don't read the paper notes either.

12:13:18Sheila : Welcome to Conversations!

12:13:55Cathy E : Here, Here...I would love to be wired at home :)

12:14:59PeggyG : money!!!

12:15:22Lisa Parisi : YEs, Peggy.

12:15:39Cathy E : My electricity has gone out 3 times this week.

12:15:40PeggyG : we've had a "small" recession since that announcement :-)

12:15:48Lisa Parisi : Just a small one.

12:16:13PeggyG : we've lost so many public services with devastating impact on education and teachers

12:16:16Sheila : Due to weather Cathy?

12:16:36Cathy E : yep - been blowing here for 4 days

12:16:57minhaaj : Wonderful show as always. Gotta leave unfortunately. Its always sad to leave you lovely ladies :)

12:17:00minhaaj : Rock on!

12:17:10Lisa Parisi : Bye Minhaaj

12:17:23PeggyG : I think you were right earlier when you said it was more important to ask parents what they want to know and offer that on that night--you can always share your curriculum info, homework/grading policies in other ways

12:17:23mariak : Thanks for stopping by, Minhaaj

12:17:53marragem : for mine the focus, sadly, is on homework

12:18:34Lisa Parisi : And mine is testing...very sad indeed

12:18:41PeggyG : you have to "kick them out"--that's where the principal comes in over the intercom and says you have 10 minutes to leave and the lights will go out and the doors will be locked--in a nice way of course :-)

12:19:03marragem : hoemwork in preschool?

12:19:11Lisa Parisi : Usually, Peggy, the principal has to come down the hall and into my room to tell the parents that I need to get home.

12:19:47marragem : I know of other schools where the Prep (Kindergarten) classes have homework. Levelled readers, phonics work. Ugh!

12:19:53PeggyG : my intercom announcement did the trick--I also did a final, 2-minute warning...

12:21:19jenorr : I always offer to share the research that shows that research in elementary school has not been shown to be meaningful. I also tell parents that we will use every minute at school and at home they should play and spend time with their family.

12:22:20PeggyG : great idea @jenorr! do you also have a school homework policy/guidelines that support that research. That really helps to reinforce your message :-)

12:22:28Sheila : Welcome to "Conversations" chat room!

12:23:03jenorr : Sadly there is no good school-wide policy. Our district policy is 10 minutes per grade level (second grade is 20 min, third grade is 30 min, etc.).

12:23:25Lisa Parisi : We have a homework policy per grade.  But it only talks about the amount of time not what it is.

12:23:26PeggyG : that helps too

12:23:42jenorr : I've had so many parents look relieved at the idea that I want them to have family time - and this is just first graders! I can't imagine by upper elementary.

12:23:54Lisa Parisi : Our policy is similar Jen.  But we don't go past 30 minutes in 5th grade.

12:24:20PeggyG : explaining what "homework" means in your classroom as all of you are saying really is important--not just writing spelling words or reading 15 minutes but everything it includes

12:25:38Sheila : @Mario Do you need to change chat rooms?

12:25:55PeggyG : I love the posters that Silvia Tolisano created to explain the learning that happens with podcasting in her room.

12:26:27PeggyG : yes Maria!! the reading is really important every day!!!

12:27:50PeggyG : great conversation today!! :-)

12:28:05PeggyG : so happy to have you back on the air!!

12:28:59Lisa Parisi :

12:29:00Sheila : Thanks Peggy! good to get back in touch with everyone!

12:29:27PeggyG : those sounds like wonderful projects Lisa!! We'll help you spread the word.

12:30:34marragem : Yay!!

12:30:35PeggyG : woo hoo!!!!! I've been waiting to hear about your book coming out!!!!

12:30:50PeggyG : Can't wait!!!!!

12:31:43PeggyG : I always buy the pre-order and then forget that I did it and try to buy again when it is released!!! I need a better system to keep track :-)

12:32:04PeggyG : congratulations Lisa and Brian!!

12:32:58PeggyG : isn't that amazing--we "know" and collaborate with so many people we have never met f2f

12:33:44PeggyG : once some people start contributing to the wikis they will grow quickly as they get an idea about what to share

12:34:59marragem : they're sold as pets here

12:36:04PeggyG : have a great rest of your day/weekend! Thanks for an interesting, engaging conversation today!!

12:36:29Lisa Parisi :


This week we discussed Back to School Night, debating what parents want to hear, what we want to say, and what our administrators expect us to say.  

Conversations #106 - Summer Learning

The Conversations gang returned from their summer vacation with lots to say and ready for plenty of conversation. Lisa , Maria and Sheila share their learning while away for the summer.
The Conversations gang returned from their summer vacation with lots to say and ready for plenty of conversation. Lisa , Maria and Sheila share their learning while away for the summer.

Conversations #105 - Summer Plans

This week we were joined by Amanda Marrinan, who was in the same time zones as Lisa, Maria and Sheila! She was visiting Maria before heading to ISTE11. This week we discussed our professional and personal plans for the summer. Curriculum planning and having fun were at the top of the list!

This is our last show of the season. We will be taking time off for the summer, but will be back in the fall!

Conversations #104 - How do you end the year? [June 12, 2011]

This week, we discussed ending the school year. Although for some listeners it was a reflection, Lisa, Maria and Sheila all have about 2 more weeks to go! Several ideas and links were shared in the chat.


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