New Teachers, You Will Survive Your First Back-to-School Night—I Promise

Keep it short, remember the caffeine, and other essential tips.

You Will Survive Your First Back-to-School Night

Dear new teachers,

As you no doubt already realize, teaching is tough. But guess what? You are tougher, I promise. Right now you may be wondering if you will ever look forward to Back-to-School Night. Honestly, maybe not. However, right now you fear the unknown. The nightmares you have in your head of accidentally letting a four-letter word slip or parents verbally accosting you will probably never come to fruition. These tricks will help make your first Back-to-School Night flow smoothly and painlessly. Trust me.

Stop at Starbucks

Caffeine is essential for Back-to-School Night. It’s like speed dating without the date. Smile, show genuine interest and concern for the student, make brief small talk and move on to the next family. Keep circulating, and whatever you do, don’t get backed into a corner by Helicopter Harriet who will tell you her child’s entire life history starting with the delivery. Politely point out that another parent just arrived.


Keep presentations short

I don’t know about you but I don’t like public speaking in front of anyone taller than four feet who may possibly be judging me. These events are usually held at the end of the night when everyone is tired. Families will not have the focus or the desire to listen to the entire algebra curriculum in one sitting. Amelia’s three year old brother may be screaming to high heaven that he didn’t get the same package of Smarties that his sister, the student, received for attending. Have handouts with bullet points that can be perused at home. A digital presentation can be helpful in sticking to the relevant data and maintaining your focus and of those in attendance.

Go on a scavenger hunt


Scavenger hunts are great ways to keep the parents busy while you are making your way around to meet everyone. These hunts help parents become acquainted with the classroom and resources available to their children. On the scavenger hunt list, provide opportunities to go to the art room, cafeteria or library. This way, parents and students become more comfortable with the actual building. I still have trouble locating everything at my school, and I have been there for 10 years.

Create a photo op

Establish a backdrop in advance, one that will engender interest and engagement. A family or staff member can be on hand to take the photos, which can be showcased on a classroom bulletin board or in a scrapbook. Include Take a Picture with a Friend as an item on the scavenger hunt list. 

Share work samples

Most parents have laser focus when it comes to their children. Parents cannot wait to find out how their offspring are performing. Of course, this is not the venue for a parent-teacher conference. If Back-to-School Night is occurring after the first few weeks of school, work samples such as journals, art projects, and research papers can be left on the desktops of individual students. Then, include “Find your child’s project” as a scavenger hunt item.

Plan for next year

Make note of what worked and did not work at your very first Back to School Night. This beginning year of teaching will be your most important learning experience. Remember to be reflective and forgiving of yourself. You will survive it all, one small accomplishment at a time. Remember, you are a superhero!

Do you have any advice for a new teacher’s first Back-to-School night? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.

Plus, 93 real-life thoughts I had during back-to-school night.

New Teachers, You Will Survive Your First Back-to-School Night—I Promise