Thursday, August 30, 2018

How to Survive Back to School Night

By Margie Royster

Margie Royster, Founder and CEO of Nannies As Needed has over 30 years experience in childcare service.  Nannies As Needed (aka NAN), established in 2004, is a unique family care service providing exceptional daily, short term and emergency care on an as needed basis and has been the recipient of the Best of Gold Coast Award for 7 years running,  Margie has a loving yet practical view toward caring for children and her anecdotal experiences will either give you pause or make you think that they are just not pause-able.

As a matter of reference, the insights and perspectives shared here have evolved through personal experience amassed from many of the Fairfield County Back to Schools nights over the last 10 years.  You may already be aware of these ideas, but I’m guessing there are just as many that will be new to you! Pick and choose what works for you…and have some fun!

To Begin…

- Back to School Night is just not a date on a’s an important school event, particularly if you truly want to help your child successfully ferret his way through the school year unscathed.  A bit dramatic, perhaps…but in many ways, it really is a call to battle, the academic battle! Do I hear Ivy league?

- How you approach this evening can make the difference between a survivor-able school year and a traumatic one!

- If you put a little effort into your preparation, the payback will dazzle you all year through with residual benefits that just linger on. 
Remember, it’s “Plan the Work….and Work the Plan”

Getting Organized

- Take care of the ones left behind…husband, other children, pets…the right sitter will make sure that all is under control on the home front as you head into battle.  It’s tough to focus on two fronts at the same time!

- Pack your tools in advance – a note pad, cell, canvas bag for handouts. water bottle, pens (black and red), hand wipes, etc.

- Choosing Your Battle Fatigues – Wear something distinctive (but in good taste)...a pin. scarf, sweater…something that when you call a teacher after that night, you can say..”I was the one with the giraffe pin…” . You may be an individual but to the teacher, we are all alike on Back To School Night!

Doing Your Homework

- Don’t forget your Prep Time with your client – what questions does your child have, issues, concerns...Remember, you are his agent!  You will see and hear things this night that may be irrelevant to you on the surface but may be significant to your child.  You need to know what to look and listen for!

- Create an Agenda – Develop your questions by subject/teacher and write them down! This is not a big deal and does not have to entail a big effort.  Think of this as just collecting a few memory jogs. Otherwise, after the first session or two, you will never remember what you want to know about the class that you are in.

Getting Started

- Now that you have a game plan, stick with it!

- To begin, once you get there, park close to the exit (not the entrance) and be sure to be facing outward. When the night is over, you’ll be tired, grumpy and already working on that list of things to do at home.  You’ll just want to get out of there…and fast!

- As you are walking in, there will always be tables with handouts. Take one of everything and just stuff them in your bag. You do not want to be deciding as to what’s relevant or not before the night even begins!

Let the Games Begin

-Be sure to get a seat near the front of each session if only to hear the speaker/teacher clearly. This will also assure that you get all of the handouts in case they are running short.

- Don’t read any of the material while you are there. There will be time for that later.  Just listen to what the teacher has to say and take notes.

- Speaking of which, you can discreetly cell video certain segments of a complex set of explanations or instructions.  This will help you to remember key points and will also give you the opportunity to capture inflections and tones that you can share with your child later.

Pitfalls and Opportunities

- Avoid getting into sidebar chats with a familiar mom or dad that will distract your focus. It’s so easy to engage but can be impossible to break away.

- Identify at least 2 parents that you know that are in each class. They will be your sanity buds during the year in case you need to compare notes, collect missing homework, or to simply grouse. Remember, you may not always get all of the pertinent info from your child on everything throughout the year!

- Meet the teacher personally after his/her talk but for no more than 1 minute (you can’t be late to the next class!) if only to be remembered.

- Have your introductory line (be sincere) down pat.  A question about the material just discussed will not leave an impression but an endorsement, willingness to help out during the school year, or perhaps a useful information “link” will!

- If you decide to share a link, have it written out in advance with your name on it! If it’s relevant, it will go a long way in having you (and child) remembered.

Great Job!!...Endorse yourself!!  Now that you are a Pro in “Working the Room”, you get to do it all over again in the next class!

In the Flow…

- When visiting the teachers for the elective courses, be careful not to drop your guard.  Even the purported “light” classes are just as important as the core subjects and can have their own set of challenges that you need to know about and to be prepared for. Running off to Wal-Mart at 9PM on a Thursday night for poster board for an art project due on Friday morning is not fun for anyone.  

 Wishing You Farewell

- When the evening is over and it’s finally done, look for the principal.  He/she is usually shaking hands by the main exit.  A sincere acknowledgement of just how well the evening went (it went well because you were prepared!!) is always appreciated .  And, if you have cause to endorse a specific teacher because of your experience with him/her that night, it will get back to them…along with your name. Look at this as simply a sincere overture of acknowledging his/her attitude and extra effort that he/she put into this evening…and that you appreciated it!

Now for the tough part, do you remember where you parked 

your car?

Bringing it Home…

- Remember, you were the family representative, so share what you’ve learned when you get home with both your spouse (if he/she did not attend with you) AND your child.

- You can greatly help your child by pointing out things that you feel will make their life easier during the school year i.e. what certain teachers are expecting, the “hot spots” for each teacher, etc.

- Post your calendar with key events and project due dates…Surprises do not work for anyone! 

The Follow-up

- Create a shopping list of things to check out or buy as a result of the helpful hints you received by either the teacher or another parent who has “been there” before. Even if you don’t fully understand the full benefit of the suggestion upfront, there is usually a good reason why it’s being passed on to you! 

- Now, take the time to check out the hand outs and find out all of the peripheral things that will be going on at school this year. Getting involved in something, anything, is always good both for your child and for you.  After all, if you are not showing a serious interest in his school and education, why should he?  Your involvement in Back to School night was a great first step for the current year!  

I hope that you found a point or two here that will help you look on Back to School Night just a bit differently and perhaps give you an insight as to the philosophy that we embrace here at Nannies As Needed.  It’s all about the care and nurturing  of the children and their families...


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