Molly McCloskey

Back to School Night

Today is the first day of school for young people in my neighborhood and as I passed a group of my middle school neighbors standing on the corner waiting for the bus, I started thinking about Back to School Night. I've been to plenty as a teacher, counselor, and parent myself and more often than not they are a rush of one way information from the school to the families who have squished themselves into chairs too small for adult bodies! At best there is a handout about what will happen in a certain class this year and a snapshot of teacher personality and style, but little real time for connection and certainly no time to identify shared goals and plans for a child's success.

So what would a Whole Child Back-to-School Night look like? My dream is of a cafeteria filled with round tables for actual conversations and chart paper galore. School staff members, parents, and guardians would be mixed together as adults committed to success for each child. Maybe there would be a conversation about teachers who made a difference in their own lives. A question might be asked and discussed along the lines of, "Think about your child at age 25. What characteristics would you like him/her to have? What qualities?" Perhaps, then, the discussion would turn to how those gathered for this night can work together to ensure that each child has a caring adult like that teacher who made a difference; a discussion of how those gathered can ensure that each child has the future every parent dreams about for his or her own child.

I wonder how a night like this would change the tone of the school year. I wonder how it would set the stage for a new kind of parent teacher conference. I wonder what impact it would have on family engagement.

Of course, that's just my dream. There are lots of ways this could be done, including using our whole child community conversation guides or a video like this one we found the other day from Starkville, MS:

What will you do on Back to School Night to ensure each child in your community is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged?

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