What Parents Can Learn at Back to School Night

Back to school night is a chance for parents to ask important questions

Back to school night is a chance for parents to ask questions about the school year.
Be sure you write down important questions you want to ask your child's teachers at back to school night. Photo: Lhys, freeimages.com

Middle school can be quite a change from elementary school for both parents and students. The best way to learn what the year will be like, and what will be required from both you and your child, is to attend your school's back to school night. Here's what you should learn, and how to follow through with the information to make the school year the best ever for your child.

What You'll Learn from Back to School Night

  • Your Child's Schedule: You should be able to walk through your child's schedule at back to school night, attending each class in the order your child does during the day. On back to school night, teachers will often share the course syllabus, classroom rules, and what your child will learn from the class during the course of the year. It's possible you'll have the chance to flip through books, and other resources your child will use over the year, and learn how the teacher communicates homework assignments, and anything else your child will be responsible for while in class. Use this time to ask general questions about the class. If you have specific questions regarding your child or his challenges, follow up with the teachers a few days later, when they have the time to address your individual questions.
  • Your Child's Homework Load: With a little luck, at back to school night you'll learn just how much homework your child should expect during the year. The National PTA recommends 10 minutes of homework per level, per night. So, a 7th grader should reasonable expect 70 minutes of homework a day. But your school district likely has guidelines of its own. School administrators should share these guidelines with you, but if not, be sure to ask so that you can keep tabs on your child's workload. In addition to homework responsibilities, you might learn about major projects or experiments your child will have to complete during the year, and whether or not additional school supplies will be required to complete these projects.
  • The School's Enrichment Programs: Your child's middle school should offer the chance for your child to participate in after school enrichment programs, clubs or sports teams. Club advisors or student representatives should be on hand at back to school night to talk about their programs, and why your child might want to consider participating. If your child is interested in joining a club or other group, ask when it meets, what the time commitment might be and what the expenses are.
  • The School's Rules and Expectations: One of the most helpful aspects of back to school night is learning how the school handles discipline issues, unexcused absences, bullying, and even school security. Your school's principal or another member of the school staff will likely go over these issues on school night. The information will also likely be included in your school's student handbook. Be sure you and your student understand the school's rules, so that you can stop problems before they ever begin.
  • How to Contact Teachers and Administrators: At some point during the school year you'll probably have to contact your child's teacher. Be sure at the end of back to school night that you have contact information for all of your child's teachers and the principal or vice-principal. Also, make sure you know how to contact them via the school's website. Ask teachers if they prefer communication via email or phone.

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