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Get ideas and tips to make this virtual kickoff event a success for you and your students’ families

Back-to-school night is an exciting annual ritual for international journal parents and caregivers, teachers, and administrators. It’s when we begin a new relationship with our classroom community and meet the adults who will be our partners in supporting our students’ education. Given the restrictions on large-group gatherings and the fact that many schools are not returning to in-person instruction for the time being, back-to-school nights are going to look a lot different this year.

For some schools, these meetings might happen before school even begins, giving everyone a chance to get essential information about getting started with distance learning. For others, teachers will be in regular contact with families for a week or longer before any kind of school-wide virtual event takes place. Some schools may choose to do an administrator-led event and let teachers decide whether classroom-focused meetings will be synchronous, asynchronous, as a class group, or with families and teachers one-on-one. Other schools will want to formalize the plans so that all classes have similar interactions.

No matter the format and time frame for your back-to-school meetings with families, a couple of things are most likely true:

You’re going to have to do this virtually or over the phone.
Parents are going to have a lot of questions.
Given this unusual back-to-school season, we wanted to offer some ideas and tips for making this virtual kickoff event a success for you and your students’ families. We’ve included some modifications and options to help you reach families with inadequate or no tech access at the beginning of the year.

Get input from families to help you plan.
As soon as you have a class list and parent/caregiver contact information, connect with your students’ families and take the pulse of your new classroom community. Re-create your standard start-of-the-year surveys (getting to know the student, parent contact info and preferences, etc.) using an online tool like Google Forms. This year, create a new survey to give families a chance to share the questions and concerns they have about the upcoming year. You can use their answers to inform your back-to-school materials.

Low-tech modification: You may not know yet if families have adequate technology access at home. If you don’t have an email address or don’t get a response to your email within a few days, reach out by phone.

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