By Maureen Cohen, Assistant Superintendent, Mendon-Upton Regional School District
As many of our districts are immersed in preparations for Open House, it is a prime opportunity to engage our larger community in the shared beliefs and vision we hold for our students. Beginning with the invitations to parents and guardians to come to Open House, continuing through who is greeting them at the door, what messages are we sending?
As a parent and as an educator, I have personally witnessed numerous plots with twists and turns as schools and educators welcome parents to their open houses. On the one hand, I’ve been greeted at the door by name by the principal who shook my hand, asked me how I was doing, and told me how my child seemed to be off to a great start. On the other hand, I have also been at school where no one is there to greet parents as they arrive at the door, no signs were posted, and first-time parents wandered about confused on where they had to go. Which of those two stories would you want to continue reading?
As parents move to classroom presentations and meet their child's teacher for the first time, what will be the dominant narrative they hear? Will it read more like story #1, story #2 or story #3 below?
School Story #1: Our school is focused on....
Wow! There are a lot of you here tonight. I have to be honest, I didn't prepare anything."
School Story #2: Our school is focused on...
I just love working here. I have worked in a lot of different schools and this is one of the most caring and collaborative environment I have been in. The teachers really care about students here."
School Story #3: Our school is focused on...
We are looking for opportunities to engage our parents and community members to bring their experiences in to support our students. Please sign-up if you are interested in volunteering or can speak to our students about your own work experience."
The quotes above are not pulled from fictional tales of classrooms, but are real-life examples of statements teachers have shared at open houses that I have personally experienced over the years. Which school would you want to send your child to if you had the choice?
From classroom teachers to school leaders, we have to be cognizant of all of the messages we are sending out to the community, because these interactions and communications, whether big or small, create a larger narrative about what we believe is important.
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