Emma Newman staff writer
Virtual back-to-school night will introduce parents to teachers on Wednesday, Sept. 19 at 5:20 p.m.
Assistant Principal Drew Stewart, with the help of teachers and technology coaches, has been working to plan back-to-school night since the beginning of the year. He helped create a plan that allows teachers to use their normal Zoom rooms for the parent classes.
When meeting with the district office, school administration came up with an effective method for conducting back-to-school night.
“We started to think about the logistics that may be difficult because of doing it virtually in Zoom and trying to tighten up security in classes, but also still allow this meeting to go off without a hitch,” Stewart said.
Since then, he worked to get the bell schedule approved and made sure that instructions are ready to go.
Throughout the process, Stewart coordinated with teachers to make sure the scheduling for the night works with them. However, he has tried to make sure that the teachers had as little work going into the night as possible by handling most of the planning himself.
“They’re going to be presenting about their class and hopefully getting parents excited about it,” Steward said. “In terms of all of the logistics and technical stuff, I’ve been trying to work to get that ready to go so they don’t have to worry about it.”
History teacher Robert Croll has a plan similar to normal for this year’s back-to-school night, despite its new format.
“I am going to introduce myself to my students’ parents and hopefully do a decent job conveying my experience and my expectations in the class and hopefully answer any questions that parents may have so I can clarify anything they need clarification on,” Croll said.
One of his regular back-to-school night activities will not be taking place this year, though.
“One of the things that I have found most beneficial in the past is I usually give parents an index card and have them write any personal notes that might help to give a better idea as to how best to educate or support their child,” Croll said. “I could give an exit ticket that would be similar, but that would be a significant difference if we were in class versus virtually.”
Dance teacher Dana Findley is also preparing in a different manner than previous years. However, she is attempting to make her class feel as real as possible by creating a virtual dance studio for the meeting.
She also created a slideshow presentation to inform parents about her classes’ new normal. In the presentation, she plans to discuss her grading system and the ways in which she is available to parents and students.
“They’ve been unbelievable for us as we’ve gone into COVID and all of the distance learning,” Stewart said. “They’ve been helpful in terms of looking over the things we’re working on [and] making sure that the instructions are clear [and] make sense.”
Specifically for back-to-school night, Minicozzi and Lagola have helped Stewart evaluate his plan to use pre-existing virtual learning classrooms, helping him think of “benefits or any negatives” of the idea.
Ultimately, they decided that this method had more positive aspects than drawbacks.
“Teachers don’t have to create new rooms. Kids don’t have to try to figure out helping their parents reinvent the wheel,” Stewart said. “[The tech coaches] have been very instrumental in making sure that all makes sense and would be logical for everybody as we got there that night.”
However, Stewart believes that this plan isn’t perfect, mostly due to the lack of person-to-person communication. For Croll, this is the main reason why he would prefer to have in-person back-to-school night instead of online.
“It’s less personal, obvious[ly],” Croll said. “I’d like to shake my student’s parent’s hand and get to meet them and I think establishing a rapport with my kids’ families is just easier. Everything is easier in person than virtually.”
Findley also is unhappy about the lack of personal contact with the parents for similar reasons, although she is trying to look on the positive side.
“It’s just different. It’s a new way of looking at things,” Findley said. “The hard thing about not being together is I have so many students that I have for multiple years and I build relationships with families and I’m going to miss being able to give people hugs.”
While Findley is unhappy about this loss, she is hoping that there will also be a positive side of this new method: an increase in parent turnout.
“For some families, this is easier because running from work and dealing with dinner and then coming to school might actually be harder than being able to turn on your computer at home,” Findley said.
Croll is also “optimistic” that turnout will be higher this year than it would be if in-person back-to-school night was taking place.
“I’m hopeful that in this particular circumstance, it might actually be beneficial that it’s virtual and remote because I know everyone’s got their prior engagements and this might simplify it,” Croll said. “People can jump on the computer for 10 minutes versus having to leave work early or get childcare.”
To Stewart, this newfound benefit could be the reason why this year’s back-to-school night is better than that of previous years.
“You can’t ever, 100%, replace the interpersonal contact of actually being in the same place [as] people,” Stewart said. “But I think it’s possible [that] if we have a lot different turnout because of the ease in which people can use their computers to attend, that overall, it will be a better experience because more people will get to participate.”
Full back-to-school night schedule: