Photos Below: Courtesy of Katie Risolo Radovich
The beginning of a new school year always comes with a lot of necessary preparation! For teachers, this means preparing for new students, and maybe even a new classroom or a new school. Many schools provide time for students’ families—and sometimes the students themselves—to meet the teacher at school, either prior to the first day of class or within a few days of the school year getting into full swing.
Teacher Meet-and-Greet Ideas
These Meet the Teacher ideas and suggestions help ensure your first interactions with families go as smoothly as possible. (You can also view additional back-to-school night ideas here.)
Prior to Meet the Teacher:
1. Create a welcome letter
Whether your school likes to have teachers mail out a letter introducing themselves to their students and families, or to have a letter ready for Meet the Teacher Night, a newsletter is a fantastic way to share a little bit about yourself and get students excited to be in your class. I always like to mention my favorite subjects, what we will learn this upcoming year, some fun facts about me (e.g., favorite color, food, etc.). Sometimes I even include a school photo of myself from when I was going into the grade I'm teaching!
2. Get your classroom in order
Oftentimes, principals require your classrooms to be “show ready” by Meet the Teacher Night. I like to always remind myself that no one knows what you picture your classroom looking like other than you. There’s no need to fret if you forget to put out additional signage, decor, and so on. I suggest you have the key classroom components in place so students can clearly see where they will be learning and making new memories!
Some key classroom components include having student desks or tables set up however you feel your classroom operates best, along with clearly defined areas for backpacks, lunches and snacks, student mailboxes, your classroom library, and a morning meeting area. Bulletin boards should be decorated or, at the very least, covered with colorful paper and ready for use! If you have a technology area in your classroom, have the tech cart or devices set up just as you would on a typical school day.
3. Make the night easy and fun for all
To make the night go as smoothly as possible, I encourage you to have clearly defined directions that can be self-guided. After all, your students’ caregivers or parents are essentially going on their own tour of your classroom. Maybe you will use your digital board or a classroom TV to display what you want students and visitors to do. Or maybe you will provide easy-to-read directions on paper (more on this soon). Let’s get everyone up and moving!
As an early primary teacher, I typically label sections of my classroom throughout the year with pictures and words to create a literacy-rich environment that’s critical for language development in your learners. Having these areas already labeled by Meet the Teacher Night will help students become more independent. I also ensure all students have their own areas clearly labeled—like having personalized name plates fixed to each desk, as well as cubbies or hooks labeled for each child to hang their backpacks and jackets.
During Meet the Teacher:
1. Plan activities for students, parents, and caregivers
- Send them on a scavenger hunt around your classroom! If you teach the primary grades, you can use pictures and labels of items for students to find, or have them locate different areas of the room with which they should get acquainted. For the upper grades, you can use hints and riddles to make it more fun.
- If students are coming in with school supplies to drop off, they can place them in large bins if you’re doing communal supplies, or they can set up the inside of their desks. This will help ensure the first few days of school are focused on getting to know one another instead of organizing and labeling supplies all at once with a full class.
- Set up stations for parents and guardians to navigate. These stations could simply be areas of a classroom table where they can find helpful handouts to take home or complete. These may include family contact information cards, handouts focused on getting to know the child (e.g., strengths and weaknesses the caregivers are aware of or would like to share with you); dismissal information indicating who can pick up their child. You can even have them label specific school supplies right then and there to make that process easier for their student!
- I always like to include a piece of paper for parents or caregivers to write a note to their child that the student can read on the first day of school (or some time in the beginning of the school year). It should be something short and sweet but motivating for the student. I know I always loved this when I was a kid!
2. Spend a bit of time with everyone
Whether you plan on greeting everyone at the door or walking around the room as visitors go through all their “tasks,” make sure you get to talk with each student and their family! While you likely have many students, they will only have one classroom teacher, and they are super excited to meet you. The time will definitely fly by, and it’s easy to get caught up in conversations. I recommend spending a few minutes with each student or family, and toward the end of the allotted time, stand near the door to make yourself available for any questions.
3. Have a “party favor” for when it’s time for visitors to leave.
For clarification, I am not saying teachers have to give something out, nor am I saying to go out and buy a bunch of gifts for goodie bags! Your favor can easily be something you print out or make copies of, for instance.
An idea that comes to mind includes handing out a “101 guide” to your classroom—this can be in the form of a flipbook or a simple one-page handout. I like to include a general overview of how I operate my classroom, including my contact information and hours I can be reached (I make these clear right from the start of the year), our classroom schedule of specials (e.g., physical education, art, and music), and homework expectations. Remember to have this posted on your classroom website, if possible, for families to access should they ever need to refer back to it!
Or, this can also be where you hand out your newsletter to students so they can leave your classroom learning a bit more about you!
After Meet the Teacher:
Once the organized chaos has come and gone, and you’re gathering your belongings to head out of the classroom, take a deep breath! It’s over, and you just helped ease those beginning-of-the-year butterflies your students (and likely their families) are probably feeling. Also, it’s time to go home and relax!
2. Get excited for a fresh, new school year
Something that I have always loved about school is that every year means a new start. Whether you’re a first-year teacher or an experienced one, the beginning of a school year is a clean slate. This year will bring new memories and adventures!
3. Take care of yourself
As educators, some of us tend to dive into our workload headfirst and don’t always come up for air long enough to worry about ourselves. Between lesson plans, developing individualized education plans, behavior plans, observations, checking and grading assignments, and so much more, we don’t always have time to truly enjoy our lunch breaks or take time away from work.
Remember, you’re the captain of your ship (or the leader of your classroom), and it’s completely OK to walk out of the building when your contract hours are up and leave some tasks for the next day. I promise you—it will all get done, even when it may not feel possible.
After your Meet the Teacher activities are complete, find what works for you to unwind, destress, and relax! Make it a priority to check in with yourself so you can be the best version of yourself for your students (and you). Have a wonderful school year!
The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of HMH.
Get insights and tips with our 2022 Back-to-School Articles for Teachers and Educators.
This blog post was updated in August 2022.
Nikki La Londe
Director of Services Content Development, HMH