It’s that time of year—back-to-school shopping, classroom decorating, organizing, planning, planning, planning, and… coming to terms with the fact that our days of summer fun are numbered. However, back to school shouldn’t be synonymous with the end of fun! As teachers, the end of summer can act as a springboard to catapult us positively into a new year. It’s our chance to let the adrenalin from vacations carry us through to an amazing new school year!
For me, the beginning of a new school year is marked with so much excitement. Buying new school supplies is always fun, but there is also a classroom full of new smiling faces waiting for me—as well as their families who have so much to share with our classroom community. Parents are a vital organ in the classroom system, so I LOVE to get to know them and get them involved from the get go! Our school has a meet and greet a couple days before the new year starts, but Back to School Night is my opportunity to really get to know the new families that will spend the year with me.
This year, I have a couple things in mind to set the tone for a great new year as we transition from summer fun. One of these is a parent letter I will share at Back to School Night. Here are some tips for writing an informative parent letter that sets an engaging tone for a new year but also establishes clear expectations.
Try something new—give your letter a theme or new form.
This year, my parent letter comes in the form of an informational flyer. I used a food theme, and instead of labeling my “Rules and Expectations” section as such, I used the title “Recipe” to describe the recipe for success needed for the year. The theme helps to keep things fun, but also clearly describes what will be expected throughout the year.
I used to believe more is better, and I’m sure it is for some things, but a new year can be mentally challenging for teachers, students, and parents. So, sometimes just getting straight to the point works just fine! Listing the essentials makes it easier for us to tackle and remember what will be required in a new year and with a new teacher.
Keep it light.
This year, we are starting standards-based grading, which is new to everyone involved. It can be quite daunting at first, but I didn’t want it to be so for my new families. Yes, there will be homework, and yes, there will be grades, but it doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. Starting the year fearful of what’s ahead just creates anxiety for everyone involved, so be clear but keep it light. I chose to describe our new grading system with a nutrition label, to go along with my food (or coffee and donuts) theme.
Add a personal touch.
I’m a huge Disney fan, so whenever I have the chance to incorporate something that is special to me, I jump on the opportunity. Just like teachers like to know their students, students like to know their teacher, so I add little references here and there to keep it meaningful and personal.
Each new year is filled with so much fun and excitement, so set the tone for amazing right away! A new year of learning awaits us! Let’s do this!
About the author!
Melissa Hypolite is a seasoned teacher with experience at the elementary and high school levels, where she specialized in science education. She currently teaches sixth grade in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and son.