There are a million things to do on the first day of school, but in addition to breaking the ice and getting to know my students, I always make sure to prepare a number of handouts for my students. These worksheets help me not only learn more about my students and their parents, they also give me an opportunity to introduce myself and begin the process of nurturing meaningful relationships with them.
A personal letter to parents
Parents want to believe that their child is being left in capable and compassionate hands. Students want to believe that their teachers care about them and are happy to have them in class. A brief letter to each parent is one of the easiest ways to welcome and reassure parents and students. Below are the criteria I always use to draft my letter of introduction:
- Personalize the greeting
- Mention the student’s name within the body of the letter
- Share a little about your background and education
- Include the essence of your philosophy of teaching
- Your contact information including school email address, phone and extension, classroom blog URL or Twitter account info
- Best times to contact you
- Sign the letter with your fist and last name
- Ask parents to complete the attached student information sheet (I’ll talk about this next)
To see a sample letter I put together, click here.
Student information sheet for parents
This questionnaire will ensure that you get your hands on emergency contact information and learn more about each student. You might include some of the following questions in your form:
- What are your child’s interests?
- What would you like me to know about your child?
- What is your child’s attitude towards school
- What has been helpful for your child in the past?
- What did your child like best about his or her previous teacher?
- How does your child learn best?
- Is there any additional help I can provide your child?
- What are your child’s strengths?
- Where might your child improve?
- Would you like to schedule a conference to discuss your child? If so, when is best for you?
Student information sheet for students
It’s nice to know how parents see their children, but I also like to know how students see themselves. That’s why I take the same questions above, adapt them, and have students fill out a similar questionnaire on the first day of school.
A syllabus may explain your expectations and include your supply list, grading scale, and what you plan to cover in the class. To ensure that parents receive the syllabus, leave a space on the last page for them to sign and ask students to return it for a grade.
Most teachers include a list of pre-established rules in this handout. That works, but here’s an alternative way to approach classroom rules and procedures:
Instead of creating a set of rules on your own, make it a collaborative activity between you and your students. I’ve done this using a poster board, which we divide down the middle with a line. The left column is where I list my expectations of the students; the right is where the students list their expectations of me. Before writing anything down, make sure that there is dialogue and consensus between students. Of course, you have the right to intervene or refocus students when their expectations won’t do. Once you are satisfied with your list, type it up, then send it home for parents to review.