TIPS ON HOW TO TURN OPEN HOUSE INTO AN ADVOCACY OPPORTUNITY
Open House is the one moment where you have the parents’ undivided attention for seven minutes because they’re coming in to get to know you. Instead of explaining your grading policy and classroom rules, why don’t you give them a handout summarizing that information and use the time to tell them about how foreign languages are going to change their children’s lives? Having the parents’ support is crucial for the success of our programs!
1. Use logic and reasoning. Teaching a foreign language course in English is like teaching students how to play baseball or how to ski in a classroom, without ever getting out to the field or the ski slopes. Students need to interpret and interact with the target language or they will not become proficient in it. It is hard at first, but it only takes a short time to get used to it and the sense of pride at understanding and being able to participate makes it all worthwhile.
2. Describe how language instruction has changed since they were in school. Many parents will tell you that they took a language in high school and they can’t say a thing now. However, many do not know that we are using the Communicative method to help the students achieve proficiency in the target language. We also have new tools and technologies at our fingertips which have transformed the way we teach and the way students learn. They need to understand they cannot judge us by these old standards.
3. List your accomplishments. Tell them about workshops or conferences you have attended. Mention if you have a Masters if you have one and/or any exciting courses you have taken recently that gave you ideas for your classroom. Describe an interesting project your previous students did. Showcase any awards you or your students received on standardized tests as testimony (MaFLA Contests and Awards, National Language Exams, AP and SAT scores). It’s all about selling yourself and your program.
4. Personalize it. Show them pictures of yours travels and display prominently your student work. Describe why you love teaching languages. What motivates you? What is your passion? If parents see a passionate teacher, then they know their children are going to benefit from your teaching.
5. Use statistics. Show what is working at your school. Use data pulled from other reputable resources to show how foreign languages are important and worth funding. For example, did you know that students who take a foreign language have higher scores on standardized tests?
6. Show what’s in it for the student. Tell parents that the students will be more marketable for college and for a job. Give a school based example of students who have gone on to study and work with languages. Survey local colleges to find out what their admission or graduation requirements are in respect to foreign languages.
7. List strategies for success. Provide a list of online resources that the students could use. Listening will help make Spanish permanent. Use a study buddy. Make flashcards. Write out words 5 times each. See the teacher to work on weak areas. Listen to music, watch telenovelas, or read a Spanish newspaper online.
Created by Christina Berry, Spanish teacher, Bishop Feehan High School, email@example.com