BTSN Ideas

In a stack of papers called Reform.

  • Nov
  • 05
  • 2007

Back-to-school Night (BTSN) happened a while for most of us, but we just debriefed the Night. I’m all full of questions and ideas, so here’s the stream, formatted to fit this screen and edited to run in the time allotted and for content.


How many parents show up to your BTSN? We changed up the format of the Night this year, giving parents the option to visit any classroom at any time. Sadly, we have no idea if it was more or less effective than years past. Amazingly, this school year marks the first year my school has any kind of tab on BTSN attendance. And the only reason we have data this year is because parents picked up the first progress report at BTSN. By counting how many we had to mail home, we know how many picked them up (about 260, roughly 10% of our school). Really, it’s by accident, not design, that we know how many parents showed up this year.

Spring BTSN

Does anyone out there at a high school have a BTSN in the spring in addition to the traditional one in the fall? It came up today that we’re thinking of having one sometime in March. I’m all for more invitations to parents to visit the campus and I’d hang out from 5-7 one night. If there’s such a small turnout for our Fall BTSN, though, how many will bother to show up in the spring?

Who Arrives

Is BTSN a productive time for you, as either a parent or teacher? I always feel like the parents who show up are not the parents I need to talk to. “My parents aren’t school parents,” one of my students said. The parents I end up chatting with, while fine company for a late evening at school, are parents of students who will probably be just fine. I’m preaching to the choir most times. I don’t think the school year is any better for the Night. I don’t think I’m more effective, nor the students more attentive because of it.


I don’t think we need to get rid of BTSN (though we shouldn’t overlook that possibility), but let’s redefine its purpose. I honestly do not think it’s a chance for parents and teachers to powwow about how to improve Mortimer’s performance or Petualnce’s attitude. A five-minute conversation (the shortest you’ll ever have with a concerned parent) means a teacher can only get to twelve parents in an hour. Those conferences need to happen later.

Let’s carve out BTSN to welcome parents to the campus and show them the facilities we have available. Let’s use BTSN to introduce parents to high school curriculum, program offerings, and graduation requirements. It’s really a chance to meet and talk. It’s a chance for parents who have the time or inclination to find out what kind of adults their kids are hanging out with for 6 hours, 5 days a week. It’s a night for parents to wander around the campus and see this place their property taxes have gone into remodeling. Maybe it’s even time for some kind of coffee-talk debate about what should and shouldn’t be taught in high school. I’d love to sit at a table and discuss that with the parents who show up.

What do you think about BTSN?


1. Damian says:

[11/6/2007 - 6:09 am]

Wow – Lots to say here, but I’ll try to contain myself:

Numbers: In the past, we’ve tried to track, but our school is so big (3000+ students) that I think admin has just given up. The last time we were asked to keep track of attendance was in preparation for…

Establishing Multiple BTSNs!: Our classes run on a block schedule, which means we have 9-week quarter and 18-week semester classes, and our calendar runs similar to a college calendar. We went from having one BTSN in September to one in Sept, one in Feb. Recently, we’ve gone to 2 separate ones in Sept (to accommodate all the parents – parking is a nightmare these nights) and a third in Feb. Personally, I think it’s only a matter of time til we’re at 4.

I understand the reasoning behind this, but as the parent of a young child, this is pretty damned inconvenient for me. I don’t live close to my job, and getting a babysitter 2 weeks in a row is not easy for us, especially on weeknights. I can’t speak for other teachers, but in my classes, the parent turnout hasn’t justified three separate nights.

Purpose: Our purpose is not to have parent-teacher conferences; in fact, admin strongly discourages that. Rather, it’s so parents can see their kids teachers and learn a little bit about the course. As a parent, I understand wanting to meet your child’s teacher, but at our BTSN, they don’t actually get to meet us in any meaningful way – they get to watch us give a 10 minute presentation on the class – nothing that couldn’t be established by recording a video and putting it on a website.

I’ve got more to say, but I promised to restrain myself.

2. Todd says:

[11/9/2007 - 6:14 pm]

Maybe I’m wrong and so are you. Maybe schools want BTSN to be about introductions and letting parents meet teachers, but parents want it to be for discussing how to improve grades and skills. We argued about the purpose, too. For our parents, though, there is no argument: they want to talk about their kid. If that’s what the parents want, that’s what we should look into giving them. Reading over my own entry, I think I also am only looking at what I want. BTSN is for parents, not for teachers. What the parents want might be unreasonable, though. Yikes, I just dunno…

3. Damian Bariexca says:

[11/10/2007 - 9:31 am]

If the goal is as you describe, then I think the current BTSN format is inappropriate, because it’s impossible to talk to each student’s parent in any depth in that arena. The elementary model of day-long (or multiple-day) “parent conferences” seems to suit that need better.

I don’t know any elem. teachers personally; I wonder what their thoughts on that model are.