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Putting on a Dog and Pony Show or Surviving Open House May 27, 2008

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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Cue the dog. Corral the pony. It’s that time of year – time for the dreaded Open House! For teachers, this is the equivalent to having your persnickety in-laws come for a visit. Of course, the purpose of Open House is to display all of the learning that has taken place during the year. All of the learning that was sandwiched between those Open Court lessons and a laundry list of assemblies.

If scientists detect a sharp increase in global warming this month, it can be attributed to the round-the-clock lamination of precious student artwork that will be displayed at Open House. Nothing is more exciting for a teacher than the smell of coffee and a warm idling laminator, aside from free food, which is a given.

As Open House looms, a teacher’s entire extended family appears out of nowhere, brandishing staplers, scissors, and an overly caffeinated positive attitude. Those who don’t have relatives or an entourage at their beck and call are on their own. Stressed out about Open House? A few tips.

1.  Wear a really hot outfit. Steer clear of anything with an ABC motif. You want to look like you have a life outside of these four walls.

2.  If you’re really stressed, you’re allowed one drink before, but no more. And don’t forget to brush your teeth. I’ve found that wearing whitening strips while I’m sipping red wine helps reduce tooth discoloration.

3.  Print out a student-directed itinerary, or what some teachers call a scavenger hunt. This directs parents to the things you want them to see. Make sure you review the itinerary with students the day of Open House so they know what the hell you’re talking about. Never cracked open that Open Court Inquiry Journal? Remove it from students’ desks the day before. They’ll never even notice it’s gone!

4.  Set up a student desk just inside the front door. Use the desk of someone whose parents will not show up. You already know who I’m talking about. Cover it with colorful paper and put the sign-in sheet there.

5.  Put a plate of cookies out on the sign-in table. Steer clear of any cookies containing nuts. You don’t want to have to do CPR, even though you had to learn it to clear your credential. This is your night to shine, which is hard to do when you’re giving mouth-to-mouth to your student’s aged uncle.

6.  Buy a bouquet of fresh flowers and put them in a real vase. It’s like the smell of warm chocolate chip cookies wafting through a house on the market.

7.  As you prepare for Open House, you’ll notice there are certain students (round up the usual suspects), who’ve never finished anything! Use Open House as an opportunity to openly expose these underachievers who will undermine our democracy in the future. That spot on the writing wall where their essay should be – just leave it blank, or better yet, add a card that says in bold type “Incomplete.” This will save you from having to explain to parents why their child received an unsatisfactory mark for their work habits on their final report card.

8. Some teachers go all out to impress parents. I did that once or twice, but then realized no one noticed. It’s all hoopla, so don’t stress. I have a friend who purposely strips her room down for Open House. At our school,  there are always parents shopping for next year’s teacher. I’ve even had parents wander through my classroom with a clipboard in hand during Open House. My friend swears that by NOT putting on a dog and pony show, she scares off those demanding parents for the next school year. So setting the bar low is always a viable option.

9.  Have crayons and paper available for your students’ younger siblings, who otherwise, will methodically destroy your classroom.

10.  When all else fails, upload all of those photos you took over the year onto a Powerpoint slideshow presentation and play them on the computer monitor. This never fails to reduce parents to a near-hypnotic state.

11.  If you’re a newbie, arrange to have a family member or friend attend, preferably someone who can make balloon animals or looks even hotter than you do.

12.  Finally, have a plan to meet your cohorts after Open House at a nearby establishment that sells liquor so you can celebrate.

Congratulations!  You survived Open House.

Photo Credit:  Thorntm on flickr.

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