Open houses for high schools can look very different from school to school and region to region. Whether your high school calls it “back-to-school night,” “meet the teacher night,” “open house,” “curriculum night,” or something else, the goal remains the same: connect with caregivers to ensure a positive learning environment and understand the academic requirements for students.
The way open houses for high schools function also vary, given that most secondary students don’t just have one teacher. Some schools have these nights before the school year starts, and some after. Some have students participate, others focus solely on caregivers. Some give every teacher a 15-minute slot, while others may let caregivers choose which teachers they meet. Regardless of how your school runs back-to-school night, here are some high school open house ideas that can help you succeed.
1. Start open house off right by getting organized
Just like you would plan for a lesson, you should plan out what you’d like to accomplish during your high school’s back-to-school night. Use similar classroom organization skills to get ready for your open house. Prepare and organize any folders, notes, handouts, or newsletters you want to present or give to caregivers. Create an agenda for the evening. Not only will this save you time, but it will also give your students’ parents and caregivers a peek into what your class is like.
High School SPED & Transition Schedule | Morning Meeting | Back to School by Transition Abilities
Grades: 9-12 | Made for Google Apps™
Back To School Bundle For Secondary Teachers- English Focus by Fuller Teaching Resources
Grades: 9-12 | Made for Google Apps™
2. Get to know and introduce yourself to caregivers
As the name “meet the teacher night” implies, caregivers and parents are there to get to know you, their high school students’ teacher. To have a successful back-to-school night, it is essential to give caregivers insight into who you are. By doing so, you assure them that their students are in good hands and create a foundation for open communication in the future.
More often than not, the high school open house is the first time you are meeting students’ caregivers, meaning you have little knowledge of their lives outside of your classroom. Give school, subject, and grade context where you can, and do it all with a personal touch to establish trust. Use getting to know me activities to introduce yourself to caregivers and maybe even caregivers to each other!
Getting to Know You for Middle & High | All About Me | Editable Back to School by Pathway 2 Success
Grades: 6-10 | Made for Google Apps™
Back to School All About Me for Beginning of Year by Kacie Travis
Grades: 6-12 | Made for Google Apps™ and Easel by TPT™
3. Try keeping things short and sweet
It’s important to keep in mind that your presentation isn’t the only one parents will be sitting through during your high school’s open house. Secondary students often have anywhere from four to nine teachers. For caregivers with multiple high schoolers, this makes for a busy night full of information! Decide what your main priorities are, from curriculum transparency to building connections, and use your time to hone in on those areas in direct, succinct ways.
4. Have clear expectations — for students and caregivers
Parents and caregivers can be your partners in helping students learn and grow. But to function well as a team, everyone needs to know their role. Be transparent with your students and their caregivers about what the expectations, rules, and guidelines are for your class.
As students progress through high school and learn to be more independent, the support and involvement of your students’ caregivers may change. Keep this in mind as both students and caregivers may need help and guidance in order to transition smoothly. Hand out syllabi, pass along materials lists, and recommend study habits and strategies to ensure everyone has the tools to succeed in your class, no matter the grade level.
One Page Syllabus by The Woke STEM Teacher
High School Science Bundle – Banners, Buttons, Syllabus, & Meet the Teacher by Made for Middle School
5. Connect through engaging back-to-school night activities
Show your students’ caregivers and parents what your class is like. Repurpose some of the same back-to-school activities that your students do for their caregivers in order to have an engaging open house night. This strategy not only gives caregivers insight to what materials and methods you use as a high school teacher, but also an understanding of what it’s like to be in their high schooler’s shoes. And bonus — it saves you time and energy as a teacher since you’ve already done this activity before!
Goal Setting Cards by Esther Brunat
Biology Chat First Day of School Ice Breaker Lab Station Activity by Amy Brown Science
Geometry Scavenger Hunt: First Day of School Activity! by Lindsay Bowden – Secondary Math
6. Set the stage for two-way communication
As the teacher, you set the tone for communication with your students’ caregivers during the high school open house. Establishing open and honest communication goes a long way towards creating trust with caregivers. But it’s also important to make sure you have communication methods and boundaries that align with your school’s policies and work for you.
Consider speaking with your admin ahead of back-to-school night to get guidance and advice. Then, when it comes time for your open house presentation, you can share your contact information and communication preferences with confidence. This information might include office hours, set times you’ll be replying to emails, how you give feedback to students and when it is shared with parents, what situations warrant an email versus a phone call, and more. Think through what is reasonable and works best for you as a teacher ahead of time, so you can teach at your best and have caregivers as your productive partners.
BACK TO SCHOOL MEET THE TEACHER PRESENTATION for Middle & High School Teachers by DARIN NAKAKIHARA
Grades: 6-12 | Made for Google Apps™
PPT – Parent Night or Curriculum Night Presentation (Fully Editable) by Science With Mr Enns
7. Be yourself
Ultimately, caregivers are at your high school open house to meet you, the teacher. Embrace and show off your personality as you present to and engage with everyone in the room. Whether it’s through your classroom decor, community building strategies, or teaching style, don’t be afraid to let yourself and your expertise shine through because ultimately you are the powerhouse behind your school, your students, and their learning.
Discover more teacher-powered learning tools and materials for your open house on TPT.
This blog post, originally published in 2022, has been updated for 2023.