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Les Potter is currently the director of the American International School West in Cairo, Egypt. Les has over 40 years in educational leadership in the US and Egypt and most recently has been a...
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The Open House - Planning is Key

I suggest that you focus on the parents for a successful open house. You should instruct the teachers about the process and have them ready. We always had pizza and soda in the media center prior to the open house. We kept the teachers on campus, so they wouldn’t be late or “forget” about the program. Didn’t cost much and created good will.

I feel that a good open house should include an informal information session (15 minutes maximum) where you can go over the evenings expectations and agenda. This is also a good opportunity to alert parents to: future events, testing, joining PTO, school policies (tardies, illness, discipline) athletics, clubs, promotional requirements, field trips and procedures for good school/home communication.

Realistically, parents are more interested to meet the teacher(s) than they are listening to you. smiley

After the meeting, parents disperse quickly and follow their child’s class schedule. Do not forget the elective subjects---they are just as important as well. It is best to forego food at the meeting. It slows down the start of the session and will make parents linger afterward so they will be late getting to classes.

Students are valuable resource for a successful open house. They can direct parking to smooth parents’ arrival, they can act as guides and greeters to lead parents to meeting places and classrooms. The students’ behavior and demeanor, is a strong indicator of the school climate, so take time to work with them prior to the event.

Teachers and staff are crucial in having a successful open house and principals should prepare the adults well. The careful organization will be for naught if teachers do a poor job presenting in the classroom. Even your experienced teachers need a review of the purpose of open house and what they should talk to parents about. One thing that a short meeting in a classroom would not be would be going over 25 children’s individual problems. Go over: standards, expectations, classroom policies, testing dates, communication with parents, syllabus, timelines, etc…

Our time limit in a secondary classroom was about 10 minutes for each period. This does not sound like much time but if you have seven classes that is 70 minutes and if you allow five minutes to get to each class, that might be an additional 35 minutes. You just had your informal talk with teachers that lasted 15 minutes. If your open house started at 7pm…that is two hours and it is 9pm. Teachers, parents and students need to go home. I would always make an announcement at 9pm that the open house was over and everyone needs to go home (another way of doing it was to “call for a faculty meeting at 9pm so the teachers could leave). Otherwise you will have parents there till midnight.

All staff should be briefed on their duties, but the custodial staff is particularly important. The building and grounds should be spotless, floors should shine, and all trash removed. To accomplish this, it may be necessary to rearrange schedules so that all custodial staff are available between the end of school till the open house begins. Remember this may be the only time some parents ever visit the school. Make sure that someone checks the sound system, air conditioning, lights and other electronic equipment that will be needed.

Also, other questions to ask: how will parents learn about the open house? Will the PTO and parent volunteers have a sign in table? Will there be food for guests? Will there be student entertainment? Will the superintendent and school board members be invited? What information will be available for parents---school calendar, testing schedule, activity schedule, afterschool tutoring, college, careers?

Failure to plan, plan to fail!


Les Potter, Ed. D.

American International School West
Cairo, Egypt