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To Reduce the Stress of Parent-Teacher Meetings, Try This.

Scott Bedley, 5th grade teacher in California USA, flips Parents Back to School Night and uses the time at Back to School night to build better personal relationships with each of the parents that attend.
Normally during Back to School Nights, Parents come in, sit down in the chairs and wait for the presentation. The teacher presents or lectures to parents for about 20-30 minutes on general policies, how the classroom works, grading, and other general information, leaving little time for parents to ask questions.

Scott thought that flipping the general information with video would give access to the general information for all parents whenever they needed it. This way parents can come to Back to School Night and experience what actually happens in the school day leaving time for Scott to have one-on-one time to build better relationships with the parents. So Scott broke down the 30 minute presentation into short and more concise videos by topic on YouTube, providing all the general information that parents could watch prior to coming to Back to School Night.

A letter was sent home to parents with 8-9 reasons why the format was changing and why the videos were created and shared. Parents were asked to watch the videos before coming to Parent Teacher night and bring any questions or ideas with them. When parents came into the classroom, there were math activities and more set-up for their participation, and Scott was able to personally interact with each parent, greeting them and answering their questions. Students also designed, built and tested cardboard Caine’s Arcade type games which parents were able to try. Scott’s focus was to build a stronger personal relationship with parents to help them learn about how the classroom is setup, how learning occurs, and more. A big positive for Scott is that when he makes a call home about behavior or grades, a positive relationship has already been built, making the call less stressful for both the teacher and the parent.

Other schools in the area have also started flipping the Parent Back to School Night event with great success.
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Transcript without autosynch
Scott Bedley, USA – Flip Back to School Nights

Jon: We have been talking about Flipped 3.0, research, classroom innovation, technology. we want to focus today on classroom innovation. Tell our audience what you started to do with back to school nights.

Scott:I’m the guy who questions the status quo and I started to think about why parents are coming to back to school nights. I have a son and have gone back to school nights because I want to check out the teacher I want to get the information but that is not necessarily what is going to happen. and as a teacher i started thinking that i was 20 to 30 minute sprint to enormous amounts of information and if the parents can even understand what I am or remembering so it is just blind luck. So i thought this is a perfect way to use flipping to give information and take our traditional and make it one to build relationships.

Jon: When I would go to Back to school night. Oh this is painful. I have to sit through about the syllabus or about the this. Stop please you are killing me. I just want to know do you care about my kid, are you a good person and do you know your stuff.
You flipped your back to school night. Walk us through .What did that look like?

Scott: in the beginning I went to my Principal and said to give her the idea and she was not really onboard about it. Let us try it.
Jon: Why was she not on board?What was her hesitation?
Scott: Change is really difficult . Inertia moves towards the status quo. To think that parents were going to access this online was a concern. Would they watch. I will have better statistics on that whether or not they come to back to school night or not. I can actually see their views and things like that so. She kind of hesitantly said go for it. We flipped that, created a letter sent home to parents just explaining this.
The first time we did this half way through the school year about 5 years ago to prove the concept to my principal and we got all the parents watching it. Even though it was 1/2 way through the year they wanted to know what was going on.
Jon: I am still confused:
You sent a letter home, and you said I want you to watch this video about some information I want to share with parents and so they watched it and you tracked that they watched it. Is that what you did?
Scott: That is exactly right. Initially we sent home this back to school informational letter even thought it was far past the
we have some videos explaining our program and we want to make sure you parents understand our program and it gave about 8 or 9 reasons why we were doing this. And just thinking about how to change the culture and the thought because parents were also used to coming sitting in the the little chairs and staring, at least at the elementary school and it is different at the high school right? That letter was an initial move towards that and see what our responses were.
Jon: What did you do when you met face to face?
Scott: So after we proved that concept the following year we did the full back to school night and thats where the parents rather than coming sitting and hearing us speak and present for 20-30 minutes they came in and we had activities for them to do.
Jon: Like what?

Scott: So they came around and explored the classroom, we had a math activity was kind of the beginning of common core things so we had some math activities out.
I went around introducing myself. The first time they all came in and sat down in seats and they wanted that traditional back to school night rather than what they were experiencing. I just moved, I kept moving around the classroom I greeted them at the door I did not stand at the front location so they understood that this was not. I really had to really coach the parents through this process of what back to school night was.
I think teachers that have flipped got stuck up in front fall back really quickly into that role and process of the traditional back to school night. Its easy to do when you’ve done it yourself for so many years.
Jon: So you have activities you’ve got stations and they go through station rotation like kids would and you’re spending time greeting and meeting the parents.
Scott: Yeah and This even transformed last year we’ve done Canes Arcade so the first week of school the kids build these arcade games out of cardboard and the parents actually come in and play them There are schools that are doing food trucks but it is all about building relationships with the parents so that you have that already positive Communication rather than that quick 30 second introduction and they are out the door because back to school night presentation is over.
Jon: I believe that flipped learning relationship is a platform really and it allows for more opportunities for relationships.
Talk to me more now, cause you did this in your classroom, which is awesome but its expanded beyond to food truck/ How has it gone for the whole school now?

Scott: So I started sharing that Idea out and schools picked up on it and there’s quite a few schools in Southern California area that are actually now doing this and all the teachers that are doing this say why have we not done this sooner?because it really changes the aspect. I got nervous like your 18 standing up in front of parents its nerve wracking kind of experience for me. so i think a lot of teachers felt that way and once they realized o my gosh I don’t have to stand up in front and the other hurdle for a lot of the teachers trying this. Do I have to be on camera talking? Do I have to have my image on camera?You can have slides of information just like you might have on your back to school night.it doesn’t have to be super highly edited although I’ve seen a lot of really fantastic flipped back to school night presentation. It can be really simplified and you don’t have to go crazy with that.
And parents really just want the information and you want to make sure it is directed to that That relationship building has been one of the best positive things.
Jon: And what impacts have you seen just on school culture connection with parents, How did that work?
Scott: I think that some of the positives is the parents are more informed. Another big positive for me is if I do have to make a call that might be behavioral or grade related and has a little bit of negative tone to what the content of the conversation is going to be about, i have already established a good positive relationship with that parent whereas if I don’t have that and this is my first call of the year it sets a really horrible tone for the rest of my school year and that’s the big difference that I really value in what this is.
Jon: Awesome. I’m a new teacher and I am thinking about this idea. What could I do next year. Do I want to flip my Back to School night?
Scott: The great thing is that you can have this prepared before you go on summer break, so If you think through your year and through your traditional information that you are going to share out. And you use something like powerpoint you can use a screencasting tool, go through that power point. My biggest suggestion would be to make a playlist in YouTube and break down each section that you talk about in small bite sized pieces so that for editing purposes for your purpose of not trying to record a 30 minute presentation and messing up 26 minutes through. Having short 1 – 2 minute spots on the different topics you want to cover and creating a playlist in YouTube I think is a smart way to approach it.
Jon: Ahh that is a good idea and that explains what you would do in pre-work but I still want to know what do I do with them when I have them present because all I have ever done is like lecture at them. What am I actually going to do with the parents when they arrive and they have watched this video?
Scott: One of the other questions I get when I share this idea with people What if the parents have not watched it? Number one, they are usually too embarrassed to admit it. We have it setup on computers in the school so they can watch them. I think I have found that regardless of whether they have watched and I don’t necessarily know although I have the view counts is that the parents still want to come talk to you, meet you and hear about you. and so that starts with me just greeting them at the door and as they come in I get a chance to meet them and then these pockets of little conversations happen. Jon I can tell you since flipping my back to school nights I’ve had far better conversations about pedagogy, about purpose about intent and what we are doing in our classroom than I’ve ever had with parents ever before. that’s probably another huge benefit to that so I can talk to them about why I have a certain homework policy. I can talk to them about why I have the classroom set up the way it is and I can talk to them about how we are going to approach different things and you really have their ear and you can really answer questions that are valuable to the parents rather than the basic information that you are trying to share from a typical traditional presentation. but with the games and things like that the parents are usually playing and experiencing and having fun in what new school kind of looks like
Jon: That’s awesome, Wow.
Scott, you are doing some great work and I love that you have taken this 3.0 methodology even before we were talking about that and you said: alright you’ve got to have an innovative way to use our class time or our face to face time this is not with my students but with the parents. Boy, what a great way to implement flipped learning in kind of a novel situation. so thanks for being on the show.

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