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James B. Carter: Open houses give parents opportunity to ask questions

Author

James B. Carter teaches at Carson High School and is vice president of the Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators.

Now that the new school year is upon us, orientation events like open house nights are being staged across Rowan-Salisbury Schools. While always important for parents to attend, this year’s slate of open houses carries extra import because by the time they occur, teachers and administrators should have an inkling about how their campuses and classrooms will be integrating elements of the district’s paradigm shift inspired by the renewal status.

Like many of our area teachers, I am a parent as well as an educator, so I join scores of adults in the community in balancing work, child care and attending such events at various campuses. Generally, I find them informative, welcoming and indicative of how much a teacher has prepared to welcome students into their classrooms.

As a teacher, though, often I find myself saddened at how few parents show up. Given the exciting transitions happening in the district, however, this year is an essential year for area stakeholders to take initiative to check schools’ calendars via the RSS website, call principals or email teachers to know exact dates of their children’s open houses, and then plan to attend.

Educators know schools are not seen as safe spaces to all adults, though, and with so much fluctuating this year, parents and other stakeholders may not know what to ask whom. With that in mind, here are some topics of conversation to help those who seek to make the most of this semester’s historic uniqueness during talks with principals, teachers and other school personnel:

• What new programs or courses are being offered this year that are possible because of the changes the renewal status brings?

• Are teachers hired to help with new classes and programs certified or working on certification? If not, what is the plan to get them certified?

• What is the career status of my child’s teachers? Are they certified? Experienced? Lateral entry? Do they have advanced degrees in their fields?

• How will the district’s shifts affect how teachers address Common Core state standards, standardized tests, and curriculum?

• What are teachers most excited about due to the renewal status?

• What is the new “design team” concept and how much team input and classroom autonomy does a teacher who is not on the design team have now?

• How will shifts affect my child’s abilities to attend postsecondary education opportunities?

• Is grading affected in any way due to the shifts?

• How can I support my child’s teachers through this experimental transition?

That last one is essential and always appreciated by a soon-to-be very busy educator. When it comes to the district’s changes, all stakeholders must embrace a “we’re in this together” mentality.

Patience, words of kindness, and votes of confidence are cherished, too. We educators want parents and guardians leaving open houses feeling of us that “They got this!” Teachers will absolutely treasure parents who come interested, ask informed questions, and help teachers feel of themselves and the community that “We got this together!”

James B. Carter teaches
at Carson High School and is vice president of the Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators.

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