Back to School Tips for Teachers: Speak with Poise, Power and PizzazzBy Sue Gruber
|by Barbara Gruber, M.A. & Sue Gruber, M.A. From the archives|
The lazy days of summer are drawing to a close. Have you started having school dreams at night yet? Let’s face it, if you’re the type of person who dreads speaking to a roomful of adults, then back-to-school night presentations can be the stuff of nightmares!
Have your worst case nightmares included any of these scenarios?
- It’s back-to-school night and your room is packed with parents! You walk to the front of the room and begin speaking. As you speak, you realize that nothing you say makes any sense to you or the parents!
- Before you have your first sentence out of your mouth a troublesome parent begins firing questions at you!
- You’re so worried about speaking in front of parents you lose sleep for many days. The big day finally arrives–you head home to freshen up before returning to school. You are so exhausted you lie down for two minutes. Alas, three hours roll by as you dream about winning the lottery! You awake to the sound of your phone ringing. It’s your principal wanting to know where the heck you are!
- You just don’t know what to say. You start winging it! Before you know it, you’ve made all kinds of statements and promises that you know are going to come back to haunt you!
- The parents spend the entire session reading their handouts and talking to their neighbors and don’t listen to a word you say.
- The principal arrives in your room the minute you begin speaking. You notice she is escorting the Superintendent and President of the Board of Trustees. They stand in the back of the room shaking their heads and frowning at you.
- It suddenly becomes clear that you would rather spend hours in line at the Department of Motor Vehicles or having a root canal than being trapped in your room with all these people.
Okay…maybe we’re being a bit extreme with our nightmares! The reality is that speaking to parents at back-to-school night and Open House can be a pressure-cooker experience for many teachers. We can help you improve your public speaking skills and reach the point where you actually enjoy doing presentations! Trust us—you can be a poised, powerful speaker with an attentive audience! Our secrets of success will make your presentations enjoyable for you and your audience.
- Look on the bright side! All of the parents who attend back-to-school nights are there voluntarily! You have an audience who wants to be there and is interested in what you have to say. Remember the purpose of back-to-school parent meetings. They are not parent conferences! It’s a time for you to introduce yourself, share your expectations, and let parents know what their children will learn in your class!
- Prepare handouts to cover all basic information items you don’t plan to talk about. Have a packet at each desk for parents to look at while they wait for the presentation to begin. As part of your talk, mention that packets are to be taken home. They contain:
- a school calendar for the year on green paper
- information about how to contact you on yellow paper
- the class homework policy on blue paper
- an overview of what is taught in your grade level on white paper.
- (It doesn’t matter what color the paper is, you want to make sure each separate piece of information has its own color to make an impact. Don’t spend time talking about this self-explanatory information.)
- Plan what you do want to talk about. Why not start with a brief bio? Tell parents what grades you’ve taught and how long you’ve been in the school or school district. Then, make a list of topics you need to cover. Under each topic you plan to discuss, list the key points you need to cover.
- Develop a warm, friendly upbeat sentence to begin your presentation.
I’m Ms. Sunshine and teaching second grade is a big job and I love it.
This is my fourth year of teaching second grade at Happy Valley School.”
For many speakers, the first sentence is the most difficult.
Memorize your first sentence to help you get off to a strong start!
- Develop a strong closing statement to help you wrap up the talk smoothly. You want to make it clear that you’re finished with the presentation. This is another sentence to memorize! Your closing sentence could be:
“I’m looking forward to working with you and your child. When home and school work together, everyone benefits! Thank you for coming.”
Crafting Your Presentation
There’s nothing worse than sitting through a presentation where the speaker reads from a script and doesn’t engage the audience. Here’s where you put in a bit of preparation time that pays off in a big way. You’ll sound relaxed and natural when you speak.[continued on page 2]