It’s fair to say, back to school this year won’t quite be the same.
And for our incoming kinders who are attending to “big kid” school for the very first time, it’s especially devastating things won’t feel and look and be “normal.”
We can’t plop on our colorful rugs and read stories and give hugs.
But we do still need to make sure they feel welcomed and comfortable and special in our classrooms (even if our classroom is digital this fall).
And it’s going to be tricky. We can’t do the things we normally do like Meet the Teacher Day when they come to school and see their cubby or their desk or see where to hang their backpack.
They can’t come to school and walk our halls or play on the playground and see the library.
They don’t get to bring their school supplies and put them in or on their desks and they can’t see their name on our charts and on our bulletin boards.
But we can still welcome them to back to school. We can still make sure they’re comfortable.
We absolutely can make them feel special.
So we can still do these amazing Back to School Activities and we can send our students Back to School Confetti packs to get them excited for their first day of school. And we can still create a Classroom Community even while we socially distance with these 75+ ideas.
And of course, we need to still do a Meet the Teacher event. This year though, most of us will have to go digital and host a virtual meet the teacher.
Why Meet the Teacher Events are Crucial for our Students
A Meet the Teacher Event at school that typically happens before school begins is a chance for students to meet us, feel comfortable, and know what to expect on the first day of school.
It preemptively preps them to feel more comfortable and take away some of the back to school jitters.
And for many of our students, it’s the first time they’ll be meeting a teacher and seeing the inside of a classroom.
It’s kind of a big deal for them.
So normally, we let them hang up their backpacks and we read them a story and we give them a tour of our classroom.
We might make a craft project or have them find their name around our room or meet our class pet.
All in an effort to make them feel some ownership of our classrooms so they feel like it’s their classroom.
To make the first day of school easier, to make the rest of the school days easier, we want our kids to come and explore and touch and know how it will be when they come in on the first day of school.
But unfortunatly, that may not be an option this school year.
We don’t want them touching anything other kids touch. So we use No Contact Greetings like this one.
If they meet us for the first time behind a mask that might feel scary even if it’s for our safety and theirs.
And many schools have limited the number of adults in school and have restricted parents from being on campus.
So, as always, teachers need to get creative this fall so we can still connect with our students in meaningful ways even if we’re behind a mask, can’t touch them, or will teach them behind a screen.
And this fall, our connection with our students starts with a virtual teacher meet and greet.
How to Host a Virtual Meet the Teach
There are several ways to host a virtual meet the teacher event. Pick what works best for your community of students and for you.
Here are a few key tips:
1. Send Invites. Invite students and their families to the virtual event and explain what it’s for. You can use Zoom or another similar platform and you can decide to invite the whole class at once, a few students at a time, or do one on one meetings. If you’re doing one on one meetings with families, sending a SignUp Genius might be the easiest way to get families to attend.
2. Ask for RSVPS. In your invite, ask parents to RSVP so you know the parents received your email. Then you can follow up with any families who don’t respond in case the email you entered was incorrect or it got lost in their spam folder.
3. Plan a separate Zoom call for parents later to go over logistics, paperwork, curriculum information, supply needs, procedures, and concerns. Parents will be able to ask more in-depth questions if their students aren’t sitting next to them and you won’t feel the need to “sugar coat” your answers as much if students aren’t listening in. So the main focus of this Meet the Teacher is for your students to feel comfortable with you and get ready for school, not to dig into logistics or engage with parents over their concerns.
4. Let parents know what you’ll need from them– Even though this isn’t the meeting for parents, you can still let them know what types of information you will need from them like a student information form like this one (you can download it below).
You can also set up a Google Form and show them quickly how to log in so they start to fill out the information.
And give them your contact information so they know how to contact you…email, website, remind app, etc.
5. During the Zoom call while you’re waiting for all the families to sign in, show families how to change students’ names on the Zoom call so you can call on students by their names. It’s the digital version of name tags. Interacting with your students early will help you learn their names and will make them realize you see them, and you know them, and you are a safe person.
6. Take time to introduce yourself. You can make an All About Me Poster like this one (download it below) and tell your families about yourself, your family, your pets, and your favorite ice cream flavor. When you make it personal, students and parents feel like they really know you.
If you’re zooming from home, take them on a little “behind the scenes” tour of your home and show them your workspace or your kitchen or your backyard. Teachers who actually have bathrooms in their homes feel more like real people.
You can then have your students fill out an All About Me Poster after the meeting they can share with the class during the first week of school.
7. If you’re able to be on campus, Zoom from your classroom and give your students a tour of your classroom. Take them around and show them the big things like your class library and where they’ll hang up their backpacks and show them the little things like your manipulatives and your sticker basket and what’s on your desk.
If you will be remote teaching, share your screen during the virtual teacher meet and greet and give them a tour of your Google Classroom, SeeSaw dashboard, or other digital platform you’re using and show them how to use your digital games and “turn in” assignments.
8. If you’re teaching in person this fall, show them what you look like with your mask off and with your mask on. Show them how you wear it and show them that even if your mouth is covered, you’re still smiling. They can see your smile in your eyes. Ask them if any of them have masks and can show you what they look like wearing them.
It’s crucial to let them get comfortable seeing you in a mask and for them to be comfortable wearing a mask.
9. Read them a Back to School story so they get used to listening to stories as a class through a screen.
You’ll love our list of 12 Back to School Books or these favorites:
Miss Bindergarten Gets Ready for Kindergarten
The Day You Begin
How to Get Your Teacher Ready
The King of Kindergarten
The Kissing Hand
10. If you can, have a simple back to school craft or activity they can work on during the Zoom (or show them how to do it on the Zoom call and suggest they do it as a family after the call is over). You can drop off the supplies to your students or have them pick up the supplies at school beforehand.
11. Have the students go on a scavenger hunt around their home to share some special items with you and the class. You can have them find objects that are specific colors, or specific textures, or you can get more specific and ask them to show you their favorite shirt or their favorite book or their favorite stuffed animal. You’ll get to know them better and they’ll get more comfortable with you and their classmates.
12. Keep it short and sweet to keep your students’ attention and keep their interest. There’s no need to implement all of these ideas. You want to keep it light, fun, and interesting for your students. Let your kids know when you’ll see them next and how excited you are they’re in your class.
Our kids do not need to see us nervous or hear us talk about how hard or how weird this year will be for them.
Even if it’ll be hard or weird for us.
To them, this is their first introduction to school and they’re probably feeling all the big emotions: excited, nervous, overwhelmed, fearful, sad, happy…
Our job is to be their safe place.
And if we make them feel welcome and comfortable and special during our virtual meet the teacher event, then we will have done our jobs.
We will have set them up to be excited to come to school, to learn with us, and to have a successful year of school. No matter what school ends up looking like.
So here’s to a wonderfully successful school year.
For all of us.