Hosting a parent orientation can help your beginning instrumental program get off to a good start in the Fall. Now is a great time to start thinking about what you might like to change up next school year.
My orchestra colleague and I began hosting a Parent Orientation meeting two years ago after noticing some deficits in parent understanding and involvement. In collaboration with our administration, we have incorporated a brief parent orientation the same night as Open House, about an hour before Open House officially begins. Students have already been assigned instruments after a rigorous recruitment process in the Spring of 3rd grade and most families already secured instrument rentals over the summer.
Unlike an instrument petting zoo or “instrument rental night,” this meeting is all about our procedures and expectations, which would be completely new to them if they haven’t already had a child come through the program. Although music is what we do daily, we can take for granted that this may be the first ever experience a family has with an instrument. It is possible that the parents are just as inquisitive and nervous as their child. After all, they just made a big financial commitment for their child to participate. Teachers and parents alike want the students to be successful. This is a great opportunity to give parents tools and strategies they need and to foster a positive relationship between teacher and parent.
Distill all of the information you want to convey into a short presentation to keep the parents engaged. Our orientation presentation only lasts about 15 minutes, after which we leave ample time to take parent questions. In the meeting, we cover the components of the program, how parents can help their child succeed, and the resources available to parents and students online. Aside from concerts later in the year this is one of the few chances to have a captive parent audience.
In just 20 slides, we cover:
- How to read a rotating, pull-out lesson schedule
- When full band/orchestra rehearsal begins and what criteria must be met
- How to fill out a practice calendar
- Establishing a consistent practice routine at home
- Practice strategies such as: slow it down, clap the rhythm, use flashcards
- General, proper posture for all instruments (including some demonstration)
- How to access band and orchestra resources online
- The importance of attending live performances as motivation and inspiration
- Additional opportunities such as extra-help, solo contest, and private lessons
Feedback from parents, classroom teachers, and administration has been wonderful. The classroom teachers expressed that they used to get tons of questions about the band and orchestra program during their Open House presentations—which has mostly dissipated. One administrator felt that we provided a lot of information that his own child’s school hadn’t when his child started an instrument. And perhaps most importantly, this has helped us to develop relationships with parents we will be working with for two years, from the very beginning of 4th grade.
Kim Harrison teaches 4th and 5th grade lessons and band at Pine Tree Elementary School. Pine Tree is part of the Monroe-Woodbury Central School District in Orange County, NY, which has been named one of the Best Communities for Music Education by the NAMM Foundation for six consecutive years. Miss Harrison is passionate about finding the best ways to engage her students and to encourage them to reach high standards. In Spring 2017, the Pine Tree 5th Grade Band received a Gold rating at the NYSSMA Majors festival.
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