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Teachers Connect with Parents in Virtual Back to School Night

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Arcangelo Iurato '21

30 October 2020

One of the ways Passaic Valley has adapted to the COVID-19 educational landscape was to move Back to School Night to a virtual format. Teachers uploaded presentations and videos of themselves for parents and guardians to view in place of the in-person Back to School Night experience.

"We realized that an actual face to face (Zoom or Google Meet) Back to School Night may not reach as many parents as desired," said Assistant Principal of Humanities Dr. Jared Fowler. "So we went with uploaded videos so that parents could view them over the course of the entire week. They would not be confined within a specific time."

Deciding on the video format took some time and input from surrounding districts. "We had explored many different ideas of how to do it," said Superintendent Dr. JoAnn Cardillo. "Ms. Tracey Marinelli, Superintendent of Little Falls Township Public School, shared her process regarding Back to School Night and we followed up on it. Ms. Marinelli told me that this was the model that they were using. We thought it was a good idea and we brought it to the teachers through Mr. Fowler. We met with a group of teachers and they agreed."

In their videos, teachers needed to include information about themselves, grading policies, expectations, and a review of the class syllabus. The video duration had to be 10 minutes long. "The teachers were excited for it but also wanted some additional training on recording," said Dr. Fowler.

Ms. Melanie Vasa in her Back to School Night videos Art Teacher Ms. Melanie Vasa, like the rest of her colleagues, didn't know how they were going to approach this new format at first. "I did not know how I was going to fill ten minutes," said Ms. Vasa. "When I do my Back to School Night, I always have the parents get up and I bring them to the dark room. I wasn't talking the whole time, so I always tried to showcase what we had in that ten minutes."

However, after the training from administration and careful consideration, teachers realized the video format opened some unique opportunities to showcase themselves, their classes, and their students' work. "I wanted the parents to see what the students in the classes make because you don't really get a feel for the class until you see the finished product," said Ms. Vasa. "The photos I put in the slideshow for my video were photos I could not fit into the virtual art show last year. That is why I decided to add in photography slideshows from each class into each video. I also taught myself the Adobe Premiere video editing program so that I can make adjustments and make cuts to the video."

Passaic Valley's Virtual Back to School Night, featured on the homepage of the Passaic Valley website, showcased the creativity of the staff and their ability to adapt to new challenges. "What I got from the videos was the uniqueness of the personalities of the teachers," said Dr. Cardillo.

Should this practice continue, some changes will certainly be made, but the administration is satisfied with the results this year. "It's something that needs to be further developed," said Dr. Cardillo. "We need to have some standard practice for teachers so they can think it out more. But for a first time, I think it was good."

"I think it was a successful idea because the parents have the opportunity to see the videos at their own time and it also allowed teachers to showcase their creativity." said Dr. Fowler.

Statistics or data is not available yet, but the school is hoping to somehow receive feedback from parents and students. "I'm going to try to put out a survey at the end of the marking period to parents and ask them how things are going and if they were aware of Virtual Back to School Night," said Dr. Cardillo. "We can try to collect data that way."