Back to School tailgate changes game plan

Science+teachers+Amanda+Frankford+%28right%29+and+Rebecca+Herendeen+%28left%29+engage+with+a+parent+at+the+Back+to+School+tailgate.+The+event+was+used+for+parents+to+connect+with+their+child%27s+teachers.

Science teachers Amanda Frankford (right) and Rebecca Herendeen (left) engage with a parent at the Back to School tailgate. The event was used for parents to connect with their child’s teachers.

Maddie Seiler, Reporter

Every Friday night, fans, football players, cheerleaders, marching band members, and numerous volunteers unite under the glaring lights. However, this past Friday, parents and teachers were added to the mix, testing out a type of meet and greet in the form of a tailgating event, held from 6 to 7 in the grass behind the stadium.

Until now, Back to School night was an event where parents could visit their child’s teachers in their classrooms. Teachers would review the syllabus, discuss textbooks and novels involved in the class, and answer any questions parents had. “Some years, I only had maybe 10 parents come out. Others I had about 25. Participation has definitely decreased since I started here, but that may be because I teach more upperclassmen who have already established themselves,” said English teacher Bethany Pagze.

“[The purpose of this tailgate] is to establish a connection between teachers and parents,” said Principal William August. “The format we had been using didn’t appear to be effective…we’re looking to improve communication and use time more efficiently.” August got the idea by talking with other staff members as well as professional associates looking for a solution to the same problem. “It makes sense because families are busy, so we want to make this as convenient as possible,” he said.

Parents in attendance seemed to enjoy an opportunity to speak one on one with their child’s teacher. Amy Runyon, mother of 2 high school students, said, “The tailgate was a laid-back, casual way to interact with the teachers which I enjoyed. Being able to have current and past teachers to talk to was also nice as it provided an introduction and some background.” As a first time event, there were a couple of kinks to be worked out, and Runyon offered some suggestions, including larger amounts of space for each department, and time for food before or after the event rather than during. “Overall, I still prefer the previous Back to School nights, however I also feel that this event could still be an option, in addition to, the other. Ultimately, any chance to interact and talk with our teachers is an opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss,” Runyon said.

Teachers like Timothy Kireta, social studies, also had some thoughts on how the night seemed to go. “I know there was concern from both the faculty and the community that it wouldn’t be well attended…but I talked to people pretty much all evening and I was busy the entire time,” he said. Kireta preferred the tailgating event to traditional Back to School night due to the low key environment and ability to engage in one on one discussions with parents who wanted to express valid concerns. “I think that if parents have a reason to reach out to teachers they’re able to do that, but not face to face. That’s the reason behind a Back to School night. As a parent, I’d want to have discussions specifically about my kid and I think this event was a great way to do that,” Kireta said.

Whether this was a one time event, or something that will be built upon in the future, the Back to School tailgate provided not only a light-hearted atmosphere with food and a spirit wear raffle, but also a serious time for parents and teachers to introduce themselves and establish connections that will last for the entirety of the school year.