At a school that continues to offer a unique academic experience, Florida SouthWestern Collegiate High School has reinvented the open house.

In fact, they don’t even call the event an open house, it’s Parent “Go Back to School” Night.

Instead of the standard meet and greet prior to the first day — where parents, students and teachers alike aren’t really sure what to expect in the classroom — FSW holds its parent night a few weeks after school has started and everyone has had the chance to settle in.

“We bring the parents in and make them feel like they’re back in school with each teacher going through little 10-minute lessons with them,” said Principal Michelle Wier.

“Parents get to actually see teachers’ teaching styles opposed to just meeting them. They get a better feel of the classroom climate that way.”

Students at the collegiate high agree that it’s a great way to create better communication and understanding between home and school.

“My mom always asks me about what I did in school but this way, she can see for herself what teachers and assignments are like,” said sophomore Amy Enberg.

Meghan Craig, a junior, added: “They can picture who the teacher is when I come home and talk about them or my homework or anything.”

The night has been an annual event for at least eight years and the teachers have really taken to it, making the most of their 10 minutes with the families.

“This is my first year and, when I started, everyone told me that this was something I had to keep. This is something the staff is truly passionate about doing,” Wier said.

Walking into each classroom felt like stepping back in time, with smoky science experiment smells evoking a sense of nostalgia among once-high schoolers.

“It’s fun for the parents, it takes them back,” said English teacher Janie Clark. She also teaches film and journalism courses, instructing parents in everything from reading the Declaration of Independence to taking a movie genre survey.

Galina Clarke, a chemistry teacher starting her first year at the high school, had parents investigating physical and chemical changes by burning paper, mixing solutions and grinding crystals.

“It let’s them play a little and have a little insight. Especially in a science class, it might not always be easy for a student to describe what they’re working on, the experiments they’re doing,” she said.

Throughout the night, parents raced from classroom to classroom, the hallways quieting to a hush during each period just as they would during real school hours, Wier remarked. Even a faux-lunch of cookies and water was served after third period.

“We do have an informal open house before school starts but we think this is much more valuable,” Wier said.

“We plan on continuing to do this every year.”

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