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First Impression Frenzy

For almost twenty years now, I’ve gotten sucked into the “First Impression Frenzy” all of us tend to feel as we get our classrooms ready to welcome our new students and families for Open House and other future family events. My craziness starts with scooching, scooting and even some spouse recruiting until the placement of every desk, table, chair, and cabinet proclaims...THIS IS GOING TO BE A GREAT NEW SCHOOL YEARWhy do we put so much pressure on ourselves? Because a good relationship with our families is vital - when we are enlisting family support with homework, when we have to share bad news, or when we accidentally, not on purpose, send report cards a day home late (not one parent tattled on me!). Although a good first impression is not only on the classroom teacher’s shoulders alone. Parents actually form opinions about the overall school environment as they walk through the halls on their way to our classrooms. Try to take off your educator glasses and look at this situation through a business lens. Retailers spend tons of marketing dollars creating a perfect experience as you wander through the store to find your favorite brand of clothes. So, let’s focus some of our frenzy outside the classroom as well. Take advantage of these First Impression Hacks, inspired by the retail world, to make family events welcoming from start to finish. 


Once every piece of furniture has found its home, phase 2 of my “First Impression Frenzy” involves tackling the most important, but often dreaded decision of ... (drum roll please)...THE CLASSROOM THEME! Should I change from pirates to Pac Man or maybe even Fortnite? So many choices and so many cute ideas on the internet make this decision one of the toughest to tackle.


When I finally nail down my classroom theme, you’d think I’d be ready to kick up my feet and relax a bit, but oh no... phase 3 comes knocking on my door to the tune of NAME TAGS, FOLDERS, AND FAVORS...OH MY! And yes, I did say favors--as in sugary treats precisely secured to a cutesy note to each child from the teacher conveying all my hopes and dreams for this new school year. Actually, let’s just call a spade a spade…. it’s a thinly veiled bribe! 


After all that prep, I want to take a deep breath, open my classroom door, and shout, “TA-DA!!!!” Like it is some big deal. Why do we educators make such a big deal about the first meet and greet?  We do it because IT REALLY IS A BIG DEAL! First impressions go a long way. They really do matter. Let’s be honest...everyone is in their corner sizing everyone else up, forming opinions, and making comparisons. Teachers do it, parents do it, and even kids do it. The kids are pretty easy to win over, but the parents are usually a little more discerning. 


Truth be told, visiting the teacher and exploring the classroom is part of a family’s experience on a “Meet the Teacher” night as well as many other future family night events. Most families probably spend about half of their time mingling with the teacher and classmates while the rest of the night is spent walking up, down, and around the halls of the school. 


Don’t stop reading! I’m not not going to tell you to make sure you clean the hallway walls, cut the grass, or buy some half price plants from the local hardware store. (But they do have some really good deals right now….just saying.)


I challenge you, however, to take off your educator glasses for just a minute and look at this event through the lens of the business world. Do Walmart or Target ONLY worry about a clean store that is visually appealing? Heck no! They spend a tremendous amount of focus designing the entire shopper experience to feel welcoming by employing visual marketing strategies and techniques intended to influence emotions and ultimately buying decisions of the shopper.  


Let’s take advantage of some free marketing advice and pay attention to what these successful retail businesses do. They make boring block walls pop with appealing sights, sounds, and sensations. They play upbeat background music, post visuals of happy people or delicious food, purposely place large signs to guide us throughout the store, and even entice us with freebies and food. 


Why do retailers do this? They do it to create a welcoming environment that makes customers feel good and keeps them in the store longer. Why does that matter? The longer the customers are in the store...the greater the chances they will purchase more than they intended to buy. The more relaxed and comfortable they are…the greater chance they will purchase more. Plus, happy customers lead to returning customers! Don’t you want families to feel welcomed, to enjoy their time at your school, and to feel excited to come back the next time?

Try these First Impression Hacks inspired by the retail world and focus your energy on all areas around the school to create a welcoming environment that will impact every family coming in the door!