Listening to a recent parent endorsement provided for a national campaign on innovation in the classroom, I reflected on our practice that cultivated such a warm regard for the work being advocated within our small community school.
A key component to providing a high quality preschool experience for young children is cultivating a deep and meaningful relationship with each child and with each child’s parent. The parent is the child’s primary caregiver- the primary teacher. Developing a respectful and honest open communication rapport with each child’s family translates through to that child’s daily interactions with her teachers at school regardless of the child’s age.
Much of the foundation in building a respectful collaboration between parent and school is laid prior and just following a child enrolling in the center. Some ways we cultivate the relationship include:
1. THE WAIT BEFORE THE WAITING LIST – Prior to touring the program, parents or children infancy-two years of age first attend a New and Expectant Parent Class. This class is held the first Saturday of each month from 9am-11am during which time we share components of child development, philosophical ideas, demonstration of care, and tour the school environments. More importantly, we are able to meet a small group of interested families and share with them our values, beliefs, and practice in a way that allows them to dissect the information with their own values, beliefs, and practice.
Families of older children have a similar experience via quarterly OPEN HOUSE offerings.
2. BOTH PARENTS ATTEND AN INDIVIDUALIZED TOUR – Having both parents available during the individualized tour sends a powerful message. Regardless of who may be dropping off or picking up, parents share equal responsibility in a child’s upbringing and have different perspectives in regards to their care and education. Single parents are invited to extend the tour invitation, if they like, with extended family members or involved friends. In the event of a divorce, both parents are encouraged to come together at this time of assessment if custody is shared.
For our part, we ensure that our time together is uninterrupted, unhurried, and individualized. The time we spend initially provides the foundation of communication for our possible future relationship should the family choose to enroll.
3. CULTURALLY SENSITIVE MATERIALS – Examine your paperwork for un-intentioned social biases. Better yet- have a colleague look over your registration, application, and school handbook and materials for an objective take. Deborah Solomon, President of Resources for Infant Educarers, remarked during a certification visit almost innocently, “Do you think asking for the name of the Father and the name of the Mother on your application may be offensive to some parents?” That simple question opened my eyes. We have to develop a practice of inclusiveness not only to our current parent body but also with a sensitivity to families yet to embark on our journey together. Imparting a sense of belonging and understanding trickles down to the minute details.
Sample Preschool Application – Can you find any biases in this sample application?
4. THE WARM-IN – Before a child separates from their family to join us at school, a series of visits ranging from 3 days to one week (depending on the child’s age) facilitate the child, parent, teacher bond. During this time, parents are welcome to look on as their child begins to engage in play and with classroom materials. Teachers are freed to remain close-by connecting and learning individual family culture. Together they share their thoughts, ideas, and hopes for our coming years together.
5. COMMUNITY MEETINGS – Time is afforded on a monthly or quarterly basis inviting parents and teachers in each classroom to come together within their classroom while their child is in the supervision of a secondary caregiver at play. Parents are able to connect with other families and together discuss topics relating to child development, classroom experiences, and time at home. Attendance in regular community meetings also affords parents an opportunity to deepen their understanding of their individual child’s potential during individual yearly parent teacher conferences.
Children bare witness to the adult interactions amongst them. They are absorbed and integrated providing useful learning experiences upon which the child will interact with his friends and teachers throughout the day. When parents feel acceptance and belonging, so, too, will their children.