Communication with your child’s teacher in center base care can often come at a premium. Depending on the infrastructure, it can be a challenge for working families to connect with their early childhood professional on an on-going basis. Most centers value the inclusion of family in the daily care and education of the young child- yet, the challenge remains:
How can parents help facilitate their relationship with their child primary teacher in center base care?
- Planned Lingering Each morning at the center, the majority of the community gathers on the playground as we greet arriving friends. While a drop off service is provided, we invite parents to walk their child in about once a week. Doing so affords families the opportunity to connect with their child’s social network and adults during play. If you are able to be consistent in timing or day of the week, your child’s teacher will come to expect you often greeting you with tidbits of her time together with your child during the week. Often times planning an earlier pick up once a week can offer the same experience. However, please conscious of transition times when teachers are “all hands on deck” in ensuring that children are safe and comfortable. And ask to meet privately with your early childhood teacher once a year outside the company of children.
- Sensitive Observation Sometimes the time of year, time of day, or just plain timing isn’t conducive to connecting with your teacher. Sensitive observation will help guide you in determining if your teacher has a moment- does she appear relaxed? is she engaged with a child? are any objects in her hands? If you’re unsure you might want to ask, “When you get a chance, I’d like to connect.” Your teacher will either seize the moment or let you know a better time. Or if it is apparent that your child’s teacher is occupied, table the “Do you have a moment?” question for another day entirely in order that she can stay focused on her task at hand.
- Understand Center Communication Infrastructure Asking about how to communication when touring and enrolling your child can often be overlooked. Getting to know providers, attending to enrollment paperwork, understanding center policies take precedence during those first encounters. Take a moment to connect with your center’s administration team BEFORE you feel the need to communicate with your child’s teacher to understand what measures may be in place to provide parents the opportunity to meet with faculty by phone or in person outside your teacher’s time with the children. Be aware that daily or weekly sheets may only provide superficial information and can not take the place of your interpersonal connection.
- Wants Nothing Time The care and well-being of your child has brought you and your teacher together, but that doesn’t mean conversations need only be about the children. Hopefully, the adults will be enjoying an extended time together over the course of your child’s development. Teachers at the center are often together with their primary group of children two or more years. Take time to get to know your child’s teacher, her family, her interests….Connecting during “wants nothing” time positively fuels your relationship together and helps when you might need to communicate something of concern later on.
- Volunteer Whenever you take a moment to give back to your child’s classroom, you demonstrate to your child and to your teacher that care about the well-being of the center community. Time constraints or center policy might make volunteering during classroom time a challenge- don’t give up. Other meaningful ways to volunteer include event or social get togethers after hours, organizing social media outlets, making classroom materials at home, leading appreciation weeks, fundraising, or grant writing. During your “wants nothing” time together with your child’s teacher find out what she thinks might be of benefit.
Teachers often balance the need for parents to feel in the loop while planning the curriculum, maintaining the environment, administrative requirements, and the daily care and well being of a group of children. At the beginning, your teacher will be getting to know your family and what means of communication fits best with your family culture. In respecting individual cultures while balancing whole center dynamics, you may find both sides compromising.
While teacher and parents develop their relationship together, families sometimes inadvertently damage the communication process. Common mistakes include
- The Surprise Attack – Avoid unloading a concern while your teacher is involved in the classroom. She won’t be able to give your concern the attention it deserves while she is caring for children and it can negatively impact her being able to enjoy the day. An experienced teacher will know that parental concerns are simply a request to share in their child’s day or need for more information. Ask your teacher to contact you (by phone preferably) at her convenience.
- Closing Time- If you are arriving right at the center’s closing hour, appreciate that your teacher might not be at her freshest. Working with young children is a joyful experience requiring the adult’s full presence. It is an outpouring of energy and emotion. At the end of the day teachers often need the time to care for themselves and refuel. If your schedule does not allow for you to be able to arrive early to connect about once a week, ask how you can touch base periodically. Often teachers are able to contact families on an occasional basis during the day for a quick check in.
- Going Over Heads- Save communication regarding care and well-being with your center administrator to address concerns only after you have first tried communicating with your teacher. This can be a challenge if you have not been able to connect first with your child’s primary. Even something like a diaper rash can inadvertently be perceived as a complaint against your child’s caregiver when it is communicated via administrative channels. However, if a rash is on-going and you are not satisfied with your caregiver’s response, administrative communication may be warranted.
- Burdening Communication– We’ve found communicating daily or even weekly details of care, classroom learning, center activities, or social interactions on an individual basis to be more than one person can burden. Be proactive in sharing the burden of communication by reading the center Parent Handbook and emails, becoming involved in center social forums, participating in educational events, and reading on the topic of early childhood development. Being informed makes the most of the times you are able to connect in person with your teacher by affording less general and more individualized discussions.
While you may not be able to know everything your child is doing while she is away from you in center base care, cultivating a relationship with your child’s primary teacher through on-going positive channel will help ensure that you are receiving the information you do need in supporting her social, emotional, physical and cognitive development. Know, too, that ruptures in the communication process are normal and healthy components in a relationship and are bound to occur. When approached in a respectful manner ruptures, too, provide rich learning opportunities for both teacher, parent and child.
We are in this together.