I'm thinking about all those preschool teachers who are very, very busy (and excited!) as they get ready for the new school year. Today's blog: It is really important to lay a strong foundation for good communication with parents and caregivers.
It's important to discuss issues as they come up and keep them “small," rather than ignoring things and letting something grow bigger. Open communication between parent and teacher is essential! I repeat these words over and over to families - at spring Orientations, fall Back to School nights, and in my monthly newsletters. But, how do you create an open relationship with parents and caregivers? How do you build the foundation for this kind of open communication?
My top five practices for building a strong foundation with families:
ONE - greet family and caregivers by their names! Learn these names. For many of us, this is the hardest part of our job - learning these. But it is ESSENTIAL. People need to be recognized. The first several days - ask them their names, repeat them aloud. When family members sign their child in, read those sign-ins and repeat them out loud again. Make up a rhyming jingle - some special hint that helps you remember. Whatever helps you learn these names, please do!
TWO - take photos of the child and loved ones on the very first day or visit to school. Post these photos throughout your room! If you have a classroom website or parents' email addresses, share the photos. (Make sure you have your school's and parents' permission, plus signed waivers.)
THREE - tell your parents something positive, right off the bat, those first few days of school. If possible, speak to them personally - as they are doing drop off or pick up, or give them a personal phonecall. Catch them while the child is being oh so good! Build a little trust. Yes, there may come a time when you have to say something uncomfortable or difficult - how much better to have a positive foundation in place.
FOUR - day one or end of first week - send out a glowing email to the whole class of families of what a delightful start you have had to the school year. Name special things that you have seen. No need to name individual students here - again, we want to avoid comparisons (singling children out for certain things invariably makes someone feel "lesser than"). Just summarize your happy start and how enthusiastic you feel about the upcoming year.
FIVE - Welcome and encourage families to share their own special interests and talents with your class – cooking, sharing a favorite song or musical instrument, helping create a special project, or simply dropping by the classroom and participating in part of the day. The preschool years are a wonderful time for families to be involved in their child's class! Children benefit from seeing their parents in the classroom. I have no doubt that it encourages a true love of learning, to have their parents participate in their school.
So, ask and encourage parents: Would you like to share your occupation/special interests/skills/talents with our class or the school?