When I talk to early childhood educators and ask them what makes their learning centers different from the rest, most inevitably say the quality of their staff. As a parent, I wholeheartedly applaud this, but at the same time I fear it.
I love my daughter’s pre-school teacher so much that when she has a well-deserved vacation I secretly wonder: Is she interviewing for another job? What would we do if she left?
There’s a danger in having your school’s entire brand tied up in the people because when I ask educators their biggest challenge, they say retention of staff.
Here are 5 easy ways to differentiate your school beyond the importance of attracting top talent.
1. Create a community
Having events outside of the standard back to school night where parents and children can spend time together helps bond the community that is your school.
Our daughter’s school does a Fall and Spring outing. And (wait for it…) they do it on a Saturday!!! This allows working parents who are usually rushed during pick up and drop off to attend as well.
Often times they get families together at a local pizza place or a park to keep costs down. As a working parent I really look forward to these outings because I get a chance to know the other kids and their families.
2. Increase Communication
Historically this has been done through daily activity sheets, but with the advent of online childcare reports, parents don’t need to wait until the end of the day to get an update on their child’s day. Getting daily reports via email or in real-time on their smartphone allows parents to feel more connected.
Online activity tracking also helps teachers save time by logging items on a computer or smartphone rather than writing details on a sheet for each child. Look for an app with a multi-log feature so that teachers can log an activity one time for the whole class (e.g., at 10am everyone sat for circle time).
3. Create an ‘ask me about’ prompt each day
How many times have a parent picked up their child and asked “What did you to at school today?” only to be met with a blank stare?
Creating a specific question for parents to ask their kids helps them feel connected to the school and being specific makes it easier for children to share something about their day. An added bonus to the teachers is it helps enforce lessons from the classroom at home.
The question can be sent in the child’s daily activity report so it’s sure to get to the parent each day.
4. Post Pictures
I love receiving pictures of what my daughter is up to throughout the day. Not only is it another great way to prompt dialogue about things she did, but it also makes me feel great to see her happy and playing. I like to save these pictures as a timeline and look back to see how she’s grown over the school year!
5. Connect Parents with Each Other
One of the many challenges with the rush of pick up and drop is getting to know the other parents. I remember when my daughter started school and saying she wanted to have a play date with a little boy in her class. I had no idea who his parents were or how to contact them. In fact, I didn’t even know his last name!
Consider creating an online community for your class where parents can connect. You could also send out mini bios of the family so that parents get to know one another.