Does your organization hold up effective communication as an important strategy to success? How do you measure how effective your communication efforts are? (Actually I really would love to know how you’re doing that, leave a comment). In many cases, leaders will look to successful organizations and mimic their communication efforts and styles. Well in the case of Early Childhood Education (ECE), you can strive to live up to the standards. You know, the NAEYC standards.
NAEYC places very strong emphasis on the importance of reciprocal relationships with families and communication. NAEYC Early Childhood Program Accreditation Criteria for Relationships Standard 1.A.01 says:
“Teachers work in partnership with families, establishing and maintaining regular, ongoing, two-way communication.”
Did you catch that? Two-way communication. Blasting your parents and families with emails, newsletters and take home progress reports is important but it can easily become a 1-way channel. If that’s all you’re doing then parents should feel informed but will they feel engaged? What channels have you opened up for parents to communicate back? How easy do you make it for them to share and are you encouraging them to do that? Are you using technology to make collaboration easier?
What if Parents Say Nasty Things?
A flag might be going off in your head right now. If we start encouraging parents and families to give feedback and share ideas, won’t we open up the door for a flood of “suggestions” and “complaints”. Maybe. Maybe not. MemberHub customers report that parents empowered to communicate through our private online portal generally improves collaboration and results in more positive interaction. The important point here is that these communications channels should be about collaboration, not just another 1-way channel. If you don’t take the bad with the good, you’ll never have true collaboration.
You Reap What you Sow
Create a feedback line and you’ll get…feedback. Give a phone number and you’ll get phone calls. Create a place for parents to have discussions and you’ll get discussions! Create an easy way for them to signup to serve and share ideas and (ideally) you’ll get parents that volunteer! I know that sounds easier said then done, but if you define the guidelines up front then 99% of the time people follow the rules. That one parent is going to find a way to vent no matter what. But, chances are, with encouraged reciprocal communication tools like MemberHub, parents are more likely to be positively engaged and less likely to feel frustrated enough that they feel the need to vent publicly. Surely nothing is stopping a parent from going on Facebook right now and saying inappropriate things, but that could be worse than them venting inside a private MemberHub portal!
Many programs worry that parents and teachers use social media inappropriately in ways that undermines a sense of community, rather than building it. With a private online community, you can define the tone of the discussion to be constructive and helpful, maintain confidentiality and ensure a respectful dialogue.