In our last post we established that Early Childhood Learning programs can and should use the standards put forth in NAEYCs accreditation process as a benchmark for which to compare their communication efforts. At the end of that post we suggested that the type of communication channels you provide can be the difference between 1-way communication and real communication, two-way communication. So what are the strategies that you put into place to foster parent-teacher collaboration? Let’s look back at the standards.
Standard 7.A.14 requires that:
“Program staff and families work together to plan events. Families’ schedules and availability are considered as part of this planning.”
I want to pause on here. This is real nuts-n-bolts sort of stuff here. Staff and families will work together to plan events. Staff and parents must communicate their schedules to each other and then they must collaborate to plan events. I know for many programs that this is a challenge. It’s hard enough to even get parents to read your emails, right? Keep in mind that NAEYC is an accreditation process. So the bar has to be raised a bit here.
Don’t Do That
Now to be fair, I’m not running a child care center (although I have felt like that on a few occasions) but I will assert that the challenge to get parents, families and members to volunteer is universal to all organizations. What I will also assert is that the easier and more convenient you make it for folks to communicate then the easier it will be for them to plan. You know those pieces of paper that you create for parents to sign up on when they drop off their kids? Yea, that’s not convenient. Parents are busy and might not have their collective thoughts or schedules in front of them. Our customers use Whiteboards to create virtual sign-up sheets so parents can signup at their leisure, when they have time in front of the computer. Also, you know those long emails that you send to everyone in the class and have everyone reply with what they’re bringing? Yea, don’t do that either. Again, the Whiteboards feature in Memberhub or any other wiki-like tool will allow you to create virtual signup sheets. The point here is planning anything is much easier when you use technology to guide the process.
In-person Communication Alternatives
Standard 7.B.06 says:
“Program staff communicate with families on at least a weekly basis regarding children’s activities and developmental milestones, shared caregiving issues, and other information that affects the well-being and development of their children. Where in-person communication is not possible, program staff communicate through established alternative means.”
If you can’t meet face-to-face then make sure you have established alternative means. Now that one’s easy enough for folks to digest. An “alternative” could be email, text messages, social media, phone calls, carrier pigeon, whatever. I would challenge this standard to go a bit further and suggest that the “established alternative” be whatever communication channels the parents are most comfortable with and to have multiple channels. Effective group communication must use multiple mediums. I would also suggest that the standard go beyond just having those alternate communication channels and encourage those channels be used often so that REAL community and relationships can be built when there actually is face-to-face time.
Make the Most of Face-to-Face Time
I’ll end with this. If you’re a director or teacher and if every single time you are with parents you find yourself discussing logistics (next conference, field trip, what wacky Wednesday is, etc.) then I would suggest that you have room to improve your communication efforts. Technology should be used for logistics and collaboration so that when are face-to-face you can talk about things that actually matter. Like the weather (kidding!).