When parents select a school for their child, it's the beginning of a very important partnership between the school and family. Just like any partnership the success depends on a number of factors including the establishment of a foundation of trust and mutual respect. Once you've made the choice of a particular school and staff as your partners in this most important work of raising and educating your child, then it is necessary to be proactive in building an effective relationship with your parenting partners.
Just as your child will need some time and experience to feel completely comfortable and safe in his new school, parents also need time and positive experiences to reach a level of deep confidence. Perhaps nothing else is as critical in establishing a positive relationship than having open and frequent reciprocal communication with the teachers and director.
It's important as a parent that your concerns and questions are responded to promptly and honestly. At the same time, it's also important that you have an appreciation for the challenges of the staff as they get to know your child and the others in the class. When the staff perceives that you understand and appreciate their work, then you've made it easier for them to open up to you and share their perspective on your child and her experience.
It's probably not reasonable to expect the staff to provide you with a detailed description of your child's experience on a daily basis. It is reasonable, however, to expect that there will be regularly scheduled conferences with either the director or a teacher to talk in depth about your child's development and experience at school. During the parent-teacher conference, you should be given a full description of your child's typical day at school as well as how he is progressing developmentally in relation to his peers. Where is he in his social development, his speech and language development, his motor skills, both large and small? Are there any areas of concern that would warrant a consultation with your pediatrician or other specialist?
At our school, we always tell parents that we naturally appreciate compliments and to be told we're doing a good job. Perhaps more important, though, is that when a parent does have a concern or doesn't understand something that's happened at school that the parent feels invited to share his or her concern directly with us, and as soon as possible. Nothing is more damaging to the success of the partnership than to let a concern fester and resentments build. We always appreciate a parent's feedback and make every effort to resolve any problem or concerns promptly. Sometimes just being heard and having your concern be acknowledged is sufficient to solve the problem.
Educating a child, just like parenting, has no prescriptions or "one right way." In order to be effective, parents and teachers must have an appreciation for each other's role as well as the many natural differences there are in style and values. Although it is important that your values are enough in line with those of the preschool you've selected, it is not necessary that there be an exact match, nor would that be a reasonable expectation. In fact your child will benefit from a range of styles and approaches. Children quickly become tremendously savvy in understanding that different adults have different emphasis and styles, and exposure to those differences is an education in itself.
So just as you would in any relationship or partnership, be sure you are taking the time and making the effort to build a relationship of trust and confidence with your preschool's staff and that the communication lines remain open and fluid. Your efforts will immeasurably enhance your child's first school experience.
Originally published in 2010.
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