When a child enrolls in our program, he is not an isolated entity. Also enrolling is her family. Remember, this child has been spending the majority of her time with them. The bond between them has formed the basis for what will come next.
The family is the child’s first teacher and much has already been learned before she comes to you. We always think about all we have to share with families… information about child development, parenting, proper nutrition, appropriate playthings, and activities. But, we also need to consider how much valuable information families have to share with us!
A family’s intimate relationship with their child gives them important understandings about behavior, temperament, preferences, fears, likes, dislikes, and sources of distress and comfort. It is important to invest time in creating a collaborative relationship with them.
Parents have goals for their children and are actively providing support towards these goals at home. Likewise, we teachers have goals for this child, as well. Wouldn’t it be far more productive if both parents and teachers could share and collaborate on goals and the implementation of these goals? Absolutely!
If we used the goal of potty training as an illustration, we can see how this makes sense. If the parents and teachers discuss this goal and decide on steps to reach it, what happens at home will extend to what happens at school. There will be a predictable and consistent approach to learning to use the toilet.
Children will respond more quickly, positively, and successfully when this happens, than when two different approaches are used.
Mr. and Mrs. Rowan and little Tyler’s teachers have agreed to start using training pants all day, except for naps and overnight. They have also agreed to take Tyler to the restroom at frequent intervals so he can have opportunities to practice using the toilet.
This plan will be carried out at home and in the child care program. Tyler is more likely to learn to use the potty than if he wore training pants at school and continued to wear diapers at home.
Ideally, goal setting should take place early on. Sharing expectations and ideas at an congenial first conference can get things off to a good start.
Prior to this conversation, it is wise to send home a form for parents to complete, indicating important information they want the teachers to know about their child, such as his nap routine, favorite foods, things that may scare him, etc. Such information can really save a lot of time in getting to know a child and meeting his needs.
Sometimes we'll have a child enroll who is just not responding to our approach and we don't know why. We may have to spend several months with trial and error until we find what works best. All of this could have been avoided if the family had just provided some key information... or if we had asked! There should also be a section on the form where parents can jot down their goals and expectations for their child for this year.
Sometimes you will be surprised to read what was written! Parents may have some basic misconceptions about what is developmentally appropriate for their child or even about your program’s philosophy.
It’s always best to discuss these things right away, provide information, make suggestions, and agree on direction. Otherwise, there may be some confusion, misunderstandings, and varying degrees of dissatisfaction.
For example, a family may have been given the policy handbook for your program that indicates that the curriculum is based on play. But, they may still expect to see tangible evidence of learning through worksheets and other academic activities that are not realistic or appropriate. If the family expresses these expectations at the early goal-setting conference, a conversation can take place, reiterating the program philosophy and justifying its use.
If that parent is still adamant about his desire for an academic focus for his child, this program may not be a good fit. Better to address this now than have continued frustration on everyone’s part throughout the year!
The bottom line here is good communication... both ways.