PARTNERS – This piece has taken me a very long time to write. I wanted to write something meaningful, impactful, important, but I kept getting stuck on what I really needed to say. Coming from a Head Start background and having been a Family Services Support worker in a very conscientious agency, I am very much into Family Engagement. I know all about how us good teachers usually smile and say “Good morning” or “Good evening” to the parents. But I believe in really having them as part of the teaching team. After all, we easily point the finger at a miss-stepped youth who get in trouble and say, “What were his parents doing? They should have …) You know what we say.
The time to get involved is not when things have gone wrong, and the child is now a pre-teen or teen. The time to get involved was in preschool at the childcare center.
I had loads of ideas about involvement and engagement for back-in-the-day. But how do you involve a parent in this COVID-19 world? How do you even get to say “Hello” or “Your son _______ made a _________ today and it was magnificent” or “Good afternoon Ms. _______. There are some things that I think you can help your daughter with at home. I would like to show you for this weekend.”
What I see in the COVID-19 world of childcare is a drop-off at the front entrance. Temperatures taken and the child admitted. The parent moves along. Pick -up time is no different. The child is brought to the front entrance with all their “stuff” and put into their parent’s hands and the door is closed. The teacher is not involved or seen or communicated with. If there are questions, they are usually conveyed to the teacher and the answer brought back; or inquired of the director and the answer is brought back; or if urgent and necessary, the teacher is brought to the front entrance. But this is not optimal. The teacher has to leave the classroom, possibly from the middle of what was being done, and try to rack through her/his brain as to what to say without notes or references, and possibly not even know what this is about. How can you be coherent and appear intelligent under these circumstances?
So, I’ve come up with a solution for my issues of a post COVID-19 Parent Engagement: PARTNERS. It’s a long-distance relationship, but it can work.
It will have to be more than “Hi” and “Bye.” It will have to be meaningful communication on both sides.
“Ms. Adams, I can tell you are working with Alisha at home. What are some of the things you are doing? Maybe I can tell other parents so they can try the same things. It’s really working! She told all the other children how to find the letter /A/.”
“Hey Ms. Bradley, I cut some pictures out of the newspaper and Alisha had to find words that had /A/ in them from the words under the picture. She seemed to like it. Do you have any other suggestions? I heard that one on WYSO. You really think it helped her. Yeah! Tell the other parents. Thanks”
It will have to be more than just answering a question or two. Do not wait for the question. Text or email with what and why you are doing the things you are doing.
“We will be working on the letter /B/ this week. Please send in something that starts with an /B/ like a book or button or barrette or bear or baby doll or something blue, black, or brown. Having something in their hands while we talk really helps them remember the letter. We can do this for Show and Tell on Wednesday. If you have any questions, text me at 555-555-5555.”
It will have to be more than reporting behavior issues. Tell about the good news; the achievements; the successes. I know, you are thinking about that child who stays in trouble. Never does anything right. Always where he/she should not be. FIND IT!!!!!!!! (Today he sat in a circle without being told where his spot is). That is a success for that child. Small, but done. Tell the parents.
Hi Ms. Cole, just wanted to let you know that Devon came to the circle time and sat in his spot without anyone reminding him. I believe this small achievement is so important for him and his improving his behavior every day in little ways. It would be helpful for you to let him know this was a good thing. We also told him. Each day we will build on that.
You do not have to tell the family that he was overly aggressive towards another child. Just let her rejoice in that one thing as good news.
It does not have to be long and detailed but try to contact every parent at least once during the week to stay in touch and let them know you care. Make it positive and not a complaint.
If you must complain, make it brief, to the point, and put it between two good things. Try to offer a solution or some suggestion. Telling them that their daughter is bad doesn’t help anyone. They already know this but do not know how to fix it or they would have done that long ago.
“Good afternoon Ms. Elton, Frances is having a really hard time sharing with the other children. She snatches the toys away from them, even when she doesn’t really want to play with them.”
“What do you want me to do? She’s like that with her brother.”
“Maybe when you see her do this at home to her brother you could try what we are doing and see if that helps. We…. “
It may be a difficult relationship to start and even maintain, but it is so important for the best interest of the child.
Remember that old saying, “It takes a village to raise a child” So true.