"How can I explain my philosophy to parents?" A teacher asks for advice on helping families understand the importance of free time, outdoor play, and other open-ended aspects of her early childhood program.
Reinforce, reinforce, reinforce.
In the beginning of the year, I explain what kinds of things children will learn when playing in each area of the classroom, and then I reinforce this message in different ways throughout the year. Here are just a few:
1. In each learning area, I post a list of all the skills children work on in that particular center.
2. In my weekly newsletter to parents, I always include something from the NAEYC book Family-Friendly Communication for Early Childhood Programs. The book describes the hows and whys very clearly.
3. I also hand out a checklist periodically that says, "This is what I did at school today." The items on the list include "sorted, classified, and matched in the math area," "explored, experimented, and made predictions at the science table," and so on. I check off what is appropriate for each child.
By repeating the message in different ways over a long period of time, I find that the information does get through, and many parents have told me that they do appreciate it.
- Staci Bridges, Preschool Teacher. Marstons Mills, MA
Put your policies in writing.
I type up a brief explanation for each area of my childcare program - everything from the creative process to meals and snacks. It totals two to three pages, and I give one to every parent in my program.
Families are very grateful for the document, because it answers all their questions and they have a copy for future reference. It also lets them know right from the start how I prefer to handle situations and programming. This cuts down on any chance of miscommunication later.
- Jennifer Van Geffen, Family Child-Care Provider. Strathroy, Ontario
"Now can I expand my classroom library?" A teacher seeks low-cost ways to add books to her shelves.
Make a deal with your local bookstore. Ours has started up a promotion ir which 10% of all sales is donated to the school of the purchaser's choice. We let our parents know, and they buy all their books at that store. This helps the store as well as all the schools and childcare centers in our area.
- Marilyn Wood, Director. Petoskey, MI
Send an SOS to the public library. Many libraries will arrange for rotating collections of books to be deposited on a regular basis at child-care centers and preschools. This is an excellent way to bring free books into the school and to connect with the many resources available at the library. You might even check with the children's librarian to see if she has time to do an occasional story hour at your school!
- Barb White, Branch Librarian. Akron, OH
This article originally appeared in the April, 1998 issue of Early Childhood Today.