If you have a child in preschool or are the owner, director, or teacher of a preschool, you know how important communication between preschool and parents is. After teaching at a day care center and Montessori schools, owning a Montessori school, and completing my master’s degree school placement at a day nursery in England, I’ve found some favorite ways to encourage communication.
These are appropriate for most preschool situations, including Sunday School program/parent communication. Of course, a Sunday School wouldn’t use every form of communication, but hopefully every preschool program will use at least some.
Attend school open houses, parent nights, parent-teacher conferences – whatever opportunities the school gives you to visit and participate in your child’s life at school. Take the time to listen to and encourage your child’s discussions about school. Regardless of how busy your schedule is, knowing as much as possible about your child’s life at school is worth any extra time spent.
For preschools (some of my favorite ways to communicate with parents – from the perspective of a Montessorian):
School open house before the first day of school
This was always a casual time for parents and their children to become comfortable with my school, to meet me and any teachers they would be working with, and to ask any questions that arose after the initial interview. I also had a slide show from the previous year, showing slides of the children at work in each of the curriculum areas. Of course, that was in the 1980s. Today, I would probably make a PowerPoint presentation with photos of the children at work or a video presentation.
Brief but helpful interactions at the beginning or end of class
I was lucky that the parents were able to drop off and pick up their children by walking into the classroom. That gave their child a chance to share a material they had been working with, and it gave the parents a chance to talk with me. This doesn’t work with all schools because of parking problems or other issues, but it’s a great time for communication if it’s logistically possible.
School bulletin board
Parents walked through my office to drop off and pick up their children each day. I had a large bulletin board with a calendar of events and even the scheduled line time (group) activities for the day. Parents seemed to especially enjoy knowing the scheduled activities each day. In the nursery schools in England, I saw many photos of children at work on the bulletin boards. The teachers typically had digital cameras available to take photos easily. The photos were then placed on bulletin boards regularly for the parents to see what their children were doing at nursery school.
School observation/parent volunteering
School observation and/or parents volunteering in the classroom may or may not work well, depending on the school. In many schools, it can be distracting to have observers. Parents were always welcome to observe my school, but few did because of the other opportunities they had to know what happened at school. I always had some parents attend major field trips, though.
I had a monthly newsletter with our calendar of events and articles about parenting and Montessori education. Today, I would have a monthly e-newsletter.
I always loved parent nights as a time to give parents a glimpse of Montessori in action. It’s easy for parents in a Montessori school to feel out-of-the-loop if there isn’t a good parent-education system in place. Otherwise, if their child talks about working with the red rods or metal insets, will the parents really know what the red rods or metal insets are?
Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) schools typically have parent nights once a month. That’s an amazing parent-education tool. Most Montessori schools, however, don’t have them nearly as often, and some only have one parent night at the beginning of the school year. I had as many as seemed necessary each year. I naturally had the most the first year of my school. I had many returning parents, so there weren’t as many needed in later years. I still made sure I gave a thorough overview of Montessori philosophy and described each of the curriculum areas. Again, I used a slide show during my discussion, but more advanced technology would be appropriate today.
Parent-teacher conferences twice each year were always a great way to discover more about the family and for parents to learn more about their child’s time at school. I made a scrapbook with photos of all the Montessori materials so that I could show pictures of the materials when I discussed which materials their children were working with. Today, a laptop or iPad could be used instead of a scrapbook.
21st Century additions to preschool/parent communication
With school websites, Facebook pages, and Twitter accounts, there are more opportunities than ever for preschool and parent communication. School Facebook pages and Twitter accounts can answer questions and give current school information/announcements. A good example of a Montessori school that makes regular use of Facebook and Twitter is Cholla Montessori in Mesa, Arizona. ChollaMontessoriPreschool.com, @ChollaMesa, and Cholla Montessori Preschool Facebook Page provide a number of ways parents can keep informed. Another example of a Montessori school that makes excellent use of online communication is The Baan Dek Montessori in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with its website and blog, @baandek Twitter account, and The Baan Dek Montessori Facebook Page.
UPDATE: If I had a school today, I would use MontessoriBuddy for extra parent/teacher communication. If I were a parent with a child in a Montessori school, I would request the school use MontessoriBuddy. There’s also a regular preschool version called PreschoolBuddy. Here’s more information and a special offer for Montessori Buddy.
If you’re a parent, have you found a favorite method of communicating with your child’s preschool? If you’re a school owner, director, or teacher, what have you found most effective for preschool/parent communication?