Sending your child to school for the first time is a big deal. Not only is this a new adventure for preschool students, but it also is new territory for parents. Parent-Teacher communication can make this a joyful transition, supporting feelings of both fear and optimism as children and families together take this momentous step.
When I first began to study the philosophy of the schools of Reggio Emilia, Italy I read about a metaphorical triangle. In this triangle, the education exists in the center, and at each point, respectively, is the child, teacher, and parents. Each influences the center, but also has direct communicative links with each other. In order for this triangle to work, all points must be in dialogue. I have kept this triangle in mind over the years, thinking deeply on its meaning, and sharing it each year as a basis for communication with parents.
Understand each other’s culture and context
We know that each child is unique; therefore, their education is as well. As a teacher I look for the ways in which I can connect with each child, and understanding their culture and context is an important step. At the beginning of each school year in our Moorestown preschool, teachers and parents schedule “Get to Know You” conferences together. This is a chance to hear about how parents see their children and to hear about their goals and dreams. These conferences give us a solid base for future communications. They also give parents space to bring important aspects of their lives to our classroom. This year a family shared the Berry College Eagle webcam with us, something that they watch at home as a family. We have been watching as the eagles return to the nest, laid eggs, and hatched chicks. None of this would have been possible without communication and sharing between parents and teachers.
Clear up questions
During the complex project that is preschool education, there are sure to be questions which arise. They may be about a specific circumstance, or about growth and development in general. They may be big, small, or in-between. I have always encouraged parents to reach out to me with questions, and to start a dialogue. This way we can be on the same page and work towards a shared goal.
There is no question too small; the other day I emailed a father in my class to get clarity on a song that his daughter wanted to sing in class. Now we can dance to some Justin Timberlake!
Better support the child
The ultimate goal of parent-teacher communication is to better support the child. I think that this can encompass a number of different aspects. Communication can help us all understand appropriate child development, voice and (hopefully) assuage fears, and celebrate milestones. Good communication also gives parents a view of what is happening in the classroom, so that they can understand their child’s learning and make meaningful connections at home. Communication about the work of the classroom – a substantive part of documentation (look for a post on this in the future) – helps parents and teachers access the learning and growth in children as well as the complexity of their work. I try to use the means at my disposal, from newsletters to Instagram to posters on the wall, to communicate directly with parents, and with children too.
Beginnings at MFS is the Moorestown Friends School Early Childhood Program (Preschool, Prekindergarten, and Kindergarten). The Beginnings Blog is intended as a helpful tool for parents and guardians of young children, examining important ways in which children find meaning, in their lives and in their education.
Author Garrett McVaugh is the Beginnings at MFS Half-Day Preschool Teacher. Along with his Teaching Assistant Pauline Williams, he guides some of the youngest MFS students through their first year of school. A graduate of Haverford College, Garrett has been an early childhood educator for over a decade. Prior to MFS, he was a teacher at Preschool of the Arts in Madison, WI. Prior to living in Wisconsin, Garrett spent eight years teaching at St. John’s Episcopal Preschool in Washington, DC.
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