Is the back-to-school glow gone? Bring the shine back

September 30, 2015

For most of us school has been back in session for several weeks. The luster of the new clothes, backpacks, and classmates has begun to wear off. So what can you do to re-engage students and get them excited to be there again?

Here are a few ideas to bring back a little of the novelty that sparked excitement the first week of school:

Change the environment

Consider new décor or a new classroom set-up. It can be as simple as re-arranging tables or as thorough as starting from scratch. Involving the children can get them excited about the changes and can be a great way to teach them about a variety of topics.

room layout

Refresh the space with a new layout. Source: Pedagogy and Space by Linda M. Zane, EdD

Change seating

Even after a short time together children can start to congregate with the same group of people. These friendships can be very good for their social and emotional development, but moving them to sit by someone new can also be a good way to foster friendship among the whole class.

Get outdoors

As fall begins the days get shorter and that can make children feel even more like they are “stuck” at school. Getting out in the sun and fresh air year round can be a great way to wake up and get a little energy for the next activity or lesson. Besides, a trip outdoors can be full of educational opportunities.


Source: Celebrate Nature! Activities for Every Season by Angela Schmidt Fishbaugh

Enlist parents and family

Everyone is in this together and the grind of getting ready in the morning and evening activities is most likely taking a toll on the whole family. So maybe it is time to re-engage the whole support system and bring back the excitement of going back to school.

Consider having a fall festival, classroom party, or other fun activity for the whole family to partake in. This is also a great opportunity for you to get to know families better and of them to get to know each other. If they feel more engaged they will be more excited about working together and encouraging their children to enjoy school.

How do you keep children engaged as the school year gets underway and the shine of the new year has worn away?

Celebrating second chances

September 23, 2015

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition.”

~ Jacques Barzun

Teachers often feel like they are a world apart from other professions. Misunderstood. Overlooked. Undervalued.

Those emotions are why we were so excited to find out Holly Elissa Bruno’s newest book, The Comfort of Little Things: An Educator’s Guide to Second Chances, won the silver medal in the personal growth and motivation category of the Living Now book awards. award winner

This award program is designed to “honor those kinds of life-changing books” and “celebrate the innovation and creativity of books that enhance the quality of life”.

We see the amazing work teachers do daily and how they enhance the quality of life for every child and student they come in contact with. This honor brings that recognition to a wider audience and shows the valuable insights the profession can bring to all of us as students of life.

As Holly points out . . .

Life’s too short to do anything but enjoy it daily.

As hard-working educators dedicated to making a difference, however, it’s easy for us to become weighed down with work and worry. Burdened with the weight of too many responsibilities, we sometimes have trouble looking up. Being burdened, it’s hard for us to remember what it originally meant to educate: To draw out that which lies within. (Latin, educare) What lies within is our birthright to joy.

This book is about unburdening. It’s about looking up. It’s about choosing to take (and offer) as many second chances as our hearts can bear. It’s about reclaiming the joy and humor and passion that are rightfully ours, especially when our joy, humor, and passion are under threat. It’s about drawing out the promise that lies within you, me, and each person we touch.

As we do this, we find and share in all the little comforts awaiting us in our everyday lives.

             ~ From The Comfort of Little Things

We hope you will join us in saying “Congratulations” to Holly Elissa Bruno and all teachers for this second chance at the recognition you all deserve.

“I have to tell Gwen!”: A guest post from Holly Elissa Bruno

September 16, 2015

Gwen enjoying two favorites – the outdoors in fall and a good murder mystery. Photo: Terri Tucker

Homage to Gwen L. Morgan, 90, who died peacefully at home in Lincoln, MA, on September 4, after decades of innovative life-changing contributions to the early childhood field.


Angels. My Mother loved angels. So, when I traveled afar or down the street to my local Home Goods store, my eyes scanned for the loveliest angel to take home to my Mother.

My Mother died on July 4th sixteen summers ago. But even today, when my eye spots an angel, my heart whispers: “Your Mom would love that.”

If you have reached for your phone, ready to text or call someone you love who is no longer on earth, you know this feeling of incompletion: The ache of loss, of something important forever unfinished. We humans need connection; missed connections hurt.

I can’t tell when these moments of yearning will come. Sixteen years ago, I ran from their sadness. Today, I am stronger in my vulnerability. I am more willing to stop and to wait and to breathe until the memory that wants to come to me unfurls. And there in the light is my mother: healthy, smiling, happy even, spinning her once agile body into a cartwheel each spring just for me. In these moments, angels gather for us both.

This summer in West Dummerston, Vermont, my colleague and friend, Kay Albrecht, and I sat and reminisced, feet up, savoring bowls of lush fresh raspberries splashed with Vermont cream and Vermont maple syrup. Such an unusually easy day this was for two recovering workaholics: swimming in the crystalline West River, picking raspberries at Whetstone Farm in Marlboro, marveling at cheese being crafted by hand at the Grafton Cheese factory, laughing our way through Chinese Checkers.

With Brahms’ mellow Opus 26 dancing us toward the sunset, Kay told me of her mother’s time in Seattle during World War II, working at a child care program for shipyard families involved in the war effort. I dropped my spoon: “Kay! Your Mom worked at a Kaiser Center? With 24/7 care? Where children’s bathtubs were high enough so teachers wouldn’t hurt their backs?” “She did”, Kay smiled. “My Mom did”.

And that’s when I knew I had to tell Gwen. “Gwen would love this!”

Gwen Morgan discovered the brilliance and brevity and the near-perfection of the Kaiser Centers. She loaded students’ notebooks with mimeographed histories of Kaiser’s model environments. Kaiser Centers defined “family-friendliness” for Gwen. With doctors and nurses on staff, healthy nutrition, replacement shoelaces, haircuts, immunizations, innovative curriculum and sick care, meals-to-go, children were safe and free to learn. For staff, complementary ideals were practiced: the best teachers were sought out, well-paid and highly respected. Problems were identified and resolved with urgency through collaborative team meetings. Everyone’s input mattered.

The War had to be won; shipbuilding parents needed to know their children were well and happily learning. First rate early childhood education was as essential to the nation’s well-being as it is in this moment.

Gwen challenged her students, mostly childcare directors, who studied at Wheelock College’s Summer Seminars in the heat of July with questions like:

  • Can we provide the same quality care and education today as Kaiser did at wartime?
  • How do we solve the “trilemma” of depending on tuition for our livelihood, especially in difficult economic times for families?

Students sat rapt. I joined them, even though I was Gwen’s co-instructor. We were all learning, fascinated, and inspired. We called Gwen early childhood’s “national treasure” because she raised and worked to resolve long-avoided seemingly insurmountable deeper issues.

Gwen noticed what mattered to our profession. She noticed and she acted. And when she acted, she made a difference.

If you didn’t know Gwen, or if you did, please take this moment to read Ellen Galinsky’s Huffington Post blog about Gwen’s passing. You too will marvel at the innovations Gwen envisioned and made real:

  • Research and Referral agencies that help parents find just the right child care for their children? Thank Gwen for that.
  • Not just compilation but incisive assessments of each state’s licensing standards for quality. Gwen did that.

Thank Gwen too for persuading the American Business Collaborative (ABC) to fund leadership courses for directors across the country. Courses like the Human Side of Management and Family Friendly Programs, Managing Infant Toddler Programs and Legal and Financial Issues.

Gwen and her Wheelock team (led by the gifted Andi Genser) at the Institute for Career Development insisted that early childhood leaders deserved the best of everything: theory, practice, policy, trends, analysis of underlying and overarching issues, instructors and above all, the chance to meet and support and learn from one another.

Gwen and team also saw to it that the ABC funded each of these graduate courses (or undergraduate if the student needed), to be conducted at a hotel or resort or retreat center designed to help each director feel honored. Because, Gwen said, directors deserve to be honored, pampered and respected. Above all, respected. Directors needed to be away from their everyday demanding schedules; so, these courses included overnights and meals served in appreciative surroundings.

Teams of instructors were trained and sent forth in the fireworks from Gwen’s academic canon including Judy Bencivengo, Luis Hernandez, Sue Twombly, Lui Reyes, Kate Lafayette, Margaret Leitch Copeland, Bess Emmanual, Barbara Bagwell, Lori Harris, Patty Hnatiuck, Marta Rosa, and me.

Off I went to Phoenix, Park City, UT, the Poconos, Princeton, NJ, Minneapolis, Detroit, Chicago, Tampa, Fort Worth, Austin, TX, Washington, DC, Lexington, KY, and Oklahoma City to teach the Human Side of Management. And to learn by listening deeply to each director’s sharing. We had five days to co-create a cohesive learning community. Those directors and that community would be charged to make a difference individually and together. Our five days together was just a beginning.

In Huntington, WV, thanks to collaboration with Norma Gray, Gwen’s visionary colleague, our Human Side of Management course gathered directors from the far reaches of that state for the first time. Suzi Brodoff, Helen Post-Brown, Marsha Dawson, Judi Olson caught fire and formed “Directors on a Mission” (DOM) to persuade the legislature to improve funding and raise standards for young children. DOM prevailed. Children were honored. Teachers were honored. Determined directors established the West Virginia Leadership Academy which will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2016. Directors report that this Academy, based in Gwen’s vision, has been “life changing”.

I too caught fire and began to write articles combining what I knew about academic management and law with the genius ideas and experiences of the directors I met. It’s no accident that my first published article was “SUPERDIRECTOR: All things to all people but one (yourself!)”, followed by “Gossip-free zones: Problem solving to replace power struggles”. My first book Leading on Purpose: Emotionally Intelligent Early Childhood Administration (McGraw-Hill, 2008) and second, Managing Legal Risks in Early Childhood Programs (Teachers College Press, 2012) all were based in the heartfelt experiences of our students.

Gwen said no textbook already written could embrace the concepts of her expansive curriculum. So, I did my best to write that text. Happily, What You Need to Lead: Emotional Intelligence in Practice (NAEYC, 2012) is a best-seller. Gwen smiled.

We called Gwen a “national treasure”. Gwen also was one tough cookie, brilliant and prickly at the same time. Gwen and I disagreed often and passionately and remained close. When Wheelock’s air conditioning malfunctioned, I extended our afternoon class so we could dismiss the evening class when the building would be sweltering. Out of the elevator and into the classroom like Clark Kent with glasses, Gwen resolutely announced the evening class would be held. We could not alter the set schedule. We soldiered on and in fact, sang and maybe even danced that evening to keep our sense of humor with fans blasting.

And that is what Gwen would want of us today: to soldier on regardless. She reminded us to support each other and to include everyone regardless.

And to remember that the human side of management is what prevails: dignity, grace, originality, courage and humor. Gwen embodied these all in her sparrow-like body, with flowing shirts and bohemian tops, too-large glasses and fluid laughter. When Gwen laughed, the world was full of hope.

My fingers reach to email this to Gwen with a simple click or two of the keys.

I’d like to call to tell Gwen about “our students’” many successes: Mary Cecchinato’s celebrating her 33rd anniversary as endlessly compassionate director in Connecticut, Liz Kendall’s creative initiatives in New Jersey, Gail Wilson’s championing of City Year in South Carolina.

But there it is again: the yearning for what is no more. Gwen has passed. Her Memorial Service will be held on Saturday, September 19th at the First Parish church, in Lincoln, MA. When Gwen’s beloved husband, Henry, died in 2001, I was one of many people who spoke. With quavering voice, I said: “I only knew Henry because of Gwen and I love Gwen.”

In time, as memories of Gwen return, as memories of my mother return, I trust Gwen and I will again challenge one another, inspire one another, and laugh at our quirky selves together. Angels are welcome to join us.

I will miss you less then, Gwen Morgan, when more than your passing, I will remember the gifts you left for generations of children and families and the directors who care for them all.

Teaching children the power of hello

September 9, 2015

FriendshipEveryone is heading back to school and child care which means it is time to meet new people and make new friends. For some children, that can be a scary idea and even if you aren’t shy there are times that being the first to say “hello” isn’t easy.

But that one simple word can hold a lot of power. It can be the beginning of a friendship. It can ease the other person’s anxiety and let them know that they belong. It can be the introduction to an opportunity that you may have missed.

To make it a smoother transition and help all the children in your care get to know each other here are a few easy ideas from The Kindness Curriculum.

Hi and Bye

From The Kindness Curriculum by Judith Anne Rice.

Fishing for Friends

From The Kindness Curriculum by Judith Anne Rice.

Activities such as these can make for a more enjoyable environment and helps teach children that it is polite to say “hi”. Hopefully, it can also ease their nerves and make it easier to introduce themselves as they get older and enter new situations . . . a simple introduction can open a lot of doors.

Here is to another year of new friendships! 

How to engage girls in science, technology, engineering & math

August 26, 2015

Author Ann Gadzikowski recently shared her perspective on girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering, & math) with the attendees of the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children conference in Denmark. We are excited to continue our STEM series with a snippet of her talk and some thoughts on getting girls active in STEM early and keeping them interested long-term.

If you have ideas and strategies for girl powered STEM please share them in the comments!

s.t.e.m. ICON

Girl Power STEM: Engaging Girls in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math 

I just returned from Denmark, the home of LEGO® toys, where I attended an international educators’ conference and spoke about the importance of engaging girls in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) in early childhood. Many of the ideas I presented are also included in my new Redleaf Press book, Creating a Beautiful Mess: Ten Essential Play Experiences for a Joyous Childhood. In fact, the first chapter of the book is devoted to block and construction play, an essential experience for the early development of STEM skills and knowledge.

In many early childhood classrooms the block area is perceived to be the domain of boys only. Girls often need extra encouragement from teachers and parents to engage in block play. The experience of young girls in the block corner is similar to what many female students experience in STEM classrooms. Unfortunately, many girls and young women with an early interest or ability in science, technology, engineering and math do not continue studying these subjects at advanced levels. According to the American Association of University Women: “At almost every step of the STEM education ladder, we see girls walk away. By seventh grade, most girls have lost interest in these fields, and few high school girls plan to pursue STEM in college.” (AAUW, Spring 2010)

Block play

Promoting block play for girls can be a great start for creating future interest in STEM fields. Photo: Ann Gadzikowski

If we’re going to reach girls before they turn away from STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) it’s clear we need to start young — in early childhood and the primary grades. Girls need support and encouragement to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence that will lead to success in STEM classrooms and careers. This was my primary message last week in Denmark. The conference I attended was the World Council for Gifted and Talented Children and my session was titled “Girl Power STEM: Engaging Bright Female Students in Science, Technology, Engineering & Math in Early Childhood Classrooms.”

One strategy I suggest is using open-ended construction toys to challenge and inspire girls to experiment and innovate. Parents and teachers must take an active role in encouraging girls to build with toys that develop children’s understanding of engineering, geometry, physics and math. In addition to wooden unit blocks, one of the most versatile and open-ended construction toys, girls can be encouraged to build with toys like Magnatiles or Straws & Connectors, as well as household objects like cardboard boxes and plastic bins. (In fact, the excitement and satisfaction of building your own contraption is expressed in my new picture book, to be published by Redleaf Press in 2016. The working title is “Mimi at the Wheel” and the book tells the story of one little girl and her intense curiosity about how a steering wheel works.)

One of the most popular construction toys today are LEGOs, a toy invented in Denmark. Before traveling to Denmark to talk about girls and STEM, I looked into the history of LEGO toys. I learned that the original vision for this Danish toy company included a commitment to “quality in every detail,” “unlimited play potential,” and play opportunities “for girls and for boys.” There was a time in the 1970’s and 1980’s when girls and boys were featured equally in LEGO marketing, back in the days when LEGO bricks came in bright primary colors. But in the 1990’s LEGO began manufacturing toys sets based on mass media franchises, such as Star Wars and Bionicle, that were more appealing to boys than girls. According to National Public Radio, by 2011, 90% of LEGO consumers were boys.

In recent years LEGO has made an effort to draw more girls into LEGO play. In 2012 LEGO launched a product line called “LEGO Friends.” This toy line features a posse of girl dolls in pastel ruffled skirts. The play sets include a hair salon, a shopping mall, a beach house and a juice bar. The LEGO Friends toys have been widely criticized in the media for perpetuating gender stereotypes but they have sold well.

Regardless of the criticisms of LEGO Friends, I still believe that LEGO bricks offer terrific opportunities for children to develop engineering and geometry skills. I hope that LEGO Friends serves as a gateway toy that draws girls to try other kinds of LEGOs and other kinds of construction toys. I believe teachers and parents should provide girls with a variety of opportunities with a wide range of construction toys. Overall, I was encouraged by my experience discussing girls and STEM at the WCGTC conference in Denmark because I met educators from all over the world who are interested in developing more opportunities for girls to explore and achieve in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.


How to make back-to-school anxiety free for children

August 12, 2015

Parent with childIt doesn’t seem like it should be that time of year again, but it is nearly back-to-school time. It is time for children to change classrooms, go to school for the first time, or graduate up to the next room at childcare. For older children this may be old hat and they can’t wait to get back to their friends and favorite subjects or activities.

For younger children, heading to group care or kindergarten for the first time, it can be a scary experience. They are letting go of what is familiar to them and going into something that is full of uncertainty and change.

Every child’s temperament and ability to adjust is different, but there are some common issues care providers, teachers, and parents see this time of year.

Separation Anxiety

Children get into a routine and that is their whole world, so when that world changes drastically – as it does when moving to a new classroom or away from the care provider they’ve known – it can cause them to become anxious about other things changing.

There are several things you can do to help ease the transition and their anxiety. First, be patient and offer support and guidance. The best way to do this is by working with parents and current caregivers prior to the start of the school year to help plan smoother transitions. A few ideas:

  • A few weeks before school plan a classroom visit with parents and children
  • Provide parents information that they can share with children on what to expect in their new classroom or environment
  • Send a letter of introduction to the children who will be joining you for the first time. Make it fun and colorful.
  • Let children know they may experience fear and sadness with the change and that it is okay to feel that way.

Recommended book: Mama’s Gloves

Mama's Gloves

Making new friends

Children enjoy playing with each other, but it can be scary to make new friends. Many children worry that they won’t be able to make friends in their new classroom. Talking to children about this fear is a great place to start. Provide parents with a list of children’s books about making friends and have them talk to their child about how they will have new people to play with.

Once the class list is finalized, consider organizing a picnic or “play date” on the school playground so children can meet each other with their parents there and in a setting they may feel less anxiety in.

Recommended books: Bree Finds a Friend; Rita and the Firefighters

Bree Finds A Freind

Rita and the Firefighters


Group care settings and kindergarten may be more structured than children are use to. They will feel less anxious if they hear what is and is not expected of them in this new setting. For example, they are expected to sit in a circle and listen to stories, but they are not expected to find their own way to the lunchroom.

Prior to the first day of school send parents a note about the schedule for the first day of class. They can share it with their child and talk to them about the fun things they will do and learn. Ask children what they think their day will be like once they are in their new classroom. This allows them to share their feelings and for you to ease some of their anxiety and get them excited about the things they will do.

Recommended books: All in One Day; When You Just Have to Roar!When You Just Have to Roar!      All in One Day

A few other resources that you will enjoy: Is Everybody Ready for Kindergarten?, Getting Ready for Kindergarten (a great pamphlet to give to parents to help them prepare at home), and I’m Going to Kindergarten! 

Good luck with the new school year!

3 fun ways to get moving with children

August 5, 2015

Children love to moveChildren love to move. Yet, somewhere between childhood and adulthood that desire seems to dwindle for most people. There are so many other things vying for our attention and they keep stealing the valuable exercise time of younger and younger people.

That is why it is important to instill the love of movement in children early and re-inject it often. Exercise with your Child Week (August 2-8, 2015) is the perfect time to jumpstart your efforts.

The benefits of movement go beyond obesity prevention. For children, exercise is an opportunity to develop and practice new motor skills. The sense of accomplishment that comes with being active can help boost confidence. If done with a group, exercise and team activities can help children develop socially and emotionally. You also have cognitive and creative development with exercise, and all of this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the benefits of movement.

So whether you have one child or a whole group, here are a few fun activities that can be adapted to children of different ages and abilities.

Simon Says


Ducks, Cows, Cats and Dogs

Healthy life by example

Healthy habits are best taught by example

Give children the opportunity to try new physical activities and invite them to try things you enjoy doing. If they see adults in their life being active they will see it as a lifelong commitment and continue to reap the benefits for years to come.

Remember to keep it appropriate for your child’s age and ability. And most importantly, HAVE FUN!

Source: Early Elementary Children Moving & Learning: A Physical Education Curriculum by Rae Pica

Check out Toddlers Moving & Learning, Preschoolers & Kindergartners Moving & Learning, and Moving & Learning with Your Child for even more fun activities.

Is friendship a gift to the children of the world?

July 29, 2015

FriendshipFriendship is a valuable part of human life. The bonds we choose to form with others are a precious connection that can bring us happiness, teach us life lessons, and give us comfort when life challenges us. Some of the most important friendships come in childhood as we learn about ourselves and the world around us.

Since 1998, the world has celebrated this noble human bond with the UN International Day of Friendship. After recognizing the impact that violence against one another has on the human race, especially children, the United Nations set out to promote a Culture of Peace. Knowing that attitudes and violence can often begin in childhood, the program seeks to instill values of peace and non-violence in children through education. “If children learn to live together in peace and harmony that will contribute to the strengthening of international peace and cooperation”(

So how do you begin to teach children about friendship?

Friendship is something children are naturally interested in – it is fun and they enjoy communicating with each other. Since you have a captive audience, teach them a few basic rules about friendship:

  • Friends are kind to each other
  • Friends share their toys. Teach them turn taking, trading, and sharing. Use the magic phrase, “You can have it when I’m done.”
  • Friends share their friends. Remind them they can have many friends and that as they share friends, they make more friends.
  • It’s okay if someone doesn’t want to play.

A few activities to use with children to promote friendship and positive relationships . . .

Best Smile activity

Fishing for Friends

The Kindness Curriculum is a great resource for promoting self-confidence, acceptance, and friendship in children. If we can plant the seed of kindness now, we can grow a culture of peace for the future.

What activities or resources do you use to teach children about kindness and peace? We would love for you to share them in the comments section so others can use them too!

How to work with parents of gifted children #NPGC15

July 22, 2015

This week is National Parenting Gifted Children Week sponsored by SENG (Supporting Emotional Needs of the Gifted). Families of gifted children often deal with special needs related to social and emotional development. So how do you, the educator, help families celebrate the joys and challenges of raising a bright young mind?

Working with gifted children


Find the right time and place to listen to parents’ concerns and questions. Don’t jump in right away with suggestions and resources. Try to get to the heart of what parents most fear and most hope for their children. Keep in mind that many parents of exceptionally bright children were once exceptionally bright children themselves. Their parenting may be influenced by their own positive and negative experiences as children.

Ask what they need

Don’t assume that parents are looking for something specific, such as a referral for screening and evaluation services. Ask parents what they need and how you can help. Then listen to their answers.

Help parents recognize their child’s cues

Sometimes when parents are struggling to understand or communicate with their child, they just need a gentle reminder to slow down and watch or listen, in order to recognize their child’s cues and needs. Model this for parents in the ways you interact with children in the classroom and in the ways you interact with their child when the family is together. Informal family events like picnics and potluck dinners are great times to have these kinds of interactions.

Offer reassurance and affirmation

Parents of exceptionally bright children are usually looking for two seemingly contradictory things: they want reassurance that their child is perfectly normal, and they want recognition that their child is special. You can certainly give them both of these things. Children who are exceptionally bright are perfectly “normal” children. They need their parents’ love and acceptance, the friendship and companionship of other children, and the guidance and support of their teachers and other adults in their lives. They need all of these things just as deeply as any other child. They are also special. They have the gift of being able to see and understand the world in a way that is different from that of many other children. Your job is to help parents keep these two realities in harmonious balance as you work with them to lay a foundation for a lifetime of joyous learning.

The above excerpt is from Challenging Exceptionally Bright Children in Early Childhood Classrooms by Ann Gadzikowski. The book also includes a wealth of information on assessing and identifying gifted children, adapting curriculum to meet their needs, classroom strategies for several topics children often excel at, and resources for further assistance.

Challenging exceptionally bright children


How to get started with Parent Engagement

July 15, 2015

From the Washington Post to Education Week, the topic of parent engagement has been making headlines. Some states are now including parent engagement as a component of evaluation for both teachers and curriculums. Grants specifically for engagement programs are increasing, but with more specific strategy requirements.

As Patricia A. Spradley, one of Education Week’s 2015 Leaders to Learn From, says, “’strategic and intentional programs,’ developed using student data and research, now are having a much greater impact on student learning”(Reid, 2015). So how do you, the educator, begin to foster relationships with families to meet the increased desire for engagement?

Parent with child

Take your time

Relationships don’t develop after the first drop off, especially not lasting ones. Take your time and be committed to the process. Be available, but in a way that works for both you and the parents. Quick conversations, emails, and other short forms of communication can go a long way in developing trusting relationships. Just be yourself and only share within your personal boundaries.

Be proactive with information

Being forthcoming with information helps build trust and if parents know they can help children understand experiences and lessons. If you have information to share that is of a sensitive nature keep a few things in mind:

  • Begin with assurances that everything is okay.
  • If you don’t know how a parent will react, don’t bring it up in front of the child.
  • Talk to the parent out of earshot of other parents.
  • Make arrangements for a follow-up conversation if needed

Try to see it from the parent’s perspective

Parents want to know information that pertains to their child and what they can do as parents. Don’t use jargon and give general information about the class or age group. Ask yourself these questions to help see it from the parent’s perspective:

  • How does this issue directly affect the parent?
  • What do you want the parent to do?
  • Are you truly listening to the parent’s point of view?

Use active listening and respectful communication to avoid conflict.

Regardless of whether parent engagement is required by your program, it is important because educators and parents have a lot to offer each other and working together creates the best environment for children to learn in.

For more tips, tools, and scenarios to help improve your parent engagement skills check out Parent-Friendly Early Learning and watch for the updated version, Parent Engagement in Early Learning: Strategies for Working with Families, coming in February for even more information on working with modern families and technology for improved parent engagement.


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