How to Close the Communication Gaps in Your Preschool This School Year

In a busy child care center it is very easy to fall into the “Communication Gap Trap.” A communication gap happens when information that should be passed along to parents or staff is forgotten, partially communicated, or not communicated at all. The reality is that usually the cause of this is that you, as the leader, or your leadership team do not have systems or procedures in place to consistently pass information along to those that need it. 

Take a look at the communication patterns at your school and make improvements if needed. Having systems in place to ensure effective and efficient communication is crucial to your staff and family retention rates and to maintain a quality program. Lack of communication is actually a big reason that families switch child care centers or that staff move on. You don’t want that to be the story with any of your families or teachers! Over communication is always better than under communication.

The start of a new school year is a great time to make a few changes and get off on the right foot with both your parents and your team when it comes to communication. Below, I share the two most common areas where communication gaps occur in a preschool and some strategies and tips that you can start implementing to help close them.

Communication Gaps With Staff

In terms of staff, a communication gap occurs anytime they feel they are not given the information needed to do their jobs well. These things can include: 

    • Messages from parents that are not relayed 
    • Unclear policies or procedures 
    • Being uninformed about upcoming events 
    • Not knowing staff and child schedules 
    • Not being informed of child custody, allergy or medical information 
    • And more…. 

Lack of information in these areas can leave staff in an awkward or embarrassing position if a parent expects they’ve been given a message that they know nothing about or are aware of changing arrangements that they weren’t informed of. This will drive anger, gossip, and toxic culture problems within your school and undermine your culture-building initiatives.

Communication Gaps with Parents

For parents, communication gaps occur when they feel they are not informed about things that affect their child, their family, or their experience in particular. These things can include: 

    • Unclear policies, procedures or practices at the school (or changes to them) 
    • Changes in staff, especially in their child’s classroom or among administrators 
    • Lack of information regarding events such as open houses, special visitors, field trips, or family picnics 
    • Unposted school calendars, lunch menus, etc. 
    • And more…. 

A lack of communication can drive a lack of respect and trust in parents. Families who don’t respect or trust you are unlikely to stay at your school for very long. No matter what trust-building tactics your school engages in, lack of communication will undermine these efforts.

How to Close These Communication Gaps

Communication problems happen in every center from time to time. Most of the time a miscommunication occurs, it is simply because you forgot to communicate something and it was not intention, however the ripple effect of doing so can be large. When these problems are occasional, they can easily be apologized for and brushed off without much damage to your staff culture and parent-center relationships. But when there are on-going and consistent communication gaps in your center, this can be detrimental to staff and parent retention, your reputation, and your bottom line. Teachers and staff can become frustrated and unmotivated. Parents can wonder, “What is going on in that place?” And both parents and teachers will try to fill in the missing information themselves by guessing! 

The problem with guessing is that it’s usually inaccurate and will generally slant to the negative. As a result, rumors will thrive, confusion will fester, and assumptions will be made. You want to do whatever you can to close communication gaps that may be present at your school. Here are a few tips: 

    • Create systems for relaying, posting, and sharing information with both parents and staff. If you already have a system in place, it will be easier to keep to it even in stressful or crisis situations.

    • Use a parent Communication App such as KidReports, LifeCubby, brightwheel, Kangaroomtime, Preschool2Me, Tadpoles, etc. This helps parents stay informed about their child’s day and fun experiences at school. Many of them also offer a way for two-way communication between parents and teachers. 

    • Use a group communication channel like Slack, Wrike, Miscrosoft Teams, Quip (group texts/chat) to set up staff or parent groups and keep everyone informed of the latest information by quickly sending a text.

    • Create and communicate your system for sharing expected child attendance and staff schedules.

    • Hold regular meetings. These can be one-on-one meetings and/or group meetings with your staff. Offer parent teacher conferences and/or hold parent nights a couple times a year.

    • Have open office hours or open office sign-ups. Be available to staff and parents so they can meet with you to discuss any issues they may have. This will build trust and respect.

    • Set up a staff-only Facebook group. Use it to post announcements and allow staff to interact with each other, creating a sense of community. This doubles as a culture-building initiative!

    • Regularly update your center Facebook page to keep your parents and community informed of all the latest happenings at your school. 

    • Send a parent and/or staff newsletter (paper or electronic). A newsletter is a great tool to keep everyone informed, make announcements, and build your community. Send it to either your whole email list or just your enrolled families. Get creative with your newsletter! There are all kinds of fun things you can add to make your newsletter exciting, such as quotes from children, artwork and crafts, or photos from events. We’d suggest either sending it out by email or mailing it to your families so it doesn’t get thrown away or forgotten on the floor of the car. 

    • Install phone extensions in each room, or use simple walkie talkies to make sure you have an easy way to quickly reach your teachers without having to run all over your building. 

If you implement even a few of these tips, you will be well on your way to closing the communication gaps in your school. When your staff and parents and staff feel well-informed, on the same page, and connected to you, it will result in longer retention rates for both teachers and family, a great word of mouth reputation in the community, higher demand for enrollment, and an increased bottom line! 

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