The administration consists of roles that include at least the Head of School, Business Administrator, Director of Development, and Director of Admission. Depending on the business model or the size of the school, one or more persons may be performing the duties of two or more of these roles. Upon reviewing any of the job descriptions of these roles at various schools, I have found something missing. It is something that seems to be fundamental for the success of organizations, yet not a focus or a responsibility for the Administrations of Montessori Schools and other private or public schools. Yet, I find that it is so fundamentally important. This is not the only thing missing in the job descriptions, but it is the only thing I will touch on for this introduction for the collaboration and communication between administrator and parent. If you google, “importance of a mission statement,” there are approximately 5,680,000 results.
The administration is the bridge builder between the families and the school. It all starts with the mission statement, just like it does with the staff. The administration is the introduction to the culture of the school, its purpose (mission) and vision. The tone of the classroom and the relationship administrators forge with the Guide, assistant, and present parents is the proof that is in the pudding. There is such an important interplay here that is often overlooked. This introduction begins before the family even enrolls in the school. The Director of Admission should always highlight the mission of the school when sharing with a prospective family.
The communication of, understanding of, practice of the school’s mission and vision first comes from the administration and must be interwoven into daily operations on a regular basis. It can’t be communicated in the same way repeatedly to be effective. The administration should manifest the mission in various forms over the course of time. This will probably include activities that may be counter-intuitive for administrators and actually require the administration to serve the community. The administration also must find ways to encourage the staff to demonstrate they know the mission, believe in it and are practicing it, in a way that is encouraging and not embarrassing or putting them on the spot. There is at least one more important thought to keep in mind.
We may have experience being an elementary child, or a parent, or a teacher or an administrator. However, we can only be heard or accepted into these groups to the extent that they feel they can relate to us, we can relate to them and what the connection is at the heart level. It starts with the mission statement; it continues with our reputation and ends with our actions. So, when talking about an understanding of the collaboration and communication between administrator and parent, the relationship between them is like the relationship between guide and classroom. It starts with connecting at the heart, sharing your school’s purpose, how you accomplish it and the school’s vision.
The administrator will never be in the culture of the parent community, staff community or classroom community, just like the guide will never be a peer of the classroom they are responsible for guiding. The administrator is the guide of the school culture. And, so he or she must act as such. The administrator creates a mental and emotional prepared environment for the parent, staff, child and school community as a whole. The foundation of this prepared environment is the mission of the school.
The philosophy that the school follows is like the shelves with the materials. The actions that are performed based on these components and guidelines is the work that is done by the community just like the work that is done by the children in the classrooms. A reputation and culture is built, based on this philosophy. This is the cornerstone of conflict and conversations had between the parent and administration. Let’s say a conversation is needed between a parent and the administration and there is some semblance of conflict or confusion needing to be cleared up between the administration and the parent.
When a conversation needs to happen between parent(s) and the administration, the mission of the school should be the forefront of that conversation. Assuming that the mission is good and sound, the conversation starts with the mission. Let’s use Montessori Seeds of Education’s mission for this example. The conversation starts with the administration similar to the following.
The administrator says, “In understanding that our school’s mission is to create a mindful, collaborative, and authentic Montessori experience for families, some of our staff and myself have noticed that you are often on the phone when you are picking up your child from school. Aside from any safety issues, and based on my experience, I have found that this time is so important to give undivided attention to children. Your child has been away from you for eights hours or more. They need to feel like they were missed and that they are the most important to you each day. Do you see how not giving them this initial attention could be upsetting to them even if they do not seem to care? Collaborating with us in this way is part of giving your child the whole education that you and I hope to impart to your child.”
There are so many variables within this example and the conversation could go so many different ways. The purpose of this example is to show how the mission of the school will initially be implemented into the conversation. Then it is important to ask reflective questions. This is good to activate certain centers of the brain and limit defensiveness. Finally, closing your part of the dialogue reiterating at least part of the mission statement and implementing its relationship to the greater whole of educating their child as a team effort emphasizes collaboration. Mindfulness and collaboration does not have to be part of any school’s mission statement for this to work. However, including the practice of collaboration and mindfulness (reflection) is inclusive and will only help solidify your school’s mission and the success of the conversation.
In conclusion, adults need to think about the role of the administration and the way it interacts with parents a little more inclusively, collaboratively, and consciously (mindfully). The mission statement is the foundation of the school’s mental and emotional prepared environment, similar to the classrooms’ shelves and materials. Bringing the concept of the mission statement to the community on a regular basis is of the utmost importance for the success of the community. When you have a sound mission statement with a mission driven community, everyone experiences the success and fulfillment of that mission.