Saturday, April 7, 2018

Prelude to an Understanding of the Collaboration and Communication Between Administrator and Parent

Before an understanding of the collaboration and communication between administrator and parent(s) can truly take place, the following is important to keep in mind.  The administration consists of roles that include the Head of School, Business Administrator, Director of Development, and Director of Admissions. 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 probably not 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 and required for successful positive interactions, but it is the only thing I will touch on for this introduction for the collaboration and communication between administrator and parent.

               The administration is the bridge builder between the families and the school. It all starts with the mission statement, just like forging relationships between the administration and the staff. If you google, “importance of a mission statement,” there will be 5,680,000 results. The administration is the introduction to the culture of the school, its purpose (mission) and vision. From there, the classroom that the parent’s child(ren) is in, and the relationship they forge with the Guide, and assistant is the proof that is in the pudding. There is such an important interplay here that is often overlooked.

               The communication of, understanding of, and practice of the school’s mission and vision first comes from the administration and must come on a regular basis. It can’t be communicated in the same way repeatedly to be effective. The administration will always have to deliver it differently over the course of different times. They will also have to find ways (that are not embarrassing) to have the staff show they know it, believe in it and are practicing it. There is at least one more important but different 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 actions, and ends with our reputation. 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 parent(s) and guide and classroom. It starts with connecting at the heart, by sharing your school’s purpose and how you accomplish it, and the school’s vision.

               The administrator will never be in the culture, or be a peer, of the parent community, staff community or classroom community, just like the guide will never be a peer of the children in 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. He or she must literally create or implement a framework which guides other people to journey with them along the same path of the mission. 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. On a side note to learn more about frameworks and leadership, I highly recommend contacting Kathy Minardi about her Whole School Leadership Course!

The components that the school creates (mission, vision, types of connections) are 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 is built, and a culture is based on this action. Not truly or clearly having this is the cornerstone of conflict in conversations had between the parent and administration. Let’s say a conversation is needed between a parent and the administration. There is some semblance of conflict or confusion needing to be cleared up on the part of the administration to the parent. In the following example, the parent could be the cause of conflict or confusion.

               When a conversation is going to need to happen between parent(s) and administration, the mission of the school should be at the forefront of the beginning 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 and proceeds 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. Based on my experience, I have found that during this time when you are reconnecting at the end of the day it 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 your priority, the most important person 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 expect us to provide and that we both 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 and will guide its content. It is also 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 by reiterating at least part of the mission statement and connecting 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 these timeless principles is inclusive and will only help solidify your school’s mission and the success of your conversations.

               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.