By Sheila Williams Ridge
Each year in December, we send out an online survey to our families to reflect on how the year is going thus far. Thank you for the outpouring of support for the program: we had 58 families participate in the survey, over half of our community. We thank you for taking the time to help us assess what we do well and where we can continue to grow. We work hard each day to provide a wonderful and engaging experience for your child and hope you feel like a partner in this endeavor.
We are happy to see that 100% of responses agreed or strongly agreed that the classroom is a welcoming space for families and conveys a warm and accepting atmosphere. Although we know our building is old and there are plans for a new Institute of Child Development, there were many glowing comments about the classroom spaces.
In the area of curriculum, most families agreed throughout the curriculum area questions; however, there were some notable “not enough information” numbers that we would like to address. We aim to make our emergent curriculum clear through our lesson plans, documentation, and informal conversations; however, we will continue to find new ways to share the school curriculum with families.
Because our learning is play based, the learning is not always obvious without some dialogue. For example 3 percent of survey responses indicated that families didn’t have enough information to know if the curriculum “fosters pre-academic concepts such as math, science, literacy, and social studies.” These are areas that are deeply infused into the learning environment in every classroom and we will continue to work hard through our weekly documentation to make such concepts clear throughout the learning process for visitors and parents.
In the area of communication, most families agreed that our communications are valuable to your child’s adjustment to school and that your teacher’s weekly plans and newsletters enhance your understanding of what is happening in the classroom. There were many positive remarks especially about informal conversations during drop-off and pick-up times. There were also some comments about wanting more personalized email updates about individual children and more face-to-face time to talk to teachers directly.
We know both family and teacher schedules are busy, but we hope to be able to find the time for a little bit of a conversation with each family at either drop-off or pick-up. Although it would be great to have more frequent in-depth conversations, we realize our part-day schedule (and part-time staff) and drop-off and pick-up arrangements can make that difficult. We offer the home visit, fall check-in conference, winter conference, and an optional spring conference as opportunities for longer conversations about your child’s experiences at school.
We also hope our classroom documentation and photos of the children’s activities highlight your child’s engagement at school. This documentation may not always be specific to your child, but we hope this look into the classroom community will help you have deeper conversations with your child about their experience and also enhance dialogue with your child’s teacher at conference times. We continue to strive to make the communication both efficient and meaningful, so please continue to let us know what works for you and we will do our best to enhance home-school communications for our families.
The Lab School in general also received high marks with 100 percent of families sharing that they agree or strongly agree that the school offers a welcoming environment and respects the rights and opinions of family members. There were a few areas of disagree, neutral, or not enough information that we would like to address. In the area of safety, our number one concern is that children are physically and emotionally safe at school. We know that leaving your children in our care is our highest honor and we take that very seriously. Sometimes there are injuries and if all can’t be avoided we hope you understand that we take as many precautions as necessary to continue to keep children safe. All of our student teachers, substitutes, lead teachers, and director receive background checks, as well training in pediatric CPR and First Aid. We complete a Risk Reduction Plan annually and document all injuries to ensure we continue to make school a safe place for children and families. Our staff think carefully about the tools and equipment used at school regularly so children can be supported in learning while maintaining a safe environment.
In the area of nutrition, we offer a varied and balanced menu, but continue to look for new options for the large variety of children’s taste, allergies, sensitivities, and experiences. We purchase as much organically grown grain and produce as we can and have added additional dollars into this year’s budget to expand the organic offerings including only organic milk being served at snacks. If you have specific questions or concerns about a snack item, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Snacks are planned monthly, and we welcome any ideas to expand our offerings.
About 14 percent of parents responding to the survey stated they didn’t have enough information in the area of research. This past fall there were two studies conducted in the multi-age classrooms, so some families would not have received any information on research studies. Please know that if research begins or is planned for your classroom, we will keep every family informed with the forms detailing the research information and protocol, as well as an opportunity to opt out of any proposed research in your child’s classroom. All research is followed up with a note home letting you know any time your child participates in a study. We will also highlight any findings in our next newsletter.
The general comments from the survey were again glowing with 100 percent of responses noting that their child enjoys coming to school. We are happy to know that your children are having a wonderful experience learning and growing along with the University of Minnesota student teachers and the Lab School staff. We truly appreciate your feedback through the anonymous survey, but please know you are also welcome to share your feedback anytime by contacting your child’s teacher directly or the director at any time. Thank you for your trust, your confidence, and your support!