Whenever offering a tour to a prospective family, it is always suggested that they view our social media platforms to get a glimpse into our school culture. What exactly is meant by the term “school culture”? This term is the shared beliefs, attitudes and values of a program and the application of these principles amongst staff, students, and families. According to Harvard University, a school culture is created by promoting positive traits such as collaboration, honesty, and hard work.
Here are some traits to look for in any educational program:
1. Building a positive school culture starts with leadership. Your experience starts from the moment you make that inquiry. An unfavorable first impression is a lasting one. When seeking an early childhood program, it is essential that emails and phone calls receive prompt attention. If a program is responsive to the children’s and families needs prior to entry, they should be equally or more supportive once you are enrolled in the program.
2. Social media platforms will give you a great deal of information. It is true that a picture paints a thousand words. Viewing FaceBook, Instagram, and even the website will yield priceless information:
- Snapshot into a typical day
- Curricular focus
3. Communication is consistent, positive, & prompt. Most programs will have an app for daily updates. Do not assume that the program permits two-way communication. All apps will allow teachers to send messages, but not necessarily reply to incoming messages. A stellar program should respond to all messages promptly and never surpass 24 hours.
4. Surveys precipitate action plans. Any quality program should send out parent surveys at least biannually and initiate an action plan to address any issues brought to light.
5. Create opportunities for meaningful parental engagement & involvement. Involving the parents during these trying times is more important than ever. Just like the need for children to feel connected, that need exists for families, too. Schools should offer back- to-school night, parent-teacher conferences, family events outside of school hours, celebrations, etc.
6. School culture is a mindset. Positivity perpetuates more positivity. Building and maintaining teacher morale along with creating trusting relationships with families and children will ultimately yield happy, successful individuals.
Visit the school, chat with current and former families, meet the staff and follow your instincts to make a well-informed decision. This quote by Dr. Joseph Murphy, Associate Dean at Vanderbilt’s Peabody College of Education eloquently summarizes the vital importance of school culture: “Seeds of change will never grow in toxic soil. School culture matters.”