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How to Finish the School Year Strong

How to Finish the School Year Strong

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May 14, 2018 | Guest Author: Chanie Wilschanski
The end of the academic calendar year is fast approaching and while for some it comes with a huge sigh of relief. It’s also super valuable to think about the legacy that you want to leave this year.

I find that good questions can be the catalyst to help us be reflective and really dig into what we truly want. But first let’s identify the 3 key players in finishing the academic year strong (yes, even in preschool!)

  • Teachers
  • Parents
  • Yourself! The leader
1. Teachers

If you are thinking about how to end the year with the same vigor as when you started, I suggest you consider a few important questions, such as: Who among your staff was the most helpful and supportive to you? If the children head into summer with a two minute clip of this year, what would want that clip to be? At what points during the year did you find yourself on autopilot, moving through the motions of your deliverables?

Asking these questions can bring you into a reflective state and begin the process of thinking about the joy your work as an educator can bring. Too often, we just want the year 'to end the year already'! By doing this exercise it allows us to capitalize on moments that we can be proud of later.

2. Parents

Parents are the lifeblood of your center. Without them - you don’t have the children… Parents can also bring a mixed bag of emotions as the end of the year lingers. They may have cultivated an incredible relationship with their child’s teacher and are nervous about what next year brings, and they may be nervous about the summer break (if your center closes for summer). Parents may have a hard time this year with their child and maybe weren’t happy with the way it was dealt with and are glad to be moving to a new school.

Or a host of other feelings that may be going on.

Whatever it is, we want parents to leave with a positive feeling about your center. No matter what their experience was like during the year. Here is what you can do:

  • Ask each of your teachers - when was the last time they made a positive comment to the parent about their child? I'm not talking about saying, “your child is so cute” when you see them at pick up. I’m talking about sending a three-lined email with specifics about what you enjoy or notice about their child. Or sending a written note home with the child. Or a recording a quick voice memo and emailing it to them. Or a detailed observation sent from childcare software like HiMama! :)
  • Stand at the door at arrival or dismissal. You don’t *always* have to be at the door. However, it’s super powerful to see administrative staff and leaders available in the morning to greet parents. Leaders like you have an eye and are looking at things from a completely different perspective. You may notice a parent or see something that needs your attention. Most importantly, when you are present at morning drop-off - speak LESS. LISTEN MORE. Parents do try to share and sometimes we talk too much. Listening can teach us volumes about how we can be of service to the family.

3. You - The Leader

Forbes defines the word Legacy:“Legacy is not bound by age or time served. Legacy represents your body of work at each stage of your career as you establish the foundational building blocks and accumulate the required wisdom to contribute to growth, innovation and opportunity both in and outside of the workplace.”

Some questions to ask yourself: Are you paying attention to the verbal feedback your staff are giving you about how you are showing up in your work? Are you noticing the nonverbal messages your staff and admin are sending you? What is the story that others will share about the legacy you left this year? Are there things you are doing that may be holding your team back from growing?

(An excerpt from the school culture model workbook- you can download):

Your leadership and legacy is NOT defined at the end of the journey and the road that you traveled. Rather it’s shaped by:

  • Moments you shared with your team.
  • The hard decisions you had to stand up to.
  • The imperfect action you took each day.
  • Mistakes you overcame through the many phases of your journey.

At each stage of your center's academic year, you are learning how to create a sustainable impact on teachers, children and parents. It’s important to understand that there is no summit. There is no top of the mountain.

So what are your next steps? Get in touch with one of HiMama's community advisors and discuss how childcare software can help you best communicate with parents and teachers. Look at your calendar and check when your next staff meeting is, then print out the questions for the teachers and make a note to ask them at the meeting. Email your staff and ask them the reflective questions about parents. Set a timer for 15 minutes and try to answer some of the legacy questions yourself. Download the School Culture Model Workbook to learn more strategies and tip to build your school of excellence.

Chanie Wilschanski is an early childhood leadership coach and CEO of DiscoverED Consulting. Her leadership program is designed to help early childhood directors build a school of excellence, a collaborative culture and create an environment that fosters the growth of teachers as leaders. Her writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, Readers Digest, Medium, INC and Thrive Global. She has also been interviewed on NBC news radio with Sara Lee Kessler. In addition, she currently directs the Early Childhood Teacher Training program at the Beth Rivkah College in Brooklyn, NY - where she lives with her husband and 4 children. To download The School Culture Model workbook, click here.

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