Using Check-Ins to Model Family Engagement Principles
Relationship building is at the heart of family engagement. The practice of “checking in” is a means of connecting personally with others, whether co-workers or families of the children you teach.
Regular check-ins, such as team or staff meetings, can serve as a model of the best strategies for interaction that staff can then replicate in their daily interactions with families.
The goals of any check-in are to build rapport and demonstrate a commitment to working collaboratively towards a strong and cohesive team. During these interactions, you are able to ask questions, share stories, and provide a space for problem-solving together. When early learning programs intentionally create a space for this type of interaction among colleagues and staff, it can help them feel more comfortable incorporating these skills into the work of authentic family engagement.
Here are three strategies to help you make check-ins a reality in your classroom or with families program:
- Make time for check-ins
- With staff: Set a time each day to check in with your co-workers or staff that you supervise. It might be first thing in the morning, during lunch, or before leaving at the end of the day. The commitment to consistent and open communication will definitely pay off in the long run as you build and strengthen your relationships.
- With families: Make sure to greet each family every day. While drop off and pick up can be hectic times, taking the time to smile and do a quick check-in with each family will help you learn more about them and be better equipped to meet their needs.
- Be fully present
- With staff: Building relationships and rapport hinges on being present during moments of conversation and interaction. Muting the phone and/or closing out email, demonstrate a genuine willingness to actively listen to what staff and colleagues have to say.
- With families: Pause what you are doing to make eye contact and be fully present when checking-in with family. Even if you only have a minute to spare, make sure you are able to hear what the family is saying or move the conversation to a quieter part of the room or outside the room, if coverage is available. Giving this time makes the person feel valued.
- Express gratitude
- With staff: Begin and end your check-ins by highlighting strengths. Share something that you noticed the other person did well or that you wanted to learn more about. Exchange praise.
- With families: Discuss what is going well. Share the child’s and/or family’s successes. These affirmations are what set the tone for your check-ins. You will have plenty of time to discuss concerns or areas to problem solve through together.
Practicing these strategies with consistency will set the foundation for supporting staff to engage more positively with each other and with families leading to a more welcoming environment for everyone.
For more strategies on conducting successful check-ins with staff, read this article from Harvard Business Review: How To Make Your One-on-Ones with Employees More Productive.
Wendolly’s professional career began over 10 years ago as a lead teacher for a classroom of energetic preschoolers. In her current role, Wendolly is proud to support Quality Start Los Angeles by being an advocate for building authentic and supportive relationships with families of young children. She believes that by creating family-focused systems, early learning programs have the capacity to uplift and empower families and ensure the best outcomes for LA’s youngest learners.