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Most of their ideas are quite easy to duplicate. All principals want their schools to feel warm and welcoming. Principals do many things to make schools both comfortable and comforting. But most principals will agree with Deborah Harbin: Creating a welcoming atmosphere is more an attitude than anything else -- an attitude that starts right at the top. Consider This Does your school do something special to make sure parents and the larger community feel welcome?
Think about the following: How does it accomplish that? One way Harbin and her staff have created a "nice," welcoming atmosphere is to start every day with a handshake. The students love this ritual, which makes everyone feel welcomed to school.
We are the ones who create the true feeling of being welcomed. A smile, a Thank you, or a May I help you? In order to create a truly welcoming atmosphere, "we even provided in-service training for teachers on the specific topic of speaking to parents," added Demartino. The training was tailor-made for the staff.
Two speakers were brought in. The sessions allowed for role-playing and included tips for setting boundaries for, and staying on topic during, meetings with parents. Curb Enthusiasm Most mornings, you will find principal Karen Mink standing at the curb in front of O. Allen Elementary School in Aurora, Illinois. We want our kids to feel they are wanted and welcomed. Our assistant principal stands at the side entrance and does the same thing.
We make sure that the parents and students know that we are a safe place where learning takes place, both for students and staff. The reverse side of those signs are printed with foreign language expressions that translate to mean "Good-bye," "Thanks for coming," or "See you soon.
It also rolls lists of students who had perfect attendance the previous month or who made honor roll, or a list of parents who attended the most recent PTA meeting or school event.
The combination of music and colorful pictures of kids is very appealing. Visitors often stand there watching for 5 or 10 minutes. She is our number-one public relations person.
A parent information board with all the news is one of the first things parents see, said Zemelko. But the real draw is the coffee shop. They can enjoy coffee and sweet rolls, oatmeal, yogurt, fruit, and other items when they drop off their teens before heading to work. The coffee shop is a popular convenience for busy parents during the morning rush. Soothing music helps everyone relax before a hectic day begins. In our lobby, we have two rocking chairs with a small table in between them, two park benches, plants, and a small waterfall area.
We also have three display cases in our lobby. One of them is a Reading Showcase. Pictures of students who have met reading goals are posted there.
Students sign up to create a display of their favorite hobby in our Hobby Showcase. The art teacher displays student artwork, with a description of the art concept she is teaching, in the third showcase.
Virtually every wall has student-created work on it. Silk art done by art students is hung from the ceilings. Frequently, the front office is where that friendly first impression is made.
Saying hello, providing useful information, and having a warm smile all make a difference. She has that same warm and welcoming presence on the phone. Then gather feedback about how that person was treated. I even had her demonstrate how she would answer the telephone.
Custodians have a responsibility to give the outside of the school "curb appeal.
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All visitors must first report to the front office" is not very welcoming. Add soft classical music in the background. Oakridge Elementary School, which is located in the shadow of the Pentagon, is just such a school. We also have lists for parents who live in specific neighborhoods or apartment complexes. Parents love the lists. PTA and school leaders share a variety of information that new parents would want to know.
This year we had a standing-room-only turnout. It was a much-appreciated event. We offered babysitting services, refreshments, and we kept the meeting to exactly one hour, just as we had promised.
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The graphs illustrate the countries represented and languages spoken in our school and in each classroom. Creating the graphs was a terrific first-day-of-school project for teachers and students to do as they got to know one another. It integrated graphing with Excel and produced great charts and graphs. Each year, Kew Forest welcomes many new students and Anderson has been very impressed with the way the school rolls out the red carpet for those students, their parents, and new staff members too.
Connecting With Every Parent When you think of "customer service," you probably think first of retail stores and home-service companies. But principals who view their own jobs and the jobs of the office staff and teachers as customer-service jobs say that the benefits of that perspective help parents feel welcomed and a part of their schools. A Little "Showbiz" Never Hurt Like the well-worn elementary school activity, many education practices simply "show and tell" our customers, the public, what we think they should know.
The communication process often lacks any significant human interaction or emotional connection. Instead, the "business" of education could be dramatically improved by integrating a "show business" approach into much of what we do. Most educators think their work is focused on teaching, learning, or providing some related support service.
But what we must realize is that the real "business" of education is that of creating relationships and emotional connections with people -- students, staff, parents, and the diverse members of the community. Without them, there would be no school. Those PTA meetings often feature student performances of some kind. Having students perform is one way to ensure that we will get parents out for the meetings, said Stokes.
She is there to serve as a connection between the non-English speaking parents and our school. She welcomes parents into the building, makes phone calls, translates, drives parents to unemployment, offers parent training and ESL classes Because of the nature of her work, some of her work hours may be in the evening or on weekends. Our entire staff stays to get acquainted and share a meal with parents.
Our superintendent and I discuss our goals for the new school year. In addition, we invite the Lakota elders to lead a traditional prayer ceremony and to give words of wisdom for the staff and parents.
Phone calls are also excellent tools for making parents feel comfortable and welcomed, added Bettelyoun. Every day, I personally call the homes of all of students who are absent to speak with their families in a positive way.
We find that if we reach out first with some new parents, then they are more likely to come in later on their own. By reaching out, parents get to see that we are real people who care about their kids and care about them as parents of our students. While there, she listens and looks for issues that might lead to discomfort or dissatisfaction. Those notes can help us gain positive points that will be rewarded many times over. School principal Tracey Thomas told Education World that the school tries to involve parents in many other ways.
They have taken charge of the store. The letter also invites business owners to visit the school to see the store in action.
As we have more and more parents and volunteers come into our school, the atmosphere becomes more welcoming. Allen School, principal Karen Mink has a similar vision. In addition, the school has hosted a variety of community activities, including a mayoral debate.
Events such as those bring the community into the school, said Mink.