|Bob Van Wieren, Former Director of Support Services, Christian Schools International |
Recently, a mother called me from a southern state. Her family had moved across country several months before and sheíd enrolled her kids in another Christian Schools International (CSI) school. She believed that the new CSI school would be just like the one her kids left. Within two months, however, she realized that this new school was not to her liking. Her biggest complaint was that the school didnít seem to be a caring place. No one communicated expectations to her or her children. In general, she felt it was a cold place and she soon moved her children to the local public school, which she found to be very warm and cordial.
Let this womanís experience be a lesson to us all: itís no longer just business as usual for schools. In the distant past, students may have naturally stayed enrolled in the same school until the day they graduated, but those days are long gone. Today, parental options for education are far more numerous: Christian schools of a number of varieties, public schools, charter schools, magnet schools, home schools with varying degree of home involvement, Internet-based schools, and so on. If parents are not pleased with their first choice, several other options are available and theyíll quickly pack up their little ones and move on. Just getting a student into one of your classrooms today is no guarantee of a long-term relationship. Fortunately, your school can do a lot to cement a good first impression with families that will encourage them to stick around.
Your mantra, as new families enter your school, should be ďcommunication.Ē When people feel they are well communicated with, they develop lasting positive impressions that take a number of negative experiences to erase. The opposite is also true in that families who do not receive adequate communication in the beginning of their relationship with your school may develop very negative first impressions that take numerous positives to erase. Many times, schools arenít given time to erase the negatives before the family leaves!
We want to help you develop procedures for your school that ensure new families are communicated with frequently in their beginning relationship with your school. If you have new families in your school this year, consider taking the following steps NOW to make sure that new families feel welcome and have their questions answered:
1. Encourage each teacher who has a new student in his/her classroom to make a phone call this week to see how things are going. The teachers should ask how the children are adjusting as well as a number of other inquiries that show genuine concern for the child. Suggest that the teacher also make additional follow-up calls in the first months of school.
2. Encourage teachers to pay particular attention to new children:
- Are they forming friendships, or spending most of their time alone or near you?
- If the children donít seem to have developed many friendships yet, discretely ask one or two students who you think will be willing to include these new children to invite the new students to join them at recess or break time.
3. Principals, consider reporting to the Board at your next meeting on the new families who have joined the school. Divide up the new families between board members and request each school board member call or even visit the new families who are assigned to them. It is best to do this during the first month of school, but it is never too late! This article includes a†form† you can print off (you will need Adobe Acrobat reader to get this form. You can download it free by following this link )complete and pass out to board members. It will help board members format their phone calls, and help you follow-up with those families who voiced questions or concerns during the phone conversation.