communication 
communication

EMPLOYEE HANDBOOK | communication

Our communication standards

Good communication is the foundation of a quality educational program and a healthy work environment.

We recognize that we all have different styles of communication. Our goal is to create a workplace where we communicate with respect, courtesy, and support. Open, respectful, and frequent communication with co-workers builds a strong team environment and collaborative culture.

In addition to monthly staff meetings, team meetings, and informal sessions, we will communicate with you via email and postings in the staff room and lobby – please look for communications!

Our strong, supportive, and effective partnership with families depends on regular and on-going communication. Families want information about their child’s day and their development.

As a program, we communicate our policies, procedures, and practices to families, as well as expectations for positive and respectful communications, interactions, and behavior from them. We expect you as educators to communicate daily with families through both verbal and written methods, supporting cultural influences and differences in styles of parenting, problem-solving, communicating, and relating.

Per First Circle’s standards, all communications should be:

  • warm, friendly, and supportive in tone
  • positive in nature (and humorous when possible)
  • thoughtful, clear, informational, and well-crafted
  • designed to establish trust and demonstrate flexibility and integrity
  • transparent and respectful

Verbal Communication

overview

Positive communication comes in both short and long conversations. Many times, a few words here and there will make all the difference.

General guidelines for verbal communication with parents and co-workers:

It’s a two-way street

Successful communication goes both ways. Parents want to feel their input and comments are welcomed and heard.  Co-workers want to feel respected and collaborated with. Both parents and coworkers have valuable insights that deserve your attention.

Choose the right time and place

Think through the best place and time to communicate your message. Ensure that you create a space where open communication can take place.

Listen actively

Communication is a two-way street and requires you to listen as well as talk. Signal that you’re listening with visual cues such as nodding and eye contact. Listen with respect by not interrupting, fidgeting, or pacing.

Be aware of what your body is saying

If your arms are crossed and shoulders hunched, communication can be hindered by body language that tells people you don’t want to talk or listen.

Adhere to rules of confidentiality

All formal conversations with First Circle administration that do not take place at a staff meeting are confidential. By EEC regulations, all information contained in a child’s personal file is confidential.

Feedback

If anyone at First Circle—a co-worker, an Admin member, or a parent—is speaking to you in a manner that feels discourteous or disrespectful, politely let them know. We can all learn from each other.

communication with parents

dropoff

Dropoff is a great opportunity to check in with families and find out any issues that may impact the child’s day. It’s also a great time to briefly tell parents what’s planned for that day [see Daily Program Management].

pickup

Greet the parent with a smile at pickup. Provide them with a brief summary or “snapshot” of their child’s day. Keep them informed about their child’s developmental progress and provide them with a sense of security that you are supporting their child in all aspects of personal and educational growth [see Daily Program Management].

parent-teacher meetings

Parent-teacher meetings are scheduled on an as-needed basis (meeting request forms are on the website). Types of meetings include progress reports, transitions, and/or concerns or issues identified by parents or educators.

telephone communications

Each classroom will have a phone to enable you to communicate with parents during the day. First Circle does not allow personal cell phone use to communicate with parents unless it is an emergency. Guidelines for classroom telephones:

  • Use your best judgment to determine if you can answer a phone call. For example, it could be appropriate if the children in your care are napping or occupied with other activities and are being supervised by another educator in the classroom.
  • If you’re unable to answer, let the call go to voicemail and return the call when it’s appropriate. Make sure the phone call is returned within 2-3 hours.
  • If a phone call becomes longer than a quick communication and is hindering your ability to supervise and interact with the children, please remind parents that the best time to call is during rest time (for toddler and preschool programs), or tell them you will call back when you are able.

communicating about accident/illness

Accidents and injuries occur daily in early childhood programs. If a child has a head injury, bleeding, or bruising, notify the parent right away so you are not approaching parents with bad news at pickup. When you communicate injuries to parents, be calm and factual. Communicate the nature of the injury and what was done to treat it and to comfort the child. Notify parents by phone of any injury that happens to the head (bump, scratch, scrape, bite), whether it breaks the skin or not.

communicating about biting/aggression

Biting is a typical behavior among infants, toddlers, and 2-year-olds. As children mature, gain self-control, and develop problem-solving skills, they usually outgrow it.

Biting upsets people more than any other behavior in childcare programs. Because it is upsetting and potentially dangerous, it is important that you communicate quickly and sensitively with the parents of both the child who bites and the child who is bitten.

When a child bites another child, notify the parents of all children involved. Let them know what happened but do not name or label the child who bit. Reassure them by telling how you handled the incident, and involve the parents in planning how to prevent and handle future biting. If a child bites repeatedly, develop a plan with the director [see CURRICULUM: Child Guidance section].

Written communication

daily sheets

In the infant and toddler classrooms, in addition to talking to parents, we communicate with families about their child’s daily activities via an electronic Daily Sheet. Families begin each day by communicating information to you, and you are responsible for recording basic information and a brief description of the child’s day. [Also see COMPLIANCE: Daily Program Management].

notes or emails

Each classroom has their own email address. Messages can be sent through Procare Engage as well. However you communicate to parents, please write using proper grammar and punctuation (and use spellcheck!). When in doubt, have a member of Admin check the email before sending it.

parent information area

Each classroom must have a parent information area. You are responsible for posting classroom information such as curriculum topics, developmental information, upcoming events or activities, and helpful resources.

Information you share should be neat, have correct grammar and spelling, and “speak” in a friendly tone to encourage parents to stop and read.

journals + portfolios

Portfolios (for preschool and pre-k) and journals (infants and toddlers) are collections of information, photographs, and samples that demonstrate each child’s developmental progress. They celebrate each child’s unique abilities, achievements, and progress, displayed through authentic samples of their work and experiences. Each child has their own. The content focuses on children’s individual interactions with their environment, materials, peers, and teachers.

Educators must add material to portfolios and journals regularly, documenting observations and experiences, and use that information to create assessments of progress and development. Portfolios and journals are kept in the classroom, accessible to parents at all times. Sometimes, families take the journal/portfolio home to read, or to add in family experiences.

newsletter

First Circle produces a monthly newsletter that provides updates and information about each classroom. By the monthly staff meeting, each teaching team is responsible for writing a classroom newsletter, about 2-3 paragraphs. Be creative, so families are not seeing the same content each month.

progress reports

We evaluate each toddler and preschool child every 6 months, and for infants and diverse learners, every 3 months. We create a summarized written evaluation for each child that includes observational, anecdotal, and developmental information. As part of the evaluation process, parents are invited to schedule a parent-teacher conference if they wish. [See CURRICULUM: Assessment]

social media

Social media is an important tool to interact with families and market the center to prospective families. We are always looking for photos of the children engaged in learning and having fun, so keep those cameras out! We love to post about school-wide activities and events, informational articles, and other First Circle news. Teachers are welcome and encouraged to propose postings, and should speak to Administration, who will help you develop your posting and add it to the page.

notifications

As part of our commitment to full and open communication, and as required by EEC, First Circle must notify parents in any of the circumstances listed below. The classroom must notify parents and Admin when any:

  • first aid is administered
  • injury happens to the head (bump, scratch, scrape, bite), whether it breaks the skin or not
  • serious injury is sustained that does not require first aid or medical care outside First Circle
  • as-needed non-prescription medication is administered

Administration will collaborate with staff and notify parents about:

  • injury requiring medical care outside FC
  • any communicable disease or condition in the program
  • staff changes
  • a child’s developmental, physical, social, or emotional concerns [see CURRICULUM: Referral]
  • any change in program policy or procedures
  • before introducing pets into the program
  • before using any herbicides or pesticides
  • any allegation of abuse or neglect involving children

Challenging communication

Every person has a different skill set and way of communicating. It takes time and effort to understand how to communicate best.

Every program has parents who present communication challenges: the difficult-to-please parents, the parents who communicate poorly or not at all, the negative or anxious parent who needs constant support…and many other personalities. Try to remember these challenging parents only want the best for their child, and everyone has different ways of communicating their wishes.

We also have times when differences in work style, pace, and standards can get in the way of a smooth relationship with our co-workers. Here are a few guidelines to help you use communication to build relationships:

listen

Make a point of being approachable and LISTEN. Make eye contact. Reflect what you hear so that the other person knows you are listening. Many times, that is all they need. After they have a chance to speak their mind, people often find the problem solved.

advice

Avoid offering advice unless asked. If you are asked, keep the advice on the level of suggestions. Try to offer more than one.  Back up your suggestions with examples and important considerations, such as lifestyles and family dynamics. Keep the tone and spirit of communication positive.

acknowledge

If you feel you are at fault to any degree, acknowledge it. Apologize. Communicate what you will do to ensure it does not happen again (upsetting incidents can be anything from an untied shoe to forgotten medication to a snarky-sounding comment you made which was not what you meant). Growth is a core value at First Circle, and we cannot grow without being able to acknowledge our mistakes, or, as we view them, our learning opportunities.

perception

Perceptions matter. You may not have meant to walk away from a parent when they were speaking to you or to interrupt a coworker, but that person’s perception may leave them feeling slighted.

prepare

Organize and clarify ideas in your mind before you communicate. Choose 3 main points and focus on those. That way, if the topic wanders off course, you can return to one of these points without feeling flustered.

confidentiality

Maintain confidentiality. Do not join in with other teachers talking about parents or co-workers in a negative light. Set an example.

Resolving conflict/grievances

overview

The heart of Early Childhood Education is in partnering with families to help children learn and grow. At First Circle, you may find yourself disagreeing with a parent who feels their child’s care could be handled differently. As a program and as professionals, we want to be open to receiving feedback and suggestions as we strive to improve ourselves. When a family raises a question about their child’s care, there are several possible outcomes:

  • The educator clarifies details of the issue in question and no changes are made.
  • There is room for improvement or alternate strategies, so the family, classroom staff, and Admin work together to develop an improvement plan. The plan is implemented over time, and all parties help it evolve. If the concern arose from a First Circle staff member not following policy, the staff member immediately undertakes corrective counseling and/or training.
  • On rare occasions, we can’t successfully collaborate with a family because our philosophies differ too much. Or there may be a disconnect between the family’s goals for their child’s care, and the realities of First Circle’s program or group care in general. In these cases, our professional responsibility is to support the family’s right to find a more suitable school or childcare arrangement [see CONNECTION: Departure].

procedure with parents

If a parent communicates a serious concern or one best raised outside of the classroom, we follow this procedure:

communicate

We ask parents to communicate their concern to Admin as soon as possible.

clarify

The director clarifies the circumstances of the issue and any policies that apply. If the director determines that an educator has not followed a policy or procedure, we communicate this to the educator and the parent. We see these as opportunities for growth, not failure.

collaborate

If changes are needed, such as recommendations for follow-through at home, or program changes on site, we meet to collaborate on the best way to proceed.

investigate

If the allegations are serious, the director will investigate and/or clarify the situation with you. If warranted, the director may involve outside agencies during this part of the process.

document

All important information will be put in writing, including interactions, conversations, actions, etc. detailing who and/or what was involved, times, dates, etc. We’ll write a plan for action going forward, including support or retraining if needed.

implement

The plan should be implemented in the classroom and at home for at least 2 weeks, unless it’s clear the plan needs revision before then.

follow up

You and/or the director should check in with the family to ensure the plan is working for all parties and to determine whether it should continue, be deemed complete, or be revisited.

We advise parents that if they feel we are not following the state guidelines, they may contact EEC anytime. In the unlikely event a parent contacts EEC with a complaint, EEC will investigate the issue or concern directly with us.

procedure with staff

We encourage you to speak openly with Administration about any issue, question, or concern. We understand work-related problems can arise and do our best to notice that a potential issue may exist. We also encourage you to try to reconcile simple or personal issues. If this is not possible, our grievance procedure is as follows:

communicate

If you feel that a coworker, regardless of title, is not adhering to their job description, including requirements for communication and professionalism, we ask you to schedule a time to meet with that person and share your concerns.

be specific

Come prepared to the meeting with specific information and details about your concern. State specifically which area of the job description you believe is being neglected. Often simple issues or misunderstandings can be resolved through discussion, or a mutual understanding can be reached. If you resolve the issue, please let the director know of the issue and how it was handled.

ask for help

If you do not feel comfortable discussing your concern with the individual involved, ask to meet with the HR manager or the person’s direct supervisor. A meeting time will be scheduled with you. Come prepared to provide information and details about your concern, stating specifically which area of the job description you think is being neglected. Next steps are:

  • If the meeting results in corrective action for the other staff member, it will be handled with the staff member and you’ll be notified, or a second meeting will be scheduled with the staff member involved.
  • If the issue cannot be resolved in that meeting, an inquiry into the matter will ensue, including outside agencies if appropriate.
  • When all the facts are known or the inquiry has gone as far as possible, a second meeting will be scheduled, involving all appropriate parties. They will discuss the results of the inquiry and any other pertinent information with the goal of resolution, mutual understanding, or compromise.
  • If the meeting results in corrective action for the other staff member, it will be handled with the staff member and you will be notified.
  • Follow-up on the grievance will occur as appropriate. We will implement all aspects of agreements or decisions made and expect you will do the same.

Whistleblower policy

If you observe what you believe to be wrongful conduct, you have the right and the duty to report it without fear of retaliation.

DEFINITION OF WRONGFUL CONDUCT

Wrongful conduct includes serious improper actions that could impact First Circle’s integrity and operation. Examples include, but are not limited to:

  • Violations of federal, state, or municipal law
  • Sexual harassment or other forms of unlawful harassment or discrimination
  • Use of First Circle resources, funds, or property for personal gain
  • Using, or permitting sale, solicitation or use of narcotics or other illegal drugs, or prescription medication without a prescription, while on the job
  • Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs while at work
  • Inappropriate language or communication between families, children, or staff

REPORTING WRONGFUL CONDUCT

If you observe or are told something you believe to be wrongful conduct, you are responsible for reporting it to the director, executive director, or HR manager.  If the wrongful conduct implicates the HR manager, you should report it to the executive director. If the wrongful conduct implicates the director, or if you are not satisfied with the director’s response, you may report the issue to the HR manager or executive director or president. Your report should include specific details about the incident(s) with dates and names of individual(s) involved.

GOOD FAITH

Acting in good faith means that you have reasonable grounds for believing what you’ve witnessed or heard indicates wrongful conduct. Any allegations that prove to have been knowingly false will be viewed as a serious offense and could result in disciplinary action.

NO RETALIATION

No one who reports wrongful conduct in good faith will suffer retaliation (meaning termination, discipline, refusal to hire or promote) by any First Circle administrator. Any employee, including the director, who retaliates against you for reporting in good faith suspected wrongful conduct is subject to discipline up to and including termination of employment. If you feel you have been subject to retaliation, please report the specific retaliation in writing to the person you submitted your initial report to for follow-up.

CONFIDENTIALITY

Any reports of suspected wrongful conduct can be made in confidence without fear of retaliation. Reports of suspected wrongful conduct will be kept confidential, except to the extent necessary to conduct a complete and fair investigation.

HANDLING OF REPORTED WRONGFUL CONDUCT

The person (director, HR manager or executive director) to whom you submitted the report of suspected wrongful conduct will acknowledge receipt of your report within 5 business days. All reports will be promptly investigated. Appropriate corrective action will be taken if warranted.  You will be informed when the investigation has concluded. However, the extent to which you are informed of the findings may be subject to the advice of First Circle’s legal counsel.

Harassment

Overview

First Circle’s goal is to have a fair and respectful workplace free of harassment or discrimination. Employee harassment/discrimination is unlawful and will not be tolerated.

Employees are protected from harassment based on their race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender identity or expression, age, handicap (disability), participation in discrimination complaint-related activities, sexual orientation, genetics, or active military or veteran status.

First Circle takes allegations of harassment seriously. We will respond promptly to complaints. We will not retaliate or tolerate any retaliation against an individual who has complained about harassment/discrimination or who has cooperated with an investigation of a complaint.

Notification

If at any time during your employment at First Circle you feel you are being discriminated against or harassed by a staff member or a parent, let the director or the HR manager know immediately. We will respond promptly and confidentially to complaints. If it is determined that inappropriate conduct has occurred, we will act promptly to eliminate the conduct and impose any corrective action necessary. We reserve the right to take action for workplace conduct that we deem unacceptable, regardless of whether that conduct satisfies the definition of harassment or discrimination.