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Staff Orientation: Getting Ready for the New School Year Ahead

August 13, 2019

Some of the busiest days of the year for a child care team are the weeks leading up to the new school year (if you follow the school year calendar), as well as the first few weeks of school. These are the weeks that I would normally work 50+ hours and am extremely busy with multiple tasks. Even with lots of planning, it still always seems like these weeks are a bit hectic.

At the center that I previously led, each year I hosted a week of training and classroom preparation for our school in August. During this week we met as a team, planned for the year ahead and cleaned up our building from the summer camps. Today, I want to share with you my personal schedule of events for this week. It is my hope that this will help you prepare your child care team to come back and also limit the workload ahead.


Here is the schedule that I would follow for SCHOOL PREPARATION each year:

1. Leadership Team Meeting: 

Always start with a meeting. At my center, each year I appointed a leader for each age group, this was my Leadership Team. We also had myself, the Assistant Director and Administrator on the team as well. Creating this Leadership Team was one of the best decisions I have ever made. If you don’t have one, consider creating one.

In this meeting I would cover all of the events for the year that pertain to the Leadership Team. I would discuss the vision, mission and school values. If I wanted these things to have a significant role at our center, it was important to have this team on board. I also discussed the schedule for the week ahead. This helped limit my time spent sharing the schedule with the rest of the team! 

*If you decide to create a Leadership Team, make sure you meet once a month throughout the school year!



2. All Staff Meeting:

Aside from the leaders meeting, I would also run a staff meeting. This was usually held first thing Monday morning. I would welcome them back to school or to the team if they were new that year. In this meeting, my focus was always on team building and creating a culture standard. It is important to start off your school year by setting the example of the culture you expect, otherwise the culture and norms will emerge on its own and may not be what you envisioned for your team. For me, this was a team that KNEW each other and had FUN together, so this is what we did. 

Yes, the handbook needs to be covered and the policies have to be discussed, but in my personal experience this can wait until later in the week. Building a culture and creating an environment is the most important part at this point. Make it your goal to have a little fun with your team along the way!


3. Building Clean up:

Having a clean building is KEY to taking an ordinary center and creating an amazing one. No one wants to bring their child into a center that isn’t clean. I would make this our priority each day but would also focus on this at the beginning of the year as well. Since our center would have just finished summer camp, often our building would have been affected. During building clean up, I would assign each person to a different job. Here are a few jobs that I would assign:

- Touch up paint

- Re-paint classrooms if needed

- Extra Cleaning on all drinking fountains

- Check for garbage outside

- Rake the play chips on the playground

- Wash the playground equipment

- Reorganize and clean kitchen/fridge

You might be wondering where was our facility team was during all of this. Yes, we had a team of people who cleaned and repaired our building on a regular basis however, sometimes we needed to step up and help in order to get our center looking great. Our facility team really appreciated the help!

 

4. Classroom Prep:

If you are or have been a teacher, you understand that classroom preparation is ongoing. My personal advice is to give your team the proper amount of time to get their classrooms looking good for the new school year. A few things you will want done are: decluttering any cabinets, removing items from the top of cupboards, redesigning bulletin boards, deep cleaning, rearranging furniture if needed and so much more. If you have any floaters on your team or extended day teachers, assign them to a class that may need extra help (my team always appreciated this!).


5. Curriculum Planning Day:

During the week of planning and preparation, I always set aside time for our teams to meet with the other classes (that taught the same age group) to plan the curriculum. Normally the team leaders would run this meeting and oversee each classrooms curriculum planning, which made my job easy. This was a great chance for the teams to talk about the curriculum for the year ahead and address any changes that were made from the prior year. 


6. Meet the Teacher Event

To finish out the week, my center would always host a “Meet the Teachers” event. This was the grand reveal of the classroom and teacher each child was assigned. Of all the events we hosted, this was by far one of the most popular. At the event each teacher would have a few handouts for the parents, an activity for the kids, and I would put on a short presentation regarding policy and the handbook. Since this is the first event of the year, make sure to plan ahead and make it one to remember. 

Final Notes:

As you are busy planning and preparing for the year ahead, don’t forget to stop. One of my favorite parts of this week was that we didn’t have any children on site, which was a rare occasion for our center. This allowed me time to get to know my team. I made it a goal each day to sit in with a different teacher and just simply get to know them. The team that you KNOW is so much easier to lead. 

I hope this schedule of events was helpful for you! 


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Julia Erman
Customer Advocate
Julia Erman was previously a Director of School Programs. She is now working with Sandbox as a Customer Advocate to help centers grow and reach their goals with the help of Sandbox.
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