I spent a long time working on enrollment when I was a director. In fact, I spent about 50% of my time from November to March meeting with families, discussing the program, answering questions and finally enrolling. This was specific to a program that has a traditional calendar year (Sept.-June) so I can’t imagine what it must be like to be constantly enrolling children with ongoing recruitment efforts all year long.
What encourages families to choose your program over another program? For many families it is simply logistics. The hours, location, cost and flexibility are pretty high on most families’ list of needs. However, I think – all of those things being equal – families choose programs that are safe, organized, well-run, clean, happy, and educational.
You might have noticed that I put “educational” at the end of the list. This is because I believe that all of those other things need to be in place before children can learn. Let’s now assume that all of those things are in order. Parents want to feel welcome and included. That means that you must have an open-door policy that welcomes parents whenever they can come by. Now, I have heard teachers say things like, “But I find that really disruptive” or “The parents will be hanging around all of the time”. In 20 years in the field, I only ever knew 1 mom who wouldn’t leave, and she was not altogether there (if you know what I mean). Most parents want to know that they can come by, but most won’t or can’t. They just was to know that it is an option.
I also believe that the the director should be able to articulate the philosophy of the program in a way that makes sense to families. Then the teachers need to show that philosophy in action. If your philosophy includes a carefully planned out daily schedule that includes outdoor time from 10-11, you should expect that parents will expect to see the children outdoors during that time. In addition, if you believe that children learn through play, the the schedule should include large chunks of time devoted to free play.
It is also incredibly important that you can articulate what you believe about how young children can and should be exposed to early literacy and numeracy. It is as important to be able to describe how you plan to approach early learning in math as it is in all other academic areas.
In one or two sentences, can you tell us what you say to parents about your approach to math?