Families considering the best option for educating their young children are usually looking for the same things my sister and her family sought. Among other things, they want an environment that is clean and welcoming and teachers who are professional, knowledgeable, open communicators, and kind... and it is likely that families will assess whether you meet these criteria very quickly when they visit your school.
Making First Impressions Count: Tips on What Parents Look for in a Montessori School
Remember that the outside of your building is equally important as the inside, as this is what families see first. Stand in your parking lot and look at your school. Is it well landscaped and clean? Simple touches such as adding some flowers and making sure the walkway is clean make a good first impression.
Overall, the environment should be welcoming, clean, and inviting. The classrooms and common areas should be well-lit, with as much natural light as possible. Make sure everything is clean and tidy. Keeping walls and windows clear is helpful. Choose colors for your environment that are neutral, creating a calming atmosphere. Are there plants or fresh flowers in the room? What about a water element, such as a small waterfall? Is there soothing music playing softly in the background? Are the children’s personal belongings put away neatly?
The main draw of the Montessori environment is, of course, the material itself. Review the material in your classroom and make certain it is in good repair and stored neatly on the shelves. Clutter and untidiness turn parents and children off. As the focal point of the environment, the material should beckon to children and adults alike to remove it from the shelves and work with it.
Teachers and StaffFrom the moment visitors arrive on your campus, they should feel welcome. It is important for parents to know that the entire staff is there to care for and nurture their children. Teachers and staff should be able to effectively and enthusiastically communicate the Montessori philosophy and methodology, so parents understand the difference between conventional and Montessori environments. Why are there no colorful bulletin boards or bright primary colors? Why are the children working by themselves on something different? What about group work? Where are all the tables and chairs? What is the purpose of multi-age classroom? Considering the answers to such questions ahead of time will prepare you when parents voice concerns — and you will be able to quickly put them at ease!
Additionally, if parents have specific concerns about their child, be prepared to listen to them and to let them know how you can meet their child’s needs. Parents and teachers alike need to know what it really means to follow the child. All children are special and have individual needs. Following the child means being respectfully accountable to each individual child and providing the best environment and situation in order for them to learn and become independent.
Although we follow the same philosophy and methodology, each Montessori school is different. However, it is important to ensure that what makes you unique also makes you welcoming to new families. Take a look at your school through the eyes of prospective parents. Is this a place where you would want your own child to go every day? What can you do to improve your image and encourage new enrollment? The answers might surprise you!
© North American Montessori Center - originally posted in its entirety at Montessori Teacher Training on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.