Your school has never looked, felt, smelled, sounded or tasted better!
One of the first lessons we learned when opening our corporate schools was the importance of how parents and other caregivers entering and exiting our school perceived what was happening in our school throughout the day. Although most parents only spend an average of 5 minutes in our schools, twice a day, we realized that it was during those 10 minutes that they were formulating their opinions of our school, our curriculum and our staff. If parents encountered an inkling of chaos at pick-up time, then they would many times assume that there was chaos throughout the day.
So what can we do to make sure those magical 10 minutes are always perceived in the manner we want them to be?
It’s all about the 5 senses…
If you pay attention to what parents see, hear, feel, smell and taste (yes, even taste) when they walk through the doors of your school, you will quickly understand how (and why) they form the perceptions they do.
So let’s go over each of the traditional 5 senses and how they can help you create an atmosphere of preschool bliss:
Sight is incredibly important. When a parent walks through your door you want them to see: a neatly, dressed, smiling staff member or teacher, an organized entry, items playfully arranged for their child to engage in upon arrival, teachers positively interacting with other children and a clean and organized classroom. How do you think a parent perceives your school if they are greeted each day with a mess, a stressed out teacher and children screaming in the background? I am sure you can only imagine.
Smell is a sense that is easy to ignore, especially in our profession. If you have children who are potty training and in diapers, this is particularly of importance to you. Make sure that you have a procedure for taking out dirty diapers on a regular basis, and flushing toilets. Those smells tend to linger and I am sure you don’t want them around any longer than they need to be. Another tip; install some eco-friendly, non-toxic, air fresheners in safe (and strategic places) throughout your school. A pleasing smell will make a great impression on your parents. During the holiday season it is also fun to have some mulled spices on the stove (safely away from students of course). They fill your school with an amazing smell and conjure images of home for both students and parents alike.
Our sense of hearing is just as important as sight and smell. When parents walk into your school, what do they hear? Are children (and teachers) yelling? Is there an abundance of noise? When walking into a school parents should hear: soft music playing in the background (something fitting to the time of day), the murmur of the soft voices of children engaged in the learning process, and maybe even the kind voice of a teacher comforting a child who is missing their mom or dad. If parents are arriving while you are playing outside with your class, then parents will want to hear: laughter, shrieks of joy and appropriate preschool banter. Always make sure that parents are being greeted by a teacher or staff member when they walk through your doors. A quick, “Hello! How are you?” will create a lasting positive impact.
That’s right! Our sense of touch is also incredibly important. Think about everything a parent touches when dropping off and signing in a child; a pen, a counter, a cubby, a door knob… and the list goes on. These surfaces should be wiped down daily (if not more often). Not only will parents love how clean your school feels, but you will be helping to keep those pesky germs away too!
You may be thinking to yourself, “Taste? How does taste come into play?” Well, think about it… what could you do in your school to ensure that parents have a pleasant “taste” experience in your school? Many of you may already provide coffee or hot cocoa to your parents in the morning. Or maybe you have a lovely tray of bagels or fruit available for parents as they head out to work. Parents will look forward to coming into your school each and every morning and enjoying a quick yummy bite or a warm cup of coffee to go.
Our five senses are amazing tools for us to take advantage of as preschool owners and directors. They can help us provide an environment that is pleasing to our staff, teachers, students and parents. As you move through your day pay attention to your senses. Talk with your teachers about what they can do to make sure those magical 10 minutes that parents are in your schools are the most sensory-appealing moments of their day.