Photographs & Swim Lessons–Creating a Culture of Communication

Being a parent has given me a new appreciation of communication and partnership. In early September I attended my first “Back to School Night” as a parent.  While I nodded along to all the PowerPoint slides about the value of a play based preschool balanced with some pre-academic skills, I lit up when I saw a photograph of Harrison about seven slides in.  As the Director continued on, I was focused on the photograph.  He was smiling.  It wasn’t his “cheese” smile, but a genuine Harrison smile.  I was thrilled.  I was happy Harrison was a student at that school.  Communication, a simple photograph of my child smiling, made all the difference.

Earlier in the summer, we had been less successful with the partnership piece.  Being his parents, we knew the way to engage Harrison is to not come on too strong.  If you let him come to you, he will open up and engage in any activity.  Knowing that learning to swim is a Marin childhood must, Robin and I went in search of a pool and swim teacher.  We found a great, warm pool and a friendly teacher.  What we forgot to do, though, was partner with that teacher.  Lesson one was a failure because his teacher, a sweet man with a booming voice, said, “Hi! Mr. Harrison!” and came in for a big high five.  Harrison was not a fan.  Partnership and communication fail.

While communication and partnership are two words I have intellectually known to be important in schools, I now know, first hand, how valuable they are.  In the spirit of Being Our Best, we are working as a school to develop a culture of communication and partnership.  So far we have expanded our communication efforts with:

  • Our new website: A more dynamic website with fresh external content and an ever growing number of resources on the Community Portal.

  • MTS 1: Our weekly “must read” email with all the information you need, when you need it.

  • MTS Too: This is the first newsletter that we hope to publish each quarter with longer articles highlighting aspects of the school.

  • Class Dojo: A growing number of classes are sharing photographs and videos of day to day life in the classroom on the Class Dojo platform.

  • Photo Sharing on MTS SmugMug Page: With the “gobears” password you can view, download and order prints of photographs from numerous school events.

In the weeks to come you will also see:

  • Online forms and registration processes via Chalk School.

  • Team schedules and communications via TeamSnap.

  • An always up-to-date official school calendar on Google calendar.

Communication and partnership, we understand, goes in both directions.  We are looking for more ways to facilitate two way conversations between school and home.  The “entry” meetings I am hosting in the weeks to come as well as the conversations I am scheduling as a result of your NPS and entry surveys are just the start.  The Department Chairs met this week to discuss the timing, frequency and format of our conferences and we will report out on changes related to this in the weeks to come.

We are in the thick of changing the culture of communication and partnerships at MTS.   It is hard work.  In fact, just about every word in that first sentence–communication, partnership, culture, and change–is challenging.  Communication and partnership take time, our most limited resource.  Culture runs deep and is tied to identity.  Change is scary; it is filled with many “what ifs.”  What if there is a glaring typo in this essay that I didn’t catch?  Will that signal the school is headed down hill?  We, as educators, need to take these risks, though, and we need to talk with families excited to partner with us to support the development of our children.

While this work is undoubtedly challenging, it is also exciting.  We look forward to being partners with you, our families, in the thing we all care deeply about, the well being and success of our students, your children.  

Andrew Davis
Head of School