(I suspect she ran off to be with her boyfriend in Hawaii, though I have no firm confirmation of this.)
Over the course of the year that Sylvie’s been cutting my hair, she’s been at three different local salons:
- The one where I was originally transferred over to her when Hair Stylist #1 disappeared;
- An odd French/Moroccan-hybrid-themed place, with an in-house poodle, located behind an auto parts store in a desolate corner of town; and
- The place over the Starbucks where she cuts my hair now.
The current spot is great because it’s in a nice loft space with tons of windows. In the wintertime, looking out over the town, you feel like you’re getting shampooed in the middle of a snow globe. But even if Sylvie decided to go back to Poodle Coifs, I’d go, too.
I wouldn’t bother playing this sort of “Where’s Waldo?” with any other hair stylist I’ve had in the past, but Sylvie’s one of a kind. It’s not even so much that she’s technically skilled at her work – which she is. It’s more that she’s passionate about what she does, and very easy to talk to, and makes me (and everyone else she comes into contact with) feel special and valued.
The reason I bring this all up is that too many child care centers view teachers as interchangeable commodities rather than a key – if not the key – part of the family retention and satisfaction puzzle.
Even if you’re a super-involved owner or director (which is fantastic), your teachers are the people your families interact with day in and day out. They are the ones who plan the curriculum, read the stories, kiss the boo-boos, give the hugs at the start and end of the day, and provide the reports on kids’ behavior, moods, and general well-being.
They are the ones who care for and love the kids at your center when their parents are away at work. Parents love them for this – and rightly so.
All of this means that parents’ bonds with the teachers at a center tend to be even stronger than parents’ bonds with the center itself. Don’t get me wrong – if a single beloved teacher leaves, families are probably not going to leave in droves to follow her to your competitor across town, as I’ve done with Sylvie.
But if you have a lot of turnover, and families start to perceive (rightly or wrongly) that you don’t value your teachers as individuals, well, then you’re going to have problems. Here are 4 steps to help prevent this:
1. Pay your teachers well. Even a little bit more than the other centers in your area are paying can help cement your reputation as a center that values its staff.
2. Invest in their training and development. Not only does this make for better teachers, it makes for teachers who know you believe in them and want them to succeed.
3. Celebrate your teachers. You should do this both publicly (a “Teacher of the Month” bulletin board, for example) and privately (compliment teachers on a job well done and thank them regularly for their efforts).
4. Be transparent about departures. It’s disconcerting for parents, not to mention kids, when familiar faces disappear without a trace or explanation. If you don’t tell them otherwise, they will start to assume something bad is happening at your center.
So when a teacher leaves, for whatever reason, be sure to notify parents and be as open as you can without violating teacher confidentiality:
- “Miss Maureen has decided to stay home with her new baby, and we’re all excited for her!”
- “Mr. Brady is going back to school to pursue his degree in Early Childhood Education.”
- “Miss Janna is leaving to pursue other opportunities, and we all wish her the best.” (This one is a nice, graceful catch-all for even the messiest separations, regardless of whose decision it was to terminate the working relationship.)
It’s nice to have a LEED-certified green building or state-of-the-art playground equipment. But without excellent teachers, none of that other stuff really matters much. Nurture your Sylvies.
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