When Donna saw a picture of her three-year-old grandson, Jordan, working on spelling his name with plastic letters, she was floored. She didn’t know he’d already be up to learning that in his day-care class at Our House, an Arkansas nonprofit that serves homeless and near-homeless families. But there it was: photo evidence on a tablet computer that the teacher showed Donna at pick-up one afternoon.
Sharing such photos are part of the daily updates Donna now receives about Jordan, part of a new effort at Our House to improve communication with the families of kids in its Little Learners program.
“At first, it wasn’t enough for me,” Donna says about the more informal, once-a-week check-ins she used to have with Jordan’s teachers. “I’m a very involved parent. I want to know something about Jordan’s day every day.”
On a Listen4Good survey Our House gave to clients last year meant to gauge how they feel about the nonprofit and its programs, Donna and other parents and guardians expressed their desire for more engagement and communication with teachers.
In response, Our House hired an additional staff member – through the national-service program VISTA – to organize Family Fun Nights, Parent Cafes, and other events and programming to more often bring parents together with teachers and other parents. It started holding twice-a-year parent-teacher conferences, issuing a monthly newsletter, and employing a more robust text-message system to announce upcoming events. But it’s the daily updates and photos that Donna likes best.
“It’s awesome,” she says. “I wouldn’t have imagined [Jordan] was learning to spell his name. But now I know what he is doing in class every day, so I know what I can work on with him at home.” And, she adds: “We already had the [letter] magnets on our fridge.”