There’s a saying, “Working in the business instead of on the business.” It means, you spend so much time on daily and weekly tasks, that it doesn’t leave much time to assess your program as a whole. Relationships are a huge part of assessing your program’s strengths. Have you spoken to families recently, other than troubleshooting? Have you spoken to the children? How about the program staff? Here are three steps to help you assess your school-age child care program on a weekly basis.
Step 1 - Take Time to Listen
Block off an hour a week on your schedule to listen to families and children. When speaking with families and children, ask them what their favorite thing is about the program and what’s the thing they wish the program could do better. You could ask these questions on a survey, but when you are face to face with people, it creates a space of trust and helps people feel as if they matter. Alternate the times you choose to talk to people and the individuals you talk to.
Families are only one half of your school-age child care program. The other half is your staff. How are they doing? There are vocal people who have no problem telling you what’s not working. But what is working? How about those staff members who keep quiet, what’s working for them? What does your staff love about your program? Spend an hour a week engaging your staff. Make sure to be random about when and where you ask questions. This provides honest, in-the-moment answers and opens the door to more conversations on all aspects of your program.
Step 3 - Create Reflection Time
Now that you’ve blocked two hours on your schedule to talk to families, children, and staff, you need to block an hour for yourself each week. Think about the answers that you’ve been given and the conversations you’ve had. What is working? What’s not working? In general, do families feel good about your program? Does your staff feel good about your program? Bring all the information together and review if there are immediate changes that need to be made. Are there ideas for future program plans? Either way, you know exactly where your program stands.
Perhaps you feel that three hours a week is too much time to take from the tasks of working in your program. These steps help you make time to work on your program, not in your program. Your program is good, but it can be great if you take the time to step back and assess it on a weekly basis. It’s a good habit to start. It will help you grow deeper relationships with those impacted by your school-age child care program.