What is the “program,” anyway?

Posted on by Elisabeth Tobia

The recent EC3 parent survey was rife with questions about the program:

  • Do teachers share information about things happening in the PROGRAM?
  • Do staff members help you get to know other families in the PROGRAM?
  • Are you invited to participate in decisions about the PROGRAM?
  • Are you included in PROGRAM improvement efforts?

Whenever I’m asked about the definition for “program,” I tell people it’s usually synonymous with “classroom”–indeed, if you replace “program” with “classroom” in the questions posed here, you’d probably have a clearer path to answering them.

But sometimes the program is more than the classroom, such as when we refer to the “preschool program;” in this case, we’re talking about the general approach taken in providing care and education in our preschool classrooms altogether. Except we don’t run a cookie-cutter “program,” so trying to make statements and evaluations about our developmental programs can be tricky.

And sometimes the program is something less than the whole classroom, such as one member of its teaching or support staff. In fact, one could reasonably argue that teachers are the most important part of the “program” because through them everything (curriculum, schedule, care, communication) is filtered for student and parental consumption. Except it’s dicey to say you’re evaluating a program solely on the basis of personnel, and besides, there are plenty of other survey questions pertaining specifically to staff members.

In many ways, it’s easier to define what the program ISN’T. It’s not our billing system. It’s not our fundraising activities. It has nothing much to do with our building–we ought to be able to take our “program” to any other facility and have it stand on its own, right?

EC3’s Parent Handbook states, “Our PROGRAM is designed to provide individual and group experiences that enhance the physical, social-emotional, and cognitive development of each child while appreciating the interconnectedness of the developmental areas and the rapid changes that take place during the first five years.” As best as I can explain it, it’s the blend of teachers, curriculum, techniques, and activities that we do every day to promote child development.

What do you think of when someone asks about EC3’s “program?”

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