Parent participation at Harvard Yard has always been knit into the structure of the program and is driven by a strong pedagogical commitment to the school-family link. The Center offers a rare and valuable opportunity to take parents’ and educators’ partnership in early childhood education to a high level. Parents participate at Harvard Yard Child Care Center in three categories detailed in its by-laws and handbooks: governance, committee and work projects, and classroom time.
The 2-hour weekly classroom commitment is an unusual contractual feature of Harvard Yard Child Care Center. It is a weekly opportunity to maintain and enrich the parent-teacher dialogue and allows parents to become a full-fledged part of their child’s every day school world, as well as augmenting the adult-child ratio to enhance curriculum. The link between parents and teachers, critical for healthy child development, is demonstrated to children during that time. A lot of very important learning goes on. Teachers need parents’ information and insights about their children, and their weekly time together is a great way to discuss, question, and observe. Likewise, parents may observe and gain perspective about child development in general and their own child in particular.
In addition to doing classroom time, parents contribute to the Center in several other critical ways: community work hours, general membership and room meetings, and governance. Not only do these responsibilities have an important impact on the day-to-day workings of the Center, but they also enable parents to play an active role in larger planning and decision-making processes, which is a defining feature of the cooperative model.
Communicating and working together side by side, parents and teachers forge bonds of trust and lasting, gratifying friendships. This is true in all the avenues of parent participation, but especially in the classroom time.