Between the many hours that they spend in your home—or at least in your yard—and the day-to-day relationship that they develop with your kids, a pod teacher can easily become an extended family member, not just an employee or a service professional. No offense, plumbers, we appreciate you too! It’s a fine line, though, balancing a professional relationship with a personal one. Here are our tips and tools to making sure that you get what you need from your teacher, and that they feel respected, appreciated, (and yes, even loved), along the way.
Communication with Pod Teachers
Good communication is the key to any healthy relationship, and the same goes for the one that you develop with your pod teacher. Knowing the best way to discuss the day-to-day microschool operations is important, but setting up effective communication plans for all potential situations (feedback, child-related issues, possible conflict, etc.) ahead of time, is vital. Here are some communication points to keep in mind from the start:
Pod Communication Technology
What method of communication will you use for general school-related matters? How will you handle communicating case-by-case issues that may arise (individual concerns, general group feedback, constructive criticism, etc.)? There are a lot of options including:
- Text messaging
- A private Facebook group
- Even team communications platforms like Slack.
The best choice is the one (or combination) that your teacher and the pod parents are already comfortable with. Consider everyone’s technology comfortability, pick the best options for the caretakers and teacher, and stick to the same communication tools as a group.
Effective Communications Tips
Have a plan in place for how the pod will communicate concerns when they come up. Whether everyone shares the responsibility of communicating group needs, or one person acts as a representative, establishing it clearly from the beginning is always best. Depending on their experience, teachers will use their best judgment, but that might not line up perfectly with your desires and expectations. We recommend:
- Consider setting monthly or even weekly check-ins for the pod if you think it’ll be helpful.
- Let your teacher know how best to communicate with you, should issues come up. Can they request a meeting with one parent, or should it wait for the next group call?
If you are working with a service like PodSkool, they may already have these practices in place. As an added benefit, they will likely have someone with whom you can discuss sensitive issues that you don’t feel comfortable addressing directly with your teacher. This person, such as a head of education, can offer advice or intercede on your behalf, so that you can maintain a friendly and positive relationship with the teacher.
Setting Professional Boundaries with your Teacher
There are endless ways to contact someone these days, and most of them are immediate and often impossible not to see. That’s why it’s important now, more than ever, to set up boundaries for when communication with your pod teacher is appropriate. Avoid discomfort by discussing the boundaries of when and what you can discuss outside of school hours, and ensure that each member of the pod understands and is prepared to follow those guidelines. Once again, this is a balancing act between your need for quick answers and respect for their time, family and other personal commitments. Talk to your teacher about if/when you expect them to be available outside of work hours, if they mind you contacting them whenever a thought or problem arises and vice-versa. Set up clear windows of time to connect, and establish how quickly you expect their response. For example, some people don’t put their phones on silent at night and might not appreciate being woken to the sound of a string of text messages. Additionally, make sure that you have a shared understanding of what is reasonable to ask of your teacher in these communications (additional homework help, one-on-one child advice, etc.), so that they never feel taken advantage of. Overall, it’s most important to keep in mind that everyone is different. While some teachers may be happy to answer a quick text about homework or give counsel about an individual concern, others may find outside communication invasive, and prefer to keep it at a minimum.
Making Special Requests
As your relationship develops, you may feel more comfortable reaching out about and discussing non-learning-pod topics. This is a matter of personal judgement, but it’s important to maintain the professional side of things as well. The last thing you want is for your teacher to feel like they have to help you with non-pod issues in order to maintain their position with your learning pod. When in doubt, stick to curriculum and child-welfare topics that are part of your teacher’s role.
Scheduling Your School-from-Home Pod
Maintaining a set schedule for your pod is key, and we recommend solidifying yours and sticking to it as much as possible. At the same time, we all know that unexpected things come up for both students and teachers, so we encourage you to have a plan of action for possible scheduling changes ahead of time, in order to avoid conflict in the future. Set clear group expectations for how much notice all parties must give regarding scheduling changes, or planned vacations, and be sure to discuss how you will handle any last-minute emergent situations, should they arise.
Paying Your Learning Pod Teacher
When it comes to paying your teacher, there are a few apps that make the process especially easy. Venmo, Square Cash and Zelle are popular quick and simple payment options that reduce the need for paper checks and an extra trip to the bank. At the same time, paying by cash is harder to keep track of should any questions come up. For your records, make sure that you’ve filed all appropriate paperwork for your teacher’s payroll and tax filings. Consider a source like QuickBooks to process teacher payroll taxes or head over to our Is Your Learning Pod Legal post for more guidance on the payroll process. As with communications, you want everyone in your pod to be on the same page. Try to have everyone pay at the same time and preferably with the same tools, so that your teacher never has to wonder if everyone has paid or be in the uncomfortable position of asking about when they’ll be paid by one or more parents.
Micro-School Pod Teacher Holiday Pay & Bonuses
As much as your teacher may love the kids, the reality is that they teach to make a living, and if your micropod plans to take long stretches of time off over the holidays, it’s something that your teacher needs to be aware of and prepare for financially. Likewise, if your teacher has holiday plans that will take them out of the area for an extended period of time, that’s something that you’ll need to plan for with your pod. Set clear expectations of what you plan to offer the teacher as far as holiday pay/paid time off is concerned. If you plan to take extended time off from school, especially if it’s for longer than a week, consider giving your teacher a holiday bonus to help bridge the gap financially, or simply as a gesture of gratitude for their hard work! If a bonus isn’t in the budget right now, or if you just want to make a holiday gift more personal, consider gift cards and involving the kids in crafting handmade gifts or cards to show their appreciation. Whatever you choose, remember that the holiday season this year may prove difficult for some, and that no act of kindness is too small, when it comes to showing your pod teacher that they are cared for.
At PodSkool, we’re always trying to take the stress out of school from home, including helping parents handle scheduling, communications and payments via our secure app, helping resolve any complications before they turn into issues, as well as handling the payroll and insurance for a pod.
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