“How do I start recruiting students for my microschool when I don’t know all the details about Prenda yet? What if a parent asks me a question I don’t know how to answer?”
In my current role, I frequently hear these concerns helping new Prenda Guides launch their microschools. Talking with parents confidently about this new learning model can be intimidating. They may have many questions about specific curriculum tools or support systems. For some, the thought of stepping into the unknown and admitting that you don’t know everything about Prenda can prevent them from ever opening a microschool.
As a prior Guide, I know how this feels and what it’s like to recruit students. I also sat down with Tasha, an experienced Prenda Guide who has been through this process many times, and asked her how she navigated all of it.
As I reviewed the advice she was able to provide and reflected on my own experience, I couldn’t help but notice how neatly those ideas aligned with our core values here at Prenda.
“Parents do care about curriculum and your learning model, but more than anything else, it seems parents want to know their child is going to be loved and cared for in your microschool,” Tasha told me. Many parents you will talk with will have questions about the Prenda learning model because it is likely very different from what is familiar to them. However, their motivation for exploring this new learning model is their love for their child. Their concerns about the curriculum or school culture will be rooted in their love and concern for their child.
Ask parents about their child’s previous learning experiences. What did their child love about learning? What was challenging for them? Listen earnestly to what they say. Empathize with them and share your thoughts on how you might tend to their child's needs.
“Never be afraid to say ‘I don’t know. But always follow it up with a plan to figure it out.” Prenda doesn’t expect new learning guides to have all the answers, nor do parents. People are all different, and their needs are different. The microschool model, in general, is a much more dynamic ecosystem than most learning environments. This is a tremendous benefit when adapting to individual students' needs and unique groupings. But it also creates ambiguity and uncertainty in your ability to address every possible circumstance before it occurs.
It is okay to let parents know that you don’t have every answer right now, but you should always have a plan for how you can help that parent find the answer. “I’m not sure I know the answer to that question. Let’s see if we can figure it out together.” Prenda provides you with resources to help you find answers to those questions and any questions that may arise in the future. Prenda’s Onboarding courses will help you find answers to many basic questions about our learning model and specific learning tools used in the microschool.
Our Orientation courses will create opportunities for you to dive deeper into specific topics and tools. The Guide Help Center is also a quickly searchable resource that can give details about official Prenda policies and resources. And, of course, the Prenda Support Team is always there to help with tricky situations.
“Open, honest, and prompt communication is essential when talking with parents. If you say you will do something, always follow through with it.” The Prenda microschool model will likely be a new and unfamiliar education landscape for most parents. Guides can help build trust and establish open communication norms by replying promptly to parent inquiries. If a parent’s question requires some research before you have an answer, let them know it may take a little longer before you have an answer, then follow up once you can answer with confidence.
Of course, with any new relationship, you may need to establish boundaries around communications. If you cannot reply to parent communications outside specific hours of the day, respectfully communicate that.
“Dude, sucking at somethin’ is the first step towards being sorta good at something.” Okay, this quote comes from Jake the Dog from the television show “Adventure Time,” but it came up in our conversation. As you begin talking with parents about this new and exciting educational opportunity, you occasionally will make a mistake. You may give a parent incorrect information about how services will be handled to accommodate their child’s IEP or accidentally leave a digit off the guide code for a family trying to enroll. Mistakes are going to happen. The earlier you accept that fact, the more quickly you can overcome the fear of making a mistake or saying the wrong thing. You learn how to not make mistakes by making a few mistakes.
So open your mouth. Talk to people. Share your excitement. Make a mistake. Correct it. Repeat! It gets easier to talk to people the more you do it, and you’ll have a great learning experience to share with your students later.
“Talk to everyone! Seriously, you never know who will be interested or who they know who may be interested.” As you talk with parents about your microschool, you are going to experience a variety of reactions. When a close friend or family member tells you they are not interested, it can feel like they are rejecting you. They aren’t. They are simply making a choice they believe to be the best option available with the information they have and the values they hold.
Honestly, microschools aren’t going to be the right fit for everyone. And that’s okay. If you are willing to talk with friends and family confidently about your microschool. In that case, even if they decide not to participate, they will be much more inclined to tell others who they believe might be interested in your microschool.
“I know it seems counterintuitive, but encourage families to talk to multiple microschool Guides before selecting a microschool.” Prenda provides an excellent framework upon which guides build their microschools, but each microschool is unique. Inviting families to explore the diversity of experiences available through Prenda helps them find a microschool community that best serves their child’s unique learning needs. It empowers guides to find creative ways to differentiate their microschools.
By introducing families in your social network to other microschool guides in your community, you take a dynamic system that can sometimes feel uncertain and put it to work for you. Instead of being afraid of families having a choice, embrace it! That very choice has enabled them to choose your microschool in the first place.
Getting started as a microschool guide can be challenging. But it’s important to know a few things…
As you learn to live the Prenda core values in every aspect of running your microschool, you’ll set yourself up to have a great first year and success for years to come!
Let’s empower learners. Together.
Find out more at prenda.com/guiding.