I have 4 daughters and know what it feels like that first time your children go away from home on a school visit, to stay with friends or a course overseas. My eldest travelled alone to New York aged 16 and my youngest went to Australia with a fellow student aged 15. In both cases, although everything was arranged well, I was waiting for that message to say they had arrived before I could relax completely. Naturally they themselves were full of excitement and adventure and had no qualms at all about the visits.
Having your child go away for the first time (or at any time) can be a big decision and I think it is important that parents are reassured by everyone involved in making the arrangements.
Here at Fleetham Lodge our groups are very small just 4 or 5 children so we are privileged to be able to have personal contact with the parents of most students who come here – indeed some of our parents have actually delivered their children personally. This contact allows us and the parents to find out everything we can to make sure that the students when they arrive, will not only hit the ground running in terms of language but also give us more information about their interests and that all important area – food!
So, to illustrate for any parents thinking about a possible course at Fleetham Lodge and also to show how we manage parents expectations as well as those of our young charges, here is a blow-by-blow of the contact points between the parents of prospective students and ourselves from finding us, to booking, to arrival, departure, post course and all points in-between!
Points of Contact
Usually requests will come via email and email is the first action. However we always offer a phone or Skype call to discuss further. With some of our overseas partners and agents we may also set up a Skype call so we can discuss things with the parents (and sometimes the students themselves) with our partner to translate if necessary and we can give a quick tour of the facilities via iPad. This helps people see what is on offer and speak to us and we have a chance to find out more and explain how things work. At this stage everything is exploratory.
Once things are settled then there is a lot to find out – approximate language level, dietary requirements, hobbies and interests, travel arrangements etc. This all requires more emails or phone calls and the excitement starts to build 🙂
After our students have arrived at Fleetham Lodge, and we always collect all our students personally, we get them to telephone (or nowadays perhaps text or whatsapp!) their parents to let them know that they have arrived safely. I know how it feels to be waiting for this information – it’s important although the students themselves don’t always appreciate this!
During the Course
As we go along through the course we try to touch base with parents two or three times just to give them an update on what is going on and how their children are doing. It is simply a courtesy to reassure them and also give them an insight into what we are doing and where we are going. I have found that parents really appreciate these short emails.
Arrangements may need to be confirmed and it is also important to let parents know that everything was fine with the boarding and that the children are now safely on their way home.
It is our custom to send a short report to the parents after the students have left. This is a summary of what we did in the lessons and how they progressed. We usually include some suggestions for where they can continue to practise and improve with some online links or book suggestions. In the past parents have passed these on to their teachers at school, used them to support school applications or just read them for their own interest. We are serious about the progress of each student and want to share their success with parents and their teachers too.
Keeping in touch gives peace of mind to parents and I believe it also signals our determination to do the very best we can for the students we welcome here at Fleetham Lodge. Phone calls and emails are kept short and simply provide, in the first instance a connection, after all we will be responsible for these children for the time they are here and in the second instance a snapshot of what the children are doing here. From my perspective as a parent of children who have been away from home it is both welcome and heartening.