Note: It’s the start of another new school year and once again, my thoughts turn to all of the children who are starting school for the first time. But I also can’t help but think about those children who are making the big transition from preschool to kindergarten. As we all know, it can be a big adjustment for many kids.
Last year I wrote a post about my great-niece’s first day of preschool. For those of you who may have missed it, we are posting it again with a post-script of sorts (except that it’s at the beginning and not the end). I am happy to report that my concerns about her adjustment to preschool were not realized. Addison had a good year in pre-k and learned so many of those critical social-emotional skills that put her in good stead to make the most of kindergarten. Here is a picture of her on her first day at “the big school” – still ready for school and raring to go!
I am not a big fan of summer in Virginia. It is too long and it’s too hot. However, there is the part of me that looks forward to the end of the school year because it means that there aren’t as many cars or school buses on the road. And parking downtown where I work is much easier.
The other day I was sitting at my desk bemoaning the fact that school was back in session (yes, my children are grown), which meant that my commute took longer and I had to walk three blocks in the muggy 90-degree heat to get to my office. But then I heard my phone ping and I saw that my sister had sent me a picture of my great-niece on her first day of preschool. As I looked at the smile on her face and the twinkle in her eyes, I knew that she was raring to go.
My first thought was, “Addison is ready to take on the world” and that made me happy. My second thought was, “I sure hope she has a good teacher.” This thought was a bit worrisome because she has not experienced out of family child care and we know that a child’s adjustment to and experiences in preschool can greatly shape how they feel about school. I wanted to find out the name of her teacher and send her a Pre-K CLASS Dimensions Guide!
As early educators, we know that all of the domains of the CLASS are important. However, I would contend that Emotional Support is the most important domain to focus on at the beginning of the school year. I looked at this photo of my great-niece and thought about how her teacher would develop relationships with a room full of 4-year-olds.
I wondered what she would do to make the children feel safe and secure. If Addison missed her Mommy, would she notice and comfort her? Would she be able to read the children’s cues to see if a child felt uncomfortable? Would she build relationships by watching the children play and follow their leads? All of those questions swirled around my head.
For Addison and all of the children around our country who are experiencing school for the first time, the steps the teachers take now will impact them for years to come, for a long time. And while my sister reported that Addison had a great first day of school, many other children may have felt less secure in their new classrooms. So I’d love to hear from you:
How do you build relationships with children at the start of the school year?
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When I was a teacher, I can remember taking care to intentionally plan differentiated, or individualized, instruction. And, when I was teaching pre-K I added the same level of intentionality to which materials were available in interest areas, and how I approached transitions throughout the day.
While any level of intentionally, specifically in relation to planning, is important -- I missed a critical opportunity in being more intentional in my interactions with the children in my class.
There is always an opportunity for interaction. Some opportunities are easily recognizable: times of play, free choice, centers, small group. We often see teachers engaged in activities alongside children during these times or hear questions being asked. Other opportunities might be a little less obvious. These are the times of your day that you might see as mundane moments that merely require your supervision or monitoring. The times where you’re going through the motions. “I’m doing this thing so I can move on to the next thing.”
In a previous blog, colleague and early childhood environment extraordinaire, Heather Sason, discussed how your classroom environment can help promote effective teacher-child interactions. In this blog, I propose we explore some of the often overlooked times in your day that are ripe for interactions with children and that do promote exploration, learning, and development!
It's not uncommon for teachers in early education to need to strike a balance between following children's leads and sticking to the classroom schedule. We know that intentional teachers are aware of their responsibility to assess student progress, understand skill mastery, and plan accordingly to provide opportunities for children to grow. However, many times, as teachers begin a specific teacher-directed activity, it is unsettling when students begin to veer from the step-by-step plans the teacher has worked hard to implement.
Teacher and coach, Colleen Schmit, will share how teachers can strike the balance between following the lesson plans and giving children freedom of choice and flexibility in the classroom.
We’re more than a month into the school year, and many educators and school leaders are feeling tired or burnt out already. That’s normal in any school year, as the newness of back-to-school wanes and the reality of a long year ahead kicks in. But, this year, that tiredness may feel like it has never felt before. Chalkbeat has reported that teacher vacancies are up in 18 of 20 large school districts, and it’s not surprising. Many are exhausted after a difficult year and a half (to put it mildly!). Many are also leaving the profession in droves to find work in competitive environments that provide a substantially larger salary.