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?
Do you have fond childhood memories of sitting with a special adult and listening to them read one of your favorite stories? I vividly remember my dad reading The Elephant’s Child by Rudyard Kipling to me and how we laughed together at the funny voices he used. As an educator, you know how important those moments are for building warm connections, enjoying time together, and learning about many things. So, even if you missed out on those moments as a child, you want to create those moments for the children in your classroom. With careful planning, you can be confident that your read-alouds will be exciting, effective learning opportunities.
The majority of early childhood classrooms have at least one child who is a dual language learner (DLL) and this population is growing. One in three children from birth to age six speak a language besides English at home. Consequently, the majority of teachers need strategies on how to best support this group of students. We reached out to Veronica Fernandez, Developmental Psychologist and Research Scientist at the University of Miami for strategies she’s found most successful.
As part of our Teacher Spotlight series, we recently asked the CLASS Community to nominate a teacher whose high-quality classroom interactions are making a difference for their dual language learners. Our winner, Kim Schoell, has been teaching for 20 years and is currently a Pre-K teacher in Frederick County, VA. 67% of her students are Hispanic and many of the children are dual language learners.
When COVID-19 hit and schools shut down, many of us were certain that it would not impact the 2020-21 school year. But with the pandemic surging and some schools opening up - only to shut down again, it’s clear that COVID is still with us. The length of the pandemic has only heightened concern about COVID related learning loss - especially among underserved populations.