Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Parents and the Transition to Preschool!

As a teacher, how do you assist parents with the idea of sending their "baby" off to preschool?  Personally, I've always tried to remember how I felt as a parent sending my own "babies" off to preschool for the first time!  Then I remember that my children went to a traditional preschool for 2 1/2 hours 3 times a week...NOT 6 hours/day- 5 days a week!

On top of that, I didn't have to start my child's preschool experience with an IEP meeting!  No matter how hard we work to help parents feel comfortable, that first IEP meeting (when your child is just turning 3) can be pretty darn scary!  

So, here are a few of those "little things" I think are so important to remember:  
  1. Make sure parents know that they are welcome to drop in, to call or to e-mail!  Often just knowing that they have access to their child's teacher helps parents feel more comfortable!
  2. As you talk to parents, remember to leave pauses!  Often, questions, concerns and fears may come up during these small pauses.  It always helps to voice concerns rather than silently wondering what may happen!
  3. Let parents know of several concrete things that they can expect!  I always let parents know that I will send home daily notes and that I love to take photos of those first few days and will send home photos with the children as well.  
  4. Don't assume that parents will know what goes on in preschool!  Make sure they know that the children will go outside each day, will participate in art activities and music activities, listen to stories etc.  (Sometimes parents become concerned that a child with special needs will be left out or won't be able to participate in these things).  I always make sure parents understand that we will provide the support necessary for the children to participate in all the activities. 
  5. Answer questions and address concerns...and do this again, and again, and again...until the parent feels comfortable!  Some parents may find it fine to hear verbally about the classroom, some will want to e-mail or call and ask many questions, some will want to come visit the room to see what goes on during the day and others may want multiple visits!  There is no right or wrong way to become used to this idea!   Work with the parent at the pace they are comfortable with!
  6. Make sure you are friendly and accessible; but also be professional!  Make sure there are no surprises!  Assist parents in making sure forms and paperwork are filled out if possible!  This can reduce later surprises! 
  7. Finally, convey to the parents that as an early childhood teacher we are not the "authority" on a specific child; we are PARTNERS in the child's education and care.  When parents feel their opinion and knowledge about their child is valued, we can create a true partnership!

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