Monday, September 10, 2012

Pre-K Woes–Knowing What to Ask

Lil'R on First Day of School
Lil ' R on First Day of School
The past 3 weeks have been full of strife. Lil ‘R began Pre Kindergarten Tuesday the 28th at a nearby school. It didn’t go too well.

A bit of background

Here in Florida Pre-K is available free to all children for their 4 year old year. This is a completely voluntary program and up to the choice of the parent if they wish to participate. Children can attend at both private daycare facilities or at a few public schools, but the privates are by and far the most. All that is needed is to get a voucher from the local school readiness office and pick an approved place.

How Bad Could things really Go?

At the end of the first day we go to pick up Lil ‘R to find he is sitting crying on the front bench waiting for us. We are told he was extremely difficult to handle and told to talk with him. This goes on every day for 4 days, where on Friday we were told “He isn’t ready for Pre-K” and that he is no longer a student in their school.
Their reasoning is he wouldn’t sit to do his work and he was disruptive to the other students.
I learned I really should have asked a lot more questions before we enrolled him there, and we have since found a new school he starts at today.

 Questions I should have Asked

  •  Is there both a Teacher and an Aid?
    • We realized the importance of their being an aid because the first school didn’t have one so when Lil ‘R would get up the teacher couldn’t stop teaching to redirect him to his seat. The result was he continued to get away with playing instead of learning.
  • What is the student to teacher ratio?
    • And check on the local statutes. I think the first school had more students then they were supposed to based up talking to other Pre-Ks.
  • How many classes are their?
    • For some this may be good to know encase a student may work better with one teacher over another.
  • What is the daily schedule?
    • The school should have their days planned out along with the lesson plans for the coming weeks.
  • Do the lessons account for multiple ways of learning or is it all direct instruction or book work?
    • Everyone learns differently and material is best taught to a class in as diverse of methods as possible from hands on, verbal, visual, etc.
  • Do they have activity centers? And how are the number of children in each managed?
    • Kids need breaks from learning and activity centers are fun places the kids can take breaks at between the lesson material.
  • Do they have a system for managing transitions from one part of the day to the next?
    • In school transitions are the most dangerous time because that is when an entire class can be lost. At the new school we watched them transition from the seats at the tables to the area rug on the floor for circle time. They sent one table at a time in an orderly manner. No children were lost or got distracted in the process. Make sure there is something in place or the little ones will run amok.
  • How are snacks provided?
    • All schools that go through the morning should give a snack either one sent from home or provided by the school. Lil ‘R kept coming home hungry from the first school and that probably didn’t help the situation.
  • How do they handle a student who continues to get up from their seat or at circle time?
    • The first school never had a proper answer for this, they just expected him to do this work. Children must be taught these type of behaviors just like they are taught their letters and numbers. The new school has the aid or teacher sit next to the student to redirect their behavior until they do learn it.
  • Do they have a consequence/encouragement chart?
    • Once again the first school had nothing to visually show the students how they were doing. The second school uses a common system where a bulletin board has red, yellow and green sections and each student has their name on a tab that can move. The goal is to stay in the green. If their name is in the green on Fridays they can choose an item from the Treasure Box.
  • Do they have a system for spontaneous positive reinforcement?
    • Positive reinforcement is the best method with young children. At home we use Pom Poms in a jar. When Lil ‘R is randomly caught behaving well he gets a pom pom. When the jar reaching a line he gets a small prize.
  • What is the procedure for a student who is acting beyond what can be handled in the classroom?
    • The first school had none because they just let the kids get away with anything. The new school in extreme situations (they told me it only happens for hitting or being verbally disruptive like yelling non stop) they will send the child to sit with the director in the office. The director will often let them play a game by themselves or look at book so they will calm down. Then the situation can be talked about.

 The Benefit of Starting Him after the school year starts

The benefit we are having with the new school is we showed up around 9:30am in the middle of the Pre-K class. We were able to watch the class as they went through lessons and transitioned from activity to activity. Lil ‘R even joined in during song time. The teachers were nice, pleasant and genuinely seemed to love their jobs. Watching that class was invaluable though because it helped me formulate questions to ask I wouldn’t have known I should.

I hope this is helpful to anyone else looking for the Pre-K to put their child in. The first school told us a plan but it wasn’t very well flushed out and we came to learn on the first day that the teacher did differently. If possible always speak with one of the teachers. And if you can start looking early!

Now let’s all hope we picked much better for this new school and Lil ‘R does well here.

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  1. Oh, LilR, I am so sorry your first school was such a bad experience! I hope this on is ever so much better.

    1. His first day went pretty well. It wasn't perfect as he still had some of the same issues of getting up but they think he's just adjusting. With reinforcement at home he'll learn the rules quickly. He did all his work which is what was really important without a fuss. Yes definitely much better.

  2. Sorry to hear Lil R had such a tough start to school! Hope he is enjoying his new school and settling in well. Dino Boy starts in February at our local Waldorf school.



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