Here's to you my fellow teachers for surviving the first week of school! Congrats! You made it!
And if you experienced staggered entry this week, get ready for the real fun that's about to happen as of tomorrow morning (this is definitely me)! Everyone's all together now...!
I have to admit, staggered this year was very different than previous. However, I also changed my tune in regards to some rules and expressed the necessity of them all in great detail at our parent orientation we had over a week ago. So, that might have contributed.. Who am I kidding? Of course it did! Here's why:
Typically, I have allowed parents the opportunity to draw on the "goodbye" ritual if the student was having a difficult time. Although I would stress the importance of a quick goodbye and go scenario, I very rarely had any takers as "they know their child best" and I apparently had no idea what I was talking about. Well, due to that, in one of our classes we had a total of eight-three year olds crying for their parents and all of those parents lingering in the classroom till they stopped. Needless to say, it was extremely crowded, extremely loud, and just overall a chaotic scene that no human being wants to be a part of however refusing to fix it at the same time.
Well, this year I promised myself that I may lose my hearing over such a large volume of crying but I was not going to be disrespected nor my classroom again. This year I stressed immensely the importance of "short, sweet, and simple" goodbye.
Short: "It's time for you to go to preschool and time for me to say goodbye to you"
Sweet: "I love you very much"
Simple: "I will come back to get you when it's time to go home again. Now, go inside and I will see you when you're done!"
The importance of this goodbye-time is simply showing the child that the parent is going to hold their ground in making sure they stay, even if everything is scary at first. Providing reassurance to them in stating how much you love them, tells them that even though that child and parent are going to be separated, it doesn't mean the love is gone too. By ending the goodbye through a simple matter-of-fact of the new experience eventually ending with a reunification does tell the child that they won't be there for long.
I also stressed of making sure that parents stayed out of the classroom and keeping the goodbye at the doorway as we want to keep the classroom a positive environment where no traumatic goodbyes are taking place. Students are calm, engaged in activities and conversation, and simply enjoying the moment.
Don't get me wrong, I know it's easier said than done sometimes. I may not be a parent but after working with children for 10 years now, I've observed enough to know what works, and what doesn't. My job isn't to parent the child, it's to teach. And if a child is entering my classroom, then my ultimate goal is teaching them how to be independent as we all need to eventually. In order for that life lesson to begin, you have to follow the instructions and gain the ability to succeed.
So, did it work? You bet. In fact, I had parents saying the exact same thing I just reference up above. Did any kids cry? Of course, but very few and it only lasted less than five minutes.
Aside from the transitioning portion, I also told parents not to feel guilty on the first day. It's surprising how many parents start doubting themselves if they made the right decision. That usually happen if the child gets upset about coming to preschool or doesn't interact with anyone. I reassured our new parents this year that they placed them into preschool for a reason and that reason was for them to watch their preschooler grow in an academic (but playful!) environment.
After I mentioned that, you saw a lot of mothers' nodding their head in agreement and the fathers' holding their hand.
So, did any parents show doubt? A couple. But I told them if the transition is still a struggle after a month, let's talk because it's too early to make conclusions now.
I lowered unrealistic expectations. I already admitted that I can't get a three year old to read by June. I already admitted that I can't get a four year old doing simple addition and subtraction. And I admitted that I don't believe in stressing the early years out on the academics. I did promise however that their child will grow over the next 10months and it'll be more than just physically. And while that growth occurs, their preschooler will be having fun.
As long as we're having fun while learning, I think that's all that really matters. Not how it was taught!
I felt these were valid, fair points to share with parents and remind them the point of preschool and I feel it was received the way it should have been. It truly showed as I can't remember when was the last time I had a great staggered entry week and could honestly say "Parents weren't an issue."
Good on them! It's a tough job and I commend them for keeping it together.
Now, let's see how this week goes. Staggered entry is now over and all students (18 per class) meet and greet as a whole.
..Deep breath..deep breath..deep breath..