Why Preschool Matters

Making the Right Decision

8. What makes a good teacher?

Find out about the teachers' training and credentials. Ideally, head teachers should have a minimum of an associate's degree and formal training in early-childhood education. "Research shows that teachers with college degrees and specialized early-childhood training have more positive interactions with children, provide richer language experiences, and are less detached," says Dr. Barnett. Also, consider teacher-child ratios. According to NAEYC standards, there should be at least one teacher for every eight to ten 4- and 5-year-olds, and one adult for every six 2- and 3-year-olds. Low child-teacher ratios are very important, since they allow teachers to give ample attention to everyone, notes Dr. McCartney. Talk to the teachers about how they work with the kids. "Look for teachers who recognize the particular needs of different children, and who know how to adapt a curriculum for those who are ahead as well as for those who need additional help," she says.

Visit a class while it's going on. A good teacher talks with children, asking a lot of questions and patiently answering theirs. She makes kids feel welcome and fosters their self-confidence. Talk with the teacher about a typical day, and ways in which she'll keep you informed about your child's progress. If she's responsive to your questions and you're happy with her answers and her classroom style, you've found a good fit.

Visit Checklist

When you meet with the school's director, ask about the following.

  • Does my child need to be toilet-trained? Many preschools require that a child be out of diapers.
  • How are parents involved in the school? A good sign is an active parent association that plans programs like family picnics, holiday parties, and parent socials. You might want to talk to other parents -- the preschool should give you names.
  • How will the teacher let me know about my child's progress? Parents should be kept informed with newsletters, e-mails, and regular parent-teacher conferences.
  • What do you do when two children are fighting? It's crucial that you agree with the school's discipline policy.
  • What's the daily routine? You want your child to have a sense of predictability each day -- circle time, snack, reading.

Copyright © 2007. Reprinted with permission from the February 2007 issue of Parents magazine.

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