Have you ever wondered what your child's preschool teacher isn't telling you? It's not that she's keeping big secrets, but there may be certain issues that she doesn't feel comfortable sharing because of school policies or because she's afraid of offending you. We spoke with several preschool teachers about what they wish they could say to parents, and here's what they told us.
"Unless you live in an area with highly competitive preschool programs, like New York City or Los Angeles, you should have adequate time to make a decision." says Hilary Levey Friedman, Ph.D., author of Playing to Win: Raising Children in a Competitive Culture. "It's not likely that a preschool director will tell you to take your time because the sooner all of the slots are filled, the sooner recruitment ends. Often, because these are usually fee-based programs, teachers and preschool directors have to be encouraging to keep their numbers up and to keep their jobs. Keep in mind that not all programs are right for your child or your family. Don't be afraid to take some time and to speak up and ask questions." Once a parent commits, expect nonrefundable payments and financial penalties for withdrawal.
Children can begin cleaning up after themselves at a very early age, which develops good organizational habits and encourages independence. Every preschool teacher hopes that you teach your child this important skill.
"Cleaning up is a skill and a habit, and skills and habits need to be taught," says Jarrod Green, a preschool teacher and child development consultant in Philadelphia. "Think of the individual lessons involved in cleaning up, and consider if your child knows them. For example, does your child know where his toys belong? Does he know why it's important to clean up? Does he know how to carry big toys? Does he know how to put small toys in containers? Does he know how to sort toys properly?" if the answer to any of these questions is no, think of fun ways the skill can be taught. If sorting toys is a challenge for your child, make a special point to develop it by asking, 'Hey, can you help me figure this out?' Or say, 'I can't remember where the dinosaurs go and where the cars go. Help me!' Once your child understands how to clean up after himself, make it a part of his daily routine. His preschool teacher will thank you!
Stash your cell phone when dropping off and picking up your child. It's important to give your little one your full attention during this time of transition. If you're in the middle of a phone conversation, you lose the opportunity to greet your child or to say goodbye. Plus, the teacher may want to have a brief word with you, and if you're chatting on the phone, you'll likely miss hearing valuable information about your child. In fact, many schools have a no cell phone policy.
Time is of the essence when a preschool teacher is following a schedule. With only one or two teachers in the room, tying shoelaces and dealing with fasteners throughout the day can be time consuming. That's why many teachers prefer that you have your child wear elastic-waist pants or clothing that is easy to maneuver, such as Velcro sneakers (instead of lace-ups) or a pullover sweatshirt (instead of a zippered coat). Save clothes with cumbersome buttons, snaps, and zippers for home or for weekend activities to practice fine motor and manipulative skills outside the school.
Teachers hear plenty of potty words spoken by preschoolers. "Parents are typically horrified when they discover that their child has cursed at preschool. Swearing often gets reinforced early on by amusement (or stifled amusement) from parents. Once a behavior gets set, it often takes only a tiny, occasional reinforcement to keep it going strong," Green says. Explain to your child why swear words are inappropriate and that it is bad manners to swear. "Good manners are taught through modeling and positive reinforcement for correct behavior," Green says. Remember, your child's language is a reflection on you, so if your child does curse, restrain the giggles, explain why the word is unacceptable, and most important, watch your mouth!
It's important to make a quick exit after dropping off your child at class. If your child gets upset when you leave, lingering will likely make him more upset, and a crying child is distraction to the rest of the class, says Marnie Trapp, director of Lady Bird Academy, a preschool with locations in Florida. It's normal for children of all ages to become distressed when left on their own in an unfamiliar environment. How parents deal with their child's reaction can influence how the child will deal with new situations now and in the future.
"The proper way to leave your child at school is to arrive five minutes prior to expected arrival time," says Grace Geller, a preschool director in Weston, Florida, with 25 years of experience. "This will give you time to help your child put away his personal items and settle in. Once your child is settled, it is time to say goodbye. Never leave without saying goodbye, even if you know he will cry when you do. To leave without saying goodbye will cause insecurity. If he begins to cling and cry, remind him that you love him and you will be back at a specific time." In a week or two, once your child trusts the teacher and believes that you will return at the end of the day, the crying will subside and eventually stop.
Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.