It’s Almost GO Time!
Written by: Kristin Parisi
The start of a new school year is one of the best times! Classrooms sparkle with freshly cleaned carpets, table tops shine, and a new class list is posted outside the room. Teachers throughout our schools anticipate the return of their new students as they begin to think of all they’ll be able to do in the upcoming year. It is truly a magical time of year! It can also be a stressful time as our schedules start to fill up with everything that comes with back-to-school events. As early childhood educators, what can we do to help our schools, students, and families as we transition from summer to school?
“Teachers throughout our schools anticipate the return of their new students as they begin to think of all they’ll be able to do in the upcoming year.”
For young children, back to school can be a time of uncertainty. I am not completely sure they know what’s coming, but for a preschooler who may not have been outside of their parents’ care before, their world is about to be turned upside down! The educators I work with right now are having conversations about how we can make this transition easier for our students. We are brainstorming different ways to do Back to School Night and the first few days of school in hopes of making it a more positive experience for all of our students. It seems that over the past few years, maybe since we’ve returned to school from Covid, we are noticing a lot more anxiety among our students during the first week of school. As we are planning Back to School Night, we have decided to add some additional time to our typical 2-hour event and bring families in within 2 different waves. We’ll start with our youngest preschool families, allowing them a 3-hour window to come to school to meet the staff. After they finish, we’re inviting our pre-k families to come in for a 2-hour open house. Our hope is that by spreading out the event, we will be able to spend more time with individual families, and more importantly, students will not feel so overwhelmed. I’m grateful the staff at my school are willing to give up a little bit more of their own time during this day to make this work for students.
Within the first week of school, all of our teachers make a list of their students and start calling home to leave a quick message for all families about how their child is doing in the classroom. While I always encourage a phone call, I am aware that some of my teachers may have more than 35 students due to having two half-day classes, and that can be a lot of families to call. Therefore, we have decided a message through Parent Square is also okay. However, we track which families we call and which we send a message to so that the next time we do this mass communication, we flip-flop phone calls and messages. We start each staff meeting with a 5-minute time for teachers to reach out to families throughout the school year as well. Talk about an amazing relationship builder for our staff and families! It’s truly amazing.
One other BIG project we are working on to prepare for the start of the school year is a deep dive into our new Early Learning Standards. Currently, we are working to align them to the curriculum pieces we use. I have a team of teachers coming into school this summer and we are going to identify each standard within the lessons in our curriculum. Our plan is to map out when each standard will be taught throughout our main curriculum, look to see what holes or gaps there may be, and then plan how we will fill those gaps. We are also aligning the standards with the SKBs that are assessed within ISPROUT. This is exciting work for early childhood teams! If you haven’t read through the new standards, you can find them here https://www.in.gov/doe/students/indiana-academic-standards/early-learning/.
Clark-Pleasant Early Learning Center is an inclusive developmental and community-based preschool and pre-k program. Therefore, there are many moving parts to any one day. The only way it all works is with a solid master schedule created with student achievement in mind. This is crucial to our resource team’s ability to service their students during instructional time throughout the day. As we create the master schedule, we carefully map out when each teacher will be doing centers, free-choice activities, gross motor time, and snack time. From there, the resource team and related service providers can build their schedules to make sure they meet the needs and provisions of each student’s IEP. Throughout the year, we decide on what is “loose” or “tight,” and we all know that sticking to the master schedule is something that is “tight.” We can’t waiver from this schedule because the ripple effect is huge and can really make a negative impact on our students.
Something new I want to do this year is to also provide a few minutes of each staff meeting as a time to reflect and journal with my staff. Each staff member is going to receive a little journal at the beginning of the year. I have washi tape, markers, pens, and all the cute stuff to be used to decorate their journals. I believe a way to stay refreshed and positive is to journal moments of greatness, journal what we are struggling with, and journal what we are hoping for. The trouble I have with journaling is making the time to do it. Therefore, I’m going to build it into our staff meetings for everyone to do together. I can’t wait to see how this simple moment of intentional journaling may change us all!
“Don’t forget that even though we are thrown into the deep end of the pool with our schedules, calendars, lists of things to do, etc., you have to take a few minutes for yourself each day.”
I hope you all have an amazing start to the school year! Don’t forget that even though we are thrown into the deep end of the pool with our schedules, calendars, lists of things to do, etc., you have to take a few minutes for yourself each day. Send me a quick message and let me know how the year starts for you! I’d love to hear from you this year!