Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Reflections on the first month of school - Meet & Greet and phasing in

I had hoped to write this post at the official end of September, but life got in the way.

We have had four weeks of school. The children come back in stages, starting after Labor Day. The first Tuesday is a sort of "Meet & Greet," where the new children come in for a half hour with a parent. They get to find their cubby, bring in their supplies, and start to explore the classroom with my assistant. I answer the parent's questions, and ask a few of my own. My three big questions? 1-Is your child potty-trained? 2-Does your child go to After School Care or Parent Pick-Up? 3- Does your child have any food allergies? The rest I can usually figure out for myself.

Parents are often so overwhelmed with their child starting at a new school, that they often are stumped for questions. I talk about the general flow of the school day and some of the materials in the classroom. I start to talk about a lot of Montessori philosophy, that explains why we do the things that we do. I know that a lot of it is foreign to the generalized idea of what preschool is all about. I observe how the child is interacting with the environment upon his first experience in it. I also pay close attention to how the child interacts with his parents. A lot of information can be gleaned in this initial half hour, even if I am talking to the parent.

On Wednesday, just the K's come in. This year I have six. Two girls and four boys. One is already 6. Three more will be 6 very shortly. The other two turned 5 over the summer. This is a bigger range in age and ability than I have had in a while in my K's, but that is okay. This year, they got to pick out their journal notebook and folder and go to the school library to choose books for our classroom shelves.

Our Wednesdays are always half days in the classroom. Everyone goes home at lunchtime. Those who stay at school either go to After School Care, or to an enrichment class, which is for an extra fee. We have offered classes such as yoga, karate, Drama Kids, violin, sports camp, and more. These start up in mid-September, and about a third of the children participate.

Thursday is the day the the Extended Day 4's join the class. It is also our first full day of school. I have 14 Extended Day children this year, so 8 4's. They also had the opportunity to pick out their journals and folders.

Friday is the day that the half-day 4's join us. Many of them were in the classroom the previous year, so they already have a good idea what is going on. You always have a few new ones, as well. These 4's are the ones who still nap in the afternoon or who are brand new to Montessori. They have the option of moving up to full day later in the year. I only have one who is a half day 4 year-old, and he still hasn't yet turned 4.

Monday is when "returning" 3's join the class. These are the children who attended our toddler program. That means they are at least familiar with the classroom environment and have seen our faces while walking through the hallway.

Tuesday is the first day that all of the children are present for an entire day. This is also the big day of the crying. You may get a few tears on that Monday, but most of them are already used to leaving their parents. That Tuesday is always a hard one. But, the children get over it and engage in the classroom activities. Over time, the crying ceases completely. It just takes some time. I will post more on that later.

Within the following week, almost all of our specials have started for the school year. By October 1st, they are all in place. Everyone knows where everyone is going. Routines are established. The magic is well under way.

Other schools handle their first few days differently. I know my previous two schools did it differently. One had children come for a shortened day in small groups for two days. I believe there were four groups in all. For the next two days, the class was split in half, again for shorter days. And then they all came for their normal schedules. Another school had all of the children start their regular schedule on the very first day of school.

What does your school do? What have you seen work and not work?

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