Attributes of a quality preschool
Teachers in a high quality preschool should have a bachelors degree or at the very least a CDA. I used to believe that anyone could be a preschool teacher. After all, it is just teaching ABC’s and 1,2,3’s! Oh man, I was so wrong. There is so much more to understand and learn about children than I ever could have imagined. First of all, understanding child development is key to a successful preschool program. Developmentally appropriate activities will teach and inspire a preschool child to love learning for a life time.
Educated teachers also understand the how’s and whys of teaching. Most of us know that children learn through music, rhymes and stories. However, children also learn through structured activities designed with a specific goal in mind. Educated teachers understand and know exactly how to implement various curriculum. Creating and invitation to learn is a great way to help preschoolers learn without knowing that they are learning. Invitations to learn can include sensory table activities, blocks or large foam tangrams sitting in the middle of the floor. Dramatic play, art, movement and playing in the sandbox are all opportunities to learn.
Experienced educated teachers are also very important to the well being of a classroom. Learning classroom management takes time and a lot of practice. Watching and observing other teachers manage a class of several children is so important to building your own tool belt of skills. What works for one teacher may very likely work for you if done right. Educated teachers in the early childhood program spend 3 semesters observing and practicing teaching skills in order to be prepared and comfortable managing their own class.
I know there are probably a lot of great teachers who are naturally good at teaching without a degree. These amazing teachers make up for education through experience and natural talent ( I greatly admire these teachers ). For me though, I wanted the education to supplement my natural ability and passion for teaching. I want to be the best teacher I can be and I can achieve that through education.
Low Class Sizes
The second attribute to a high quality preschool is low class sizes. It is recommended that there should be no more than 2o children and only 10 children per teacher in a preschool setting. Preschools usually enroll 12 students per class and have at least two teachers per class. Low class size ensures that teachers have adequate time and energy to spend one on one time with each student. Building relationships with each student makes a huge difference in how that preschooler decides to behave. Healthy loving relationships between student and teacher encourages positive behavior. Preschoolers that feel loved and accepted want to please their teachers. In every class there are a few who like to see what they can get away with. Quality relationships and positive, consistent limits help keep negative behavior issues at a minimum.
Emphasis on Playful Learning
The third attribute to a high quality preschool is an emphasis on playful learning. Early childhood education teachers also understand how vital play is to development and learning. Play that includes free choice time long enough for preschoolers to get involved and engaged in an activity. At the preschool where I did my practicum, free choice activities lasted 45 minutes. It was the perfect amount of for children to really get involved and have fun. At first I was surprised at so much free time, however there was little to no behavior issues. When it was time to settle down to do circle time they were ready to sit and listen to the stories, activities and sing.
Playful Learning in the Classroom
If I ever have the opportunity to run my own private preschool I will implement a 45 minute free choice time because of how well it works. During free choice time the preschoolers can choose from several toys like blocks or they can choose a center that is set up with structured play activities. Centers include dramatic play, writing, sandbox, sensory table and the easel. Each center has a specific theme oriented activity designed to help children learn when they think they are just playing. When weather was the theme the dramatic play center was set up like a weather channel complete with a felt weather map, camera and microphone. The children loved pretending to be the weather man.
At the easel was a wind painting activity. Dipping their straws in paint and blowing it on the paper was just as much fun as letting the paint drip down the page and mixing colors.
A science experiment with a jar of water, shaving cream and a dropper of water dyed blue, showed how to make it rain from the clouds. Again, the children didn’t know it was science and they didn’t care why. It was just fun to play with the activities provided.
Emphasis on the Arts
The fourth attribute of a high quality preschool is an emphasis on the arts. Drawing, painting, singing, moving and using all their senses to explore the world is so important to be a well rounded child. The arts have a way of engaging all five senses and helping children process the world around them. Arts, crafts and music should be a big component to a good preschool and they are so much fun! I am a huge advocate for the arts because I am an art teacher and I see how creating can brighten a child’s world. I haven’t met a child yet who doesn’t love to create their own works of art or move to the music. Their little faces light up a million times more when they can sing and move to a song or dive into an art project.
They squeal in delight and clap their hands when presented with creative art projects. The muffin tin prints is a project I found on Bar Rucci’s website. I absolutely recommend her book, it is full of beautiful art projects that anyone can do with their young children. It is very inspirational and full of great ideas for exploring the world of art.
Facilitating Social, Emotional and Physical Development
Finally a high quality preschool facilitates social, emotional and physical development.
Social development doesn’t always happen automatically or easily. A high quality preschool will recognize and assess preschoolers who need extra guidance socially. There are types of play, parallel, solitary, cooperative and associative. Quite simply, depending on personality children will engage in one or more of these types of play. Because some children are naturally shy and hesitant to join in groups, teachers can help encourage preschoolers to join in various play situations. Children who easily make friends but tend to be mean or bossy should be easily directed by teacher who recognizes the situation.
Emotional development is facilitated by teachers and an environment that feels safe and welcoming. Young children sometimes face certain anxiety when being separated from a parent or guardian. A new environment with several people that they do not know can be scary to children. Helping preschoolers feel safe involves kind and caring teachers who ask them questions and guide them to activities that may help them forget their fears.
Routine is a huge comfort for a young child especially in a new environment. Some children want to know exactly what is going to happen at school that day and others are happy being able to predict their schedule. Change that schedule at all and you’ve got major issues.
Physical development is facilitated when teachers provide opportunities for large motor skills as well as fine motor skills. Playing in the sand box, riding trikes, hula hooping, walking on stilts and running are all examples of using large motor skills. Manipulatives like blocks, magnets, marbles, threading beads on an art project are fun ways to develop fine motor skills.
There may be many more attributes to a quality preschool than mentioned here. These five are what stood out to me while doing my preschool practicum. I would love to hear what you would add to this list or ideas you may have.
Until next time… Have a good day!