Over the next 6 weeks I’ll be podcasting with each of my 6 lead teachers so that you all have an opportunity to get to know them better. Yesterday Pastor Trevor and I chatted with one of our Pre-K teachers, Mrs. Mary. Have a listen!
Each of our classrooms employs a visual schedule and the benefits of doing so are endless. Here are some of the top reasons we use visual schedules:
- Visual schedules help children transition more smoothly. When a child can see a picture of what activity they are doing, as well as which activities follow it, they are able to prepare for the upcoming transition much easier than if only verbal cues are offered.
- Visual schedules make the teacher’s expectations clear. Unlike verbal communication, pictures resonate much stronger with children. They are able to truly SEE what is expected in the classroom.
- Visual schedules allow children to understand the plan. When the teachers look at the visual schedule with their students, confirming what order the days activities will flow, it takes away the anxiety of the “not knowing.” Our teachers look at the pictures with the students and use language such as “Right now we are having our Snack, and look at what’s next. That’s right, next we will have our Art time…”
- Visual schedules help give the children confidence. When children’s anxiety is reduced by knowing the plan, their confidence and enjoyment of the day increases. And when it’s appropriate for the teacher to give the children options about the order, it gives them a sense of empowerment. While the teacher is still choosing the activities, the children might get to choose the order.
I encourage you to use visual schedules at home as well. You can create a morning schedule (Wake Up, Get Dressed, Eat Breakfast, Brush Teeth, Get Backpack…), or even one for the bathroom or winding down at the end of the day.
This is just one of the many things we do here at Good News that allows our children to develop their confidence and sense of responsibility.
One of our favorite times of the week is Chapel Time. We love coming together as a whole school to learn Bible stories and sing praises to God. Chapel starts with a brief 3 to 5 minute video that shares our weekly Bible story. Then Mrs. Suzi leads us all in worship with some fun songs. We wrap up by practicing our monthly Bible verse with signs, led by Mrs. Roxanne, and a prayer.
It is a brief but wonderful time that we all look forward to twice a week. Typically Chapel will be held on Mondays and Tuesdays so that all of our children who attend on various days of the week are able to participate.
Here at Good News, we believe very strongly in play-based learning. While some might view play as relief from serious learning, we know that play IS serious learning. It is the work of children. Play comes naturally to children for a reason. It is through play that children interpret and process the world. They create concrete experiences that allow them to later understand abstract ones.
In the past few decades, education has made a shift toward removing play from schools. You rarely still see a home center or dress up center in Kindergarten classes. There is movement towards earlier testing and more time is spent sitting at a desk than ever before. What is this doing for the children later in their lives, to be skipping such an important step in their development? We expect them to be more academically advanced because of this. However, what we are discovering is that children are no more academically advanced. They are simply more stressed and lacking in emotional/social development, making them more prone to anxiety and depression.
Peter Gray, in his article “The Decline of Play and Rise in Children’s Mental Disorders” in Psychology Today, says: “By depriving children of opportunities to play on their own, away from direct adult supervision and control, we are depriving them of opportunities to learn how to take control of their own lives. We may think we are protecting them, but in fact we are diminishing their joy, diminishing their sense of self-control, preventing them from discovering and exploring the endeavors they would most love, and increasing the odds that they will suffer from anxiety, depression, and other disorders.”
Every day at Good News we witness children taking ownership of their learning experiences as they play. They work through conflict, solve problems, negotiate, and create all through play. Play is the earliest form of storytelling and is a precursor to literacy because it is where they first express symbolic thought.
Take a peek in our classrooms and you’ll see us getting messy, laughing, running, playing instruments, negotiating in the kitchen center, engineering a town out of blocks, painting with unusual materials, pretending to be firemen, and saving the world as superheroes. And we are enjoying every hardworking minute of it!
We had a wonderful group of moms and grandmas that gathered this morning to cut materials for the teachers. Today we spent time just getting to know each other and talking about parenting in general. Beginning with our next group (on September 13th) we will add a 10-15 minute audio or video component where we go through a book or series together that focuses on various parenting issues.
Forming bonds with other moms who are going through the same stage of life as you can be so nourishing. Sometimes just hearing that another mom is enduring the same temper tantrums or strange behaviors that you’re seeing from your child can put your mind at ease. We are excited for this group to be an opportunity for all of our GNP parents to bond and form life-long friendships. You are all always welcome to any of our fun Fridays, which will be twice a month, and you are welcome to stay for as little or as long as you like!
I don’t think there’s another day in the school year that brings up such a polarity of emotions as the FIRST day of school. On the one hand, parents are ecstatic to drop their children off and finally have a few moments of delicious freedom! On the other hand, it can be the most gut-wrenching thing you will experience. It is a herculean task to actually trust another human to care for your most valuable treasure in the world. How on earth can these teachers give my baby the attention and care that they deserve?!!
Well, the truth is that we certainly cannot replace you as the center of your child’s existence. But the good news is that we can provide your child with something that you cannot do alone. You are many things to your child, but you cannot be a classroom full of children. And I applaud all of you parents for giving your children the incredible gift of school.
School is hard, school is fun, school is full of endless opportunities for growth. While drop-off can be ever-so-hard, it is totally worth it. Your children are going to learn to trust you more than ever (“Mommy said she’d come back, and she DID!!”), they are going to gain self-confidence, they will build friendships, they’ll work on conflict-resolution skills…the list of all of the things they will learn is endless.
The rough part of diving into all of these experiences is that the beginning can feel quite bumpy. Parents often ask me “Is this normal?!!” with regards to their child’s meltdowns, anxiety, changes in behavior, etc. And the answer is a resounding YES. It is all so very normal.
For about 90% of our students, we are their first taste of school. We take that honor very seriously at Good News and we feel it is our mission to create the most positive school experience possible to set the stage for a lifetime love of learning. However, keep in mind that if your child has never been away from you except to stay with grandma for a few hours, school can be as shocking as being dunked in a vat of ice water! Suddenly mom, dad, or both has left and they are in an unfamiliar room full of strangers both big and small. How they react depends on what coping mechanisms they use. They may withdraw or they may throw a hysterical temper tantrum. All of this is completely normal and provides them a wonderful opportunity to learn how to cope in new situations. These are big lessons, and when you pick your child up you can shower on the praise of how very brave they are to tackle this huge experience called school!
A huge shout out to the wonderful preschool families and staff that came out to help spruce up the playground today! We loved seeing the children dive right into the work next to the adults, all working toward a common cause. We were a small but mighty group, and we were able to get some new mulch on the playground and the equipment cleaned up a bit.
You’ll notice a new addition to our playground, and that is a set of posted rules. We want to encourage our families to enjoy the Good News playground before or after school, as it is a wonderful chance to build community with each other. However, we want to make sure that the children follow the same rules of the playground no matter who is supervising them, be it parent or teacher. Our goal is to minimize frustration for the children in creating consistent expectations.
We look forward to a whole lot of play this year, and we know that a significant amount of learning will happen out on our beloved playground!