Last week’s issue featured Back to School tips from Best in Class center directors. This week, ONE editors reached out to rock star teachers – aka our 2014 Knowledge Universe Early Childhood Educator Award winners – to ask for their tips for preparing for the busy Back to School season.
Host a Back to School party
Parents need as much if not more help with a transition from one classroom to another than their children do. In Frederick, Md., prekindergarten teacher Laura Debouchel said the Back to School party is a chance for families to get together, share in the excitement, and prepare for the change a new school year brings. Mary Annithipie-Bane, a pre-k teacher in Belford, N.J., uses Back to School night as an opportunity to introduce parents to her classroom curriculum, highlighting how Early Foundations aligns with state standards and explaining what children will learn throughout the year.
Review the curriculum
Being prepared ahead of time means a teacher can focus on assessing his or her students’ needs and determine how well they’re mastering the lesson, said Joy, a pre-k teacher in Colorado Springs. Laura says preparation is the key for fitting everything into a busy day. “I make sure I’m ready so I can make sure they’re ready.” Julieta Villarey, a school-age teacher in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., knows she has to have multiple activities ready to go at a moment’s notice in case her students breeze through one activity faster than she anticipated. “Planning is part of every activity,” she said.
Help families prepare for the transition to elementary school
Joy sends her students home with practice work and family activities to help both children and parents prepare for elementary school homework. Laura talks with parents about their concerns for their children – whether it’s an inability to sit still or difficulty mastering letters – building a bridge between home and school.
Set a foundation for the year
Laura likes to sit down with her students and decide as a group what their class rules will be. Once there’s a consensus, she writes the rules on a large piece of paper and asks each child to sign it, agreeing to follow the rules they helped set. Julieta also includes her students in her planning process. She said it’s easy to integrate different educational components – like reading and math – into lessons when the children already know what’s coming up.
Know your program but remain flexible
“Teachers who love learning will have students who love to learn,” said Mary. “When challenges come, and they will, seek guidance from your team leaders, be open to suggestions, and remember that a great school year does not mean it is always easy, but that you have brought your best self to your class to create positive outcomes.”