The teacher plays a huge role in your preschool selection. You as the parent and also the child need to feel comfortable with the teacher. You need to be able to form a relationship with them and feel comfortable leaving them to teach and care for your child while you are away from them.
When looking for characteristics of a quality program you want to look for teachers that are interacting in the classroom. The preschool class is a learning environment. The teacher is there to do more then just “watch” the children. They need to be down on the floor interacting and facilitating learning. Even during free play teachers should be interacting with the children. If you observe the teacher interacting with the other teachers more then the children you should recognize this as a problem. Teachers should be putting into practice the skills they learned in school. They need to be questioning children, challenging them to use critical thinking skills, rephrasing or elaborating on what the child has said. The interactions should be quality teaching moments not just directing or interacting when behaviors warrant it. As a parent there are signs you can watch for. Does the teacher have a good rapport with the parents and other teachers? When my daughter’s Prek teacher told us at the end of the year that she would not be returning I had to fight back tears. She had been such a huge part of our life. Is there a strong rapport with the children? When watching the teacher in the classroom or interacting with the child you should see them getting down on the child’s level so they can make eye contact while talking and listening. Using appropriate touch, as a preschool teacher there is nothing better then those sweet preschool hugs!! They should use positive guidance in their classroom management. One of the most important characteristics is to show passion for what they are doing. Ideally low child to teacher ratios. I would also look at the teacher’s education. I would want to make sure the teacher is “highly qualified”.
When meeting with the director of the program or the teacher having questions ready is a great idea to help the process go smoothly and make sure all your questions are answered. It is good to use some of the below terms in your discussions. If the teacher is unfamiliar with them this might be a red flag.
- What is your teaching philosophy? What are your philosophies on play vs. academics?
- What type of communication can I expect from the program? In Epstein’s theory of parental involvement she lays out some suggestions for what a communication system should look like. In addition to an open door policy it is beneficial to see communication systems such as newsletters, educational material, home/school learning, training for parents, etc.
- How are behavior issues handled? This is where I would hope to hear terms such as “positive guidance”.
- What do you do for children who might have a suspected delay or disability? What services are available?
- How does your program encourage developmentally appropriate practices?
- What are the parent volunteer requirements? How can I help as a parent? You want a program that encourages lots of parent involvement. Your child’s education should be a partnership.
This is my dream list! It is important that as a parent you read through this list and choose what components you feel are important to you. This is my list, it might look very different from what you would be looking for. Remember it is important that you love your preschool and feel comfortable there. Being appreciated as a parent and feeling like you are a partner is a huge piece. Remember if you feel uncomfortable with the center you child will pick up on this. Picking a preschool can be a tough choice. However, once you find the right fit it is a wonderful experience!