Walking to Independance

The other day I read (and commented on) a post over at Burgh Baby. This mom of a "new" preschooler attends a school that has put into the welcome letter a rule stating that children in the preschool classroom must walk in to the center.

Now, this was my response:
Okay, I don't want to offend. I love your blog. But I am a preschool teacher. I do encourage parents to let their children walk in on their own (key word their is encourage; if you choose to carry your child, I will not stop you, but I will explain why).

Many children who get carried in (not all, many) have a difficult time separating from the parents. There's tears, crying, and clinging. Letting a child walk in makes a HUGE difference. It's like they are making the choice to walk into the classroom rather than being forced (and we all know how much a 3 year old loves to be forced to do something they don't want to do). But, even though they don't have the choice to walk in, it's almost like they do in their mind and drop off goes way smoother.

On that note, you need to decide what is best for your child and situation. I don't think I would put it in my welcome to the classroom letter. I actually wouldn't address the issue unless the child was having difficult separation.

All this to say that I understand where she's coming from; but I think she approached it wrong.

If Alexis isn't having trouble separating, then keep things as they are. If she is, simply putting her down as soon as you get inside the door sometimes is enough of that independence (it'll keep her carpets clean); and if this is how she transitions into her day (the whispers and such) keep it!

(I would like to add that she did respond to me and told me she wasn't offended)

I am now going to address preschool teachers and directors(that is what this blog's number one purpose is). If you are a parent, you are welcome to read on; but know that this is directed to those teachers and directors:

I have mentioned before that we need to respect ourselves and our profession. We must think of ourselves (as we are) as educated, knowledgeable, child development professionals. We must conduct ourselves in a way in which parents want to come to us for the advice and knowledge that we hold.

No, we don't know their child better than they do; yes, we know child development better than they do.

We also need to grow a spine and stop doing things in a "pansy way out" kind of way. I think welcome letters are fabulous; when they are used correctly. Welcome letters tell parents where to find things in the classroom. They tell a parent the types of behaviors they can expect to see at this age. They should also tell a parent a little about the people who will be spending the days with their children and what type of schedule the classroom runs.

In my welcome letters, I also include my philosophy and how it fits into the center's philosophy and the expected routine. For example, in one preschool classroom the children, upon arrival, are expected to sign themselves in, put their things in their cubbies, and answer the question of the day with their parent or drop-off person. This is in the welcome letter because that is the classroom routine.

I also do not just give this letter to the parents and expect them to read it. Before they enter the classroom, I make sure to make contact with them in some way. If it's a parent new to the center, when they come in for finishing the paperwork I make sure I have some time with them (even 5 minutes is good). If it's a parent whose child is moving up to my room, I find out what time they pick their child up and get them when they come in at the end of the day.

At this time, I show them around the room (where we store lunch boxes if it's a program that does that), where the cubbies are (and if I know which cubby will be their child's specifically that one), where we keep jackets, daily notes, etc... I talk about our daily routine and curriculum and ask them about their child (likes, dislikes, interests, etc...).

When it's a child moving up to my room, I have spent time with that child in her classroom. Many times the conversation starts with me saying, "I have spent some time in Alexis' classroom with her and notice she really likes to play in the dramatic play area and dress up. We've had her visit here today and she seemed to enjoy the books we had out over in our library. What other things does she like to do at home?"

IF you prefer a child to be walked into the center rather than be carried, you need to address it in person. This is actually only something I address when I notice a child having trouble separating from the parent and saying good bye at drop off. If the remainder of the day that child is confident, independent, and comfortable in the classroom, then you don't need to make a big deal out of it.

Give those parents their routine. Let them baby their children, that's their job. Our job is to help them when there is a problem.

And NEVER NEVER NEVER make a parent feel bad about the way they are handling their child. Just show them a different way.

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