Whether your center subscribes to a Montessori, Reggio, or any other dedicated education philosophy, helping preschoolers transition into a new curriculum can be tough.
With the new normal, it’s become even more crucial for ECE directors and franchise leaders to create a clear plan that ensures their centers keep up with ever evolving preschool standards.
And it’s not just state standards you have to worry about. There’s the NAEYC standards for accredited centers, not to mention the day-to-day need to meet parents’ expectations on the kind of environment and learning activities that support whichever unique learning approach they’ve chosen for their child.
Today, we’re doing our part to help you stay on top of preschool standards, and make sure all the right stakeholders—from your teachers, parents and administrators—are on the same page throughout the school year.
This one may seem obvious, but in this day and age learning standards can change and evolve incredibly fast. You might be surprised to realize that the curriculum you used last term is already in need of a revamp.
So step back and take an objective audit of your current curriculum. The curriculum your preschool uses should cover all areas of child development—social, emotional, cognitive, physical and language.
The curriculum should be well documented so teachers and administrators can implement it as a guide for what a child needs to learn.
Keeping up with—and communicating—curriculum standards shows you’re serious about providing a balanced education for the children in your care.
Before a new school year starts, take a look at your current curriculum and consider the following questions:
It’s easy to get distracted while trying to achieve milestones and forget that not only do kids need to get good at academics, they also need to be guided using a curriculum that’s designed with an understanding that each child has a unique learning style.
Whether we like it or not, the new normal has made technology the backbone of learning. Now more than ever, teachers must be prepared to handle the academic deficit that has resulted from the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as provide support to children and parents who may have experienced trauma as a result of the pandemic—all while learning new, technology-based methods of engaging with young children.
Phew! It’s a lot.
“We have all experienced [the coronavirus] crisis. Social emotional learning and self-care strategies for students, parents and educators are integral in laying a solid foundation for learning. We must nurture each other’s emotional health and wellbeing needs first before we can even begin to think about addressing academic deficits. SEL matters more now than ever,” says Bevin Reinen, founder of Teach. Train. Love. on the need for emphasis on SEL during this critical period.
Having all hands on deck is paramount to effectively implementing the new teaching strategies that will ensure you keep up with NAEYC and other preschool standards. But of course, it’s easier said than done.
The first step is to help teachers and other staff members overcome any aversion to tech so they can begin to embrace it as a tool that helps them connect with young children.
Here are some ways you can step in and get everyone on the same page:
Even during in-person classes, it's hard to get preschoolers to pay attention.
Virtual learning has made it even harder. To ensure your center continues to meet curriculum standards and achieve state milestones despite the current circumstances, you may need to put in extra effort to help teachers put themselves in their students’ shoes.
The reality is, it will be hard for teachers to hold the children's attention during distance learning.
As CREC paraeducator and preschool teacher Chelsea Johnston shared with us, “You have to encourage your teachers to think like a preschooler and teach the rigorous aspects of the curriculum in a fun way.”
This can mean:
Most teachers can’t find time during working hours to plan their next classes, resulting in late nights and early mornings spent doing the planning—when they should be resting and recharging for the next school day.
Unfortunately, not many centers can afford to onboard additional staff to support teachers.
For Chelsea, one of the more practical ways preschool centers can help create planning time for their teachers is to have time for special lessons, like many elementary schools do.
"Where I work, our kids have a gym class, library, music, Spanish and art. So, during those chunks of times a teacher will drop their children off with a specials teacher and a paraeducator who will stay with the kids. The teacher is able to walk away and have 45 minutes of planning time," she explains.
You might not be able to implement this approach immediately, but when physical classes resume, it's definitely something to consider.
The simple act of arranging for a specific teacher to engage the kids in a special bonus or extracurricular lesson so that the head teacher is able to use that as planning time, will help lighten the workload.
Chelsea also points out that offering special classes can be an added selling point for your center.
Parents who want their kids to engage in extra activities will pay more for the specials, and your teachers will get extra built-in planning time. It's a definite win-win for centers that can afford the staffing.
In the meantime, continue to support your teachers and show them that you appreciate their sacrifices.
Though we hope to go back to physical classes next year, many preschool teachers don't see technology going away anytime soon.
Paraeducator Chelsea Johnston believes that the exposure of early learners to the right kind of learning technology can be an advantage for them because they will come out of the pandemic better prepared than previous generations.
“Early learners are so tech-savvy now and I do think that’s a plus for them because that’s where our world is headed. You have to know tech,” she explains.
If your center is yet to adopt a tech driven approach, it's probably down to two main reasons:
In the former case, you need to show teachers how incorporating tech to enhance (not detract from) learning can help make their jobs easier, while also making the learning process more fun and engaging for kids.
In the latter case, the key is to find a tool that suits your budget and also contains all the core features you need to run your business.
If you’re currently switching between several tech tools, it may be time to consider the option of getting on a central platform that lets you integrate all your tools in one place.
For COO of Lightbridge Academy, Gigi Schweikert, it’s crucial for child care providers to adopt dynamic tools that can help them adapt to shifts in parents’ working patterns.
“We need to utilize technology so parents can balance what’s happening with their children and what’s happening with their work and feel good about their accomplishments at the end of the day for both—and MomentPath helps us do that,” says Gigi.
From staying on top of health requirements to communicating the link between daily lesson plans and statewide preschool standards, the right kind of platform can help you and your staff keep it all on track.
Preschool enrollment usually drops off in May and picks up in August. Unfortunately, thanks to Covid, ECE centers may experience a lower enrollment rate in 2021.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, only 52% of infants, toddlers and preschoolers were enrolled in school, according to a survey of about 1,200 licensed child care providers in Colorado.
Another NPR analysis of data from 60 districts across 20 states also found a 16% average kindergarten enrollment drop.
In some cases, child care is simply unavailable. While for others, parents are reluctant to send their children to school due to safety concerns. ECE directors and franchise leaders will have to put in work to convince parents that school is safe for their kids and also remind them of the crucial role preschool plays in child development.
Here are some ways ECE leaders can make the transition back to school seamless for parents.
No parent likes to be kept in the dark when it comes to what’s going on in their child’s life—especially when it involves a young child who is entering a new environment for the first time.
From the moment they step through your door to make inquiries to the first day they drop off their child, you should help them see why your center is the best choice for them.
In the United States, only about 30% of working parents with young children have a caregiver at home. For the remaining 70%, their return to work is likely dependent on the availability of child care programs and schools.
These parents need to be assured that it's ok for them to go back to their jobs because their kids are in completely capable hands.
As an ECE director or franchise leader, you can help by:
Parents should be fully encouraged to participate in school programs. Even when learning is virtual, their input should still be solicited before major decisions are made.
Parents should also be encouraged to keep in touch with teachers and request updates on their kids' performance. When possible, teachers should also highlight areas where each child may need additional support and explain to parents what they can do to help.
For example, teachers can schedule regular meetings with parents using a tool like Calendly or ask parents to take short surveys, designed with a tool like SurveyMonkey, to get their opinion and insight.
Keeping up with preschool standards is a challenge that can't be achieved alone.
Work hand in hand with your administrators, teachers, and parents to ensure everyone is kept in the loop. With the right attitude and approach, you can help make the transition back to school easier on your entire community.