How do you judge individual schools? The answer has less to do with a school’s philosophy than with what’s actually going on in the classroom. Here are some specific points that parents should consider at any type of preschool. I am going to share how we answer these question below each paragraph.
1.Turnover in early-childhood programs is notoriously high, and it can take a toll: Research shows that kids who’ve had several preschool teachers have a harder time adjusting to school than children with a single teacher. Ask for and compare turnover numbers at schools you’re considering. Mid-year teacher replacements should be the exception, not the rule.
The Hertz Difference: We are proud to say that the majority of our staff has been together for 12 or more years! Our unique longevity allows us to continue to develop curriculum and work as a team to complement our community approach.
2. Just how many kids each teacher can handle depends on the program. The National Association for the Education of Young Children issues guidelines for teacher/student ratios: 1:6 for 2-year-olds (with a maximum class size of 12 children), 1:10 for 3- to 5-year-olds (with a maximum of 20).
The Hertz Difference: Our ratio for 3-5 year olds is 1:6. Our class maximum is 18 children.
3. Ask to see how your child’s day will be structured. Though all children need some structure, a good preschool program will include enough time each day for exploration, free play, and peer interaction, says Jack Shonkoff, M.D., head of the National Academy of Sciences committee on integrating the science of early-childhood development.
The Hertz Difference: We recognize this all too well. Our open time room play is a minimum of 40 minutes to allow the children time to create play situations and explore all aspects the space has to offer them.
4. Beware the “time out” corner. While time-outs can serve a purpose in the most extreme situations, they can too easily become a crutch for teachers. “Children need to learn how to work out their problems, not be isolated from them,” says Diane Trister Dodge, coauthor of Preschool for Parents and a Washington, DC-based preschool curriculum designer.
The Hertz Difference: The best teachers know how to deflect problems before they become conflicts. When they see a child losing self-control in the block corner, they might urge him to switch to another activity before the situation gets out of hand. Conflict resolution and working with the child is far more productive than a time out. Children do need to verbalize their feelings and concerns that may have caused an outburst. Giving them the skills to talk about it or spending quality time with their teacher helps to create a calmer environment for all.
5.You know what works for your child better than any preschool can. If your son responds to structure, he’ll probably thrive in a school that lays the day out for him, complete with rules and assigned activities. If your daughter is happier playing on her own, working her way through her toy chest without constant need for guidance, she may be better suited for something less formal. “There are no quantifiable answers,” Dr. Shonkoff says. “We’re guided by the science, but this is still an art. Watch your child: Is he relaxed and happy? Never underestimate the importance of your own instincts.”
The Hertz Difference: This point is very important. Children are all ‘wired’ differently. We see it as our role to learn to ‘read’ your child’s signals and work with them as individuals to create a positive school experience. We cannot expect every child to follow the same path every second of the day.
We invite you to come and see us, ask questions and explore our school environment.
Copyright © 2002. Excerpted from the March 2002 issue of Child magazine.