What does a good Kindergarten class look like and how can I choose the one that will be the best fit for my child?
The most important thing to consider is the personality of your child and to ultimately find a teacher with a teaching style that you think will compliment them. However, here is a list of a few things to look for in any Kindergarten classroom.
Warm and inviting– This is the space where your child will be spending a great deal of time. Therefore you want the space to feel comfortable and inviting while at the same time organized. You want there to be kid-friendly decorations but at the same time you don’t want every inch of wall space to be covered. That could become distracting and overwhelming. You’re looking for well-defined and organized space. This sets the overall tone and will have a calming influence on the class. If it’s messy and chaotic, the children will pick up on this and possibly act that way.
Classroom library– There should be at least one area of the classroom devoted to reading. Of course there should be lots of books but, while not essential, pillows, rugs and bean bags make it even more inviting.
Kid-friendly pictures and labels– It’s a Kindergarten classroom so there should be lots of labels and pictures to help the children learn how to read and write. A picture schedule, while not a must, is great because it allows students to get an overall idea of how their day will go. As adults we like to have plan for what we’re doing and don’t like to be surprised. It’s the same way with kids!
Space for children’s work– While you want to walk into the classroom the first day and see a well organized and decorated classroom, you also want to see that the teacher has left space for children’s work to be displayed. By hanging work up the teacher is demonstrating that she values your child’s work. A child feels enormously proud when they see their artwork, writing, etc. hanging up.
Clear expectations– You and your child should have no doubt what your child’s teacher expects. It’s important that rules are posted but it’s more important that your child’s teacher is firm but loving and clear on the type of behavior she expects throughout the different areas of the room and activities of the day. Children need boundaries and do better in situations that provide them. A strict teacher is good as long as she can also have fun, is loving and you can tell she enjoys her job. There should be some type of behavior management plan in place. It doesn’t matter if it involves tickets, tally marks, stickers or time-outs as long as it is conistent and easy for child and parent to follow.
A maintained balance– Kindergarten has grown and is growing increasingly more academic than the days of simply making friends, cutting, coloring and pasting. As a result it’s important that your child’s teacher stresses the academic side of Kindergarten. However, there must be a balance of fun with the academics. Remember it’s five and six-year-olds here! This balance is critical to your child’s success. Throughout the day your child should have the opportunity to be involved in hands-on learning opportunities, small-group activities, opportunities for games, movement and art activities.
Smooth transitions– Look to see if your child’s teacher has planned transition time (lining up for lunch, bathroom breaks, etc.). A teacher who plans for transitions will warn students a few minutes before it’s time to change activities and then have routines in place to move to the next activity. Transition time can be tough for little bodies, so it’s important that your child’s teacher looks ahead, is well organized and ready for these seemingly small parts of the day.
Great communication– You want there to be great communication between the teacher and the student and the teacher and the parent. Look for a teacher who is easy to talk to, openly honest and caring. The stronger the lines of communication the better your year of Kindergarten will be!
Now that I know, what can I do?
Each school district and sometimes even school has a different policy on whether or not parents are allowed to come and observe classrooms and/or request teachers. Regardless of the policies it’s a good idea to find some opportunity to check out the school before your child’s first day. Not only will this help her feel more comfortable about Kindergarten and familiar with her surroundings, it will allow you a sneak peek into your child’s school. Almost all school’s host some type of community event throughout the year. A carnival, Book Fair or choir concert would provide you the opportunity to at least see some of the school and see administration, teachers, parents and students in action. Talk to your neighbors, read the school marquee or check out the school’s website for these opportunities.