Rupali started her teaching career as an assistant preschool teacher and has been one for the last few years. This academic session Rupali is in-charge of the classroom as the head teacher. Since last year, she has been helping Mrs. Neeta in conducting her preschool class. This year it is her turn and she is worried how she would handle her class of twenty, 2 year olds, about to experience a classroom setup for the first time.
The thought of the first day of preschool (Nearby Preschools) and the first separation can make a child and parent restless and worried. However, it could be even more stressful for a preschool teacher. With changing times, educational practices are evolving and shifting from conventional to progressive, from teacher centric to child-centric methodologies. Early Educators have now become more aware about neurodiversity [differences in individual brain functions and behavioural traits]; still, welcoming a new mix of children, with different needs, understandings and learning styles, can be a stressful (although unique) experience, even for an experienced teacher.
This summer several preschool teachers, new or veteran, will be sharing this feeling on their first day with a new class. In my career as a preschool teacher, I’ve found each year to be full of surprises. I have learnt that planning becomes extremely important for the first day and, therefore I have devised some strategies which will help teachers like Rupali in making their first day a success, every year.
Whether this is your first year as a preschool teacher or you are a veteran, these simple steps will help you plan and execute your first day smoothly.
Why Is Planning Important?
The first day of your preschool class could be a mix bag of emotions. For the first time children will experience separation from parents and enter a new space with unknown faces. Emotions are contagious and you will see that children will be excited, anxious, frightened and upset, all at the same time. With all this happening around you, maintaining your own emotions, while also controlling that of the class can be extremely daunting. First impressions matter, therefore on their first day, you’d want every child to take back good memories spent with you.
Remember, planning and structuring your class will keep you calm, composed and best prepared for anything that may come up. Good composure induces control and that is all you need to execute well. If you are stressed, children will sense it and may absorb the same emotions. If you are in control, children will settle quickly and follow your instructions. A well-executed class would lead to happy faces looking forward to meet you the next day. Isn’t that what you want?
One-on-Ones: This one thing has always worked with me. Meeting the students and parents in advance and building a rapport has been extremely helpful. You can brief the parents about your class structure and the activities their child will perform while in class. Some parents might be experiencing separation anxiety, therefore empathise and reassure them about your ability.
Gain credibility by re-confirming special instructions about the child’s needs and allergies. Also confirm about transport, arrival and disbursal information.
Create a welcoming space: Make the space as welcoming and warm for the children. The entrance (The door or if there is a display board outside) can have pictures of all the children. Pinterest has some amazing ideas. You can have a family board in the classroom where pictures from the child’s family are there, it will create a feeling in children that this place belongs to them. Also, keeping soft toys in the classrooms often help children to feel comforted.
Child proofing: Neither is it expected, nor will everything be perfect on the first day. However, safety should be a priority, therefore visit your class a day in advance and ensure that all unsafe materials like scissors, cutters, and liquids are outside children’s reach. Ensure there are no sharp corners, or protruding nails on the furniture. Check electric fittings, wirings and seal any open sockets.
Create a minute-to-minute lesson plan: Creating a minute-to-minute lesson plan only helps you as there are no chances of loose ends. If the activities and materials are prepared beforehand, you can actually pay attention to the children. There may be children who need your support in settling down especially on the first day or week. Keep colouring sheets, crayons handy. Study the plan in advance with the co-teacher. Keep the audio-visual devices ready and handy. Music helps children calm down.
Always keep your co-teacher and classroom help in loop and discuss everything you plan with them or rather plan things with them.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to be planned and prepared for Day 1:
- Prepare an introduction song (Children love a teacher who sings), where in you introduce yourself and children are encouraged to introduce themselves.
- Plan a learning walk with children, where you introduce different spaces/corners of the classroom. E.g. role play corner, where you keep some dolls, kitchen set etc., art corner with colors, sheets etc., reading corners where you keep age appropriate books and blocks corner, where you have building blocks, puzzles and shapes etc.
- Keep the spaces and things in your classroom labelled (with a picture) e.g. where to keep the belongings such as bags and bottles.
- Make sure you have all the information about the child doubly checked from parents and keep a miniature copy of the list handy with you, such as contact information, and allergy list. You can also keep a ‘ready reckoner’ with you which has all this information against the name of the child.
- Keep a settling activity ready, i.e. keep some coloring sheets, puzzles or picture books ready. Some children may want to come and sit down when they see some engaging stuff. It will be a great idea to be informed in advance about your students’ preferences, this may help you plan all these activities.
- Though as teachers we always inform parents about labelling child’s belongings, however we all are humans, parents may forget to do it. To save yourself with endless SMSs and emails about the stuff their children left in school (Which is bound to happen) keep stickers and permanent markers handy to label your students’ belongings.
- Plan frequent washroom and water breaks, approximately at an interval of 30-40 minutes, no longer than that to avoid accidents; this may not leave the child with a good memory of his/her first day.
- Last but not the least wear your best smile!
It may look like a tough day ahead, but with the right attitude, you could help make it a great one with the little ones.