This week lots of kindergarten parents are having to face one of the emotionally difficult realities of raising a child, particularly the first one, and that is admitting that your little pooky-doo, sweet pea, or silly willy will have to go to the "big school" soon and be placed under the care of a total stranger in a single grade or multiage classroom. Although it can become as laborious as deciding on a new house if you let it, choosing the right kind of first grade environment for your child in Shorewood is like choosing between Harvard and Yale; you can’t go wrong. I thought, however, that you might appreciate a helpful list of things to look for when visiting any classroom. Generally, it’s a good idea to set aside what you would have liked when you were a kid, what you've read, what other parents have advised or what you‘re assuming your child would like. The sooner you get rid of the notion that you know your child inside and out the better, because after the big school comes middle school and if you don't get it by then, they'll make it all too clear in the most unsubtle ways. That said, please consider the following:
1. When you enter the classroom, if all the children and the teacher stop what they are doing and stare at you, it may signal the running of a pretty tight ship or it just could be the kids were getting lectured about putting pencils up their noses or tying both legs of each others’ snow pants together.
2. If children are walking freely throughout the room engaged in conversation and laughter, this means the teacher is confident and has created an environment in which children take on more responsibility, or it might be that she lost her glasses and lesson plan book or maybe someone just barfed in the coatroom and she’s shaking powder over the chunky splat so all the kids don’t rush in just to look at something really, really gross.
3. Find out where the supplies are. If everything is on the 3rd shelf from the bottom, chances are only the teacher has been trained on their proper use or there is not much trust that children can handle classroom supplies responsibly. On the other hand, it could be that right before you came in the room a couple of the boys decided to play barber shop in the art center.
4. When you go in to visit go talk to the kids who are sitting by themselves in a single desk facing the wall pouting or fuming. They are the ones you get some good stuff from.
5. Understand that the naughtiest kid in class will be the one who runs up to you first. If he wants to show you around, be prepared to see his coat hook, lunchbox, loose tooth and where the rabbit pooped on the rug once.
Good luck in your journey.