When we set out in search of a preschool for our little ones, we look for a place where they will be happy, for an environment conducive to fun and learning and friendship. We look for a strong community of families, and for teachers who have plenty of experience and creativity and a talent for connecting with young children. We have high hopes that these wonderful teachers will help our kids develop their social skills, make strong friendships, and give them the tools they need to succeed later on in school.
What we don't generally think of when seeking out a preschool is that we're not only choosing teachers for our kids, we are also potentially gaining partners and guides in our own parenting efforts. And yet, it's true: parents too can learn a lot in preschool.
It is always interesting to hear other people's perspective on our children (except, of course, when it's a hyper-critical relative speaking, or an irritable fellow passenger on a crowded airplane). But feedback from knowledgeable teachers who get to interact with our kids over extended periods of time can be truly revealing, and has helped many parents we know to understand their children in a new way. The mother of a very shy boy, for example, learned that she does not need to worry so much about her child in school. Teachers helped this mom to see that while spending time on the periphery of the group, her son was in fact "learning to belong in his own way." In contrast, the mother of an exuberantly social girl who makes new friends wherever she goes learned that, within the context of the classroom, her daughter could be extremely sensitive to the ups and downs of friendship.
Great preschool teachers also inspire us to try new things at home, often clever tricks for garnering kiddie-cooperation. "Sing it, don't say it!" is the mantra of many a preschool teacher, and one that smart parents tend to adopt quickly. When we stop nagging the kids to tidy the toys, and start belting out the clean-up song, small miracles can happen—thank goodness for teachers!
Some preschools offer parent education evenings, a fantastic opportunity to pick up new ideas. A Savvy father changed his bedtime reading routine based on what he learned at preschool; he used to read books straight through, but now stops to ask questions about the pictures and story. Another mom discovered how important it is for little girls to play with blocks as well as dolls; she's been encouraging her daughters to build block castles for the dolls ever since. But perhaps the loveliest thing we've heard a parent say she learned from preschool teachers is that beauty and fun are learning experiences too.
More than anything, our kids' teachers can offer us reassurance and encouragement during these amazing yet often trying early years. We parents are new at this, but teachers are veterans who can confidently tell us that yes, indeed, our rebellious child will someday be potty-trained. They are role-models of calmness and confidence whom we can channel during perplexing moments. When our kids are tussling over puzzle pieces, what would Teacher X do? And in the best of cases, teachers soothe our worries over our children's frustrations and share our delight in their small triumphs.
In short, if you're looking for a preschool, look for the teachers you want for yourself as well as your child. And if you've already found a wonderful school, learn from those teachers however you can!
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