As I write, my preschool is still in the tail end of summer mode; some classrooms are being repainted, and new supplies are on their way in. But in a couple of weeks, we'll be busy getting ready for the new school year, and before we know it, it'll be time to welcome in the new class. Maybe your child has already begun their exciting pre-K adventure, in which case, it's time to look at your school calendar and plan for your preschool's back-to-school night.
Typically scheduled within a few weeks after school begins, a back-to-school night is an opportunity for parents to visit their child's classroom, meet the teacher(s), get to know the other families, and take a look at samples of the work the kids have already done. It's also a chance for you to ask your child's teacher the questions that have been swirling in your mind ever since day one.
It's likely that the teacher will give a short introductory speech about themselves, the school and what to expect over the next nine months, so many of your queries will be covered. Still, there may be other issues that you'll want addressed, so it pays to come prepared with a list (mental or written) of questions, just in case. Not sure what to ask? Here are some topics you might want to bring up — and a couple that are best saved for another time.
What Themes Will Be Covered This Year?
A preschool class curriculum is usually based on a series of themes, such as all about me, autumn, clothes, water, and community helpers. Within those themes, the children will learn the literacy, math, science, and social skills they'll need for kindergarten. Knowing the themes will give you the opportunity to discuss them with your child at home, or even to prepare your child in advance. For instance, if the class will be studying winter, you could show your child a calendar and go over the seasons of the year.
How Will You Assess My Child's Learning?
Preschool teachers design their curriculum and tasks to help students reach specific academic and social goals. But preschool children also learn through play; building a block tower is a self-taught lesson in physics, symmetry, and social studies. Throughout the year, your child's teacher should be observing the class and taking notes. They'll probably use an online system, such as Pearson Work Sampling, to record observations and assess whether the children are progressing on track. Expect to meet with the teacher several times over the course of the year to get an update on your child and discuss any concerns.
How Can I Help Support My Child?
Your child may spend a good chunk of the day in school, but you're still their primary teacher. Your teacher will have suggestions for things you can do at home to supplement the class lessons. You may be assigned regular "parent engagement activities," such as finding shapes around the house or making a collage with materials of different textures. Even something as simple as a daily storytime has tremendous benefits. As recently reported in The New York Times, children whose parents read to them are less likely to have behavior problems like aggression and distractibility
How Do You Teach Different Kinds of Learners?
Some 4-year-olds already read a little by the time they enter preschool; others can't tell an A from a Z. Some preschoolers can count to 100 and beyond; others don't yet understand that the numeral 1 stands for one single object. Most children fall somewhere between the two extremes. Your child's teacher should be able to explain how they adjust their teaching to meet each student's abilities. For example, if a child is already proficient in counting, the teacher might have them use math cubes to figure out which pairs of numbers add up to 10.
What Are Your Health Policies?
Each school has its individual rules on illness, but you can generally expect to be told to keep your child home if they have a fever, diarrhea, vomiting, pinkeye, or other contagious illness. If a child has lice, they may be permitted to return to school a day after being treated with lice shampoo and a thorough combing to remove lice and eggs.
But once you know the policies, it's up to you to respect them. Sending your child to school when they're obviously coming down with a stomach bug or the flu will not only make your child miserable, it also puts the rest of the class (and the teacher) at risk.
How Do You Handle Food Allergies?
About one in 13 children under age 18 have food allergies, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America. With that in mind, preschool teachers know to stay alert. Some schools enact a strict no-nuts policy; others ask parents to bring in only store-bought treats for parties and birthdays. If your child has an Epi-Pen, find out whether the teacher is trained to use it.
How Can I Help You?
Most preschool teachers welcome in-class parent involvement, such as reading to the class or helping prepare art materials for a project. School events, such as book fairs or holiday parties, are always in need of volunteers. If you have the time to help out at school, even once in a while, please do! You'll come away feeling a closer connection to your child's school.
What's the Best Way to Get in Touch With You?
Some teachers don't mind a phone call; others prefer email only. Some set specific hours for parent meetings, while others are free for a quick conversation in the hallway after dismissal. Knowing what your child's teacher prefers will help make it easier to communicate throughout the year.
Questions To Save For Another Time
On the other hand, there are some questions that you're better off discussing with your child's teacher at a different time:
How Is My Child Doing?
Back-to-school night is different from a parent-teacher conference; the teacher is here for an informal meet and greet, not to give detailed progress reports. If you have a specific question about your child, set up a day to meet separately.
Is It Okay If...?
Questions about issues that affect only your own child (Can I pick her up early on Thursdays? Can I bake cupcakes for his birthday next week? Could she read instead of napping during rest time?) can wait for the end of the evening, when the teacher can give you her full attention.