Welcoming Your Students BEFORE the First Day of Preschool
Updated: Jul 28, 2020
Starting a new anything is often accompanied by a variety of emotions. Excitement is one. Trepidation is the other. Even for people with extroverted, "I can jump into new stiuations easily" personalities, probably feel some nerves before meeting new people, or starting a new job.
As grown ups, we have decades of practice feeling nervous, learning about new environments, growing comfortable in new situations.
Many, if not most, preschoolers will experience similar emotions, we are all human afterall, but simply do not have the years of practice to manage it all. For some preschool students, this will be their first time separating from a parent or caregiver and learning to be in a new place, with new people.
They will do it, though. They might cry. They might not. It will be quick and easy for some, a little more teary and difficult for others, but they do all get there. And when they do, whether it's the second day of school or the third week, they will have a powerful experience under their belt. One that they can draw on for the rest of their lives; the knowledge that they can experience fear, disomfort, sadness, and they will be okay. Those feelings don't last forever. The world is full of new people who will care for you, materials and spaces to explore, and friends to be with.
Still, as teachers, there are things we can do to ease this transition to preschool. To help children and parents get to know us before school even begins.
In my school, we visit each child who is new to the preschool at their home. For 10 (maybe 15) minutes. This way, they can see their teachers in a safe place, for a very short period of time. While we are there, children lead the visit. They might show us some of their toys, read some books with us, or just run around their home excitedly. They also might hide. That's fine. we might be able to engage them with a quick game of peek-a-boo, or we can just hand them some things we bring with us. When we leave, we hand the children some stickers, and a small photo of us teachers. Now they have one experience and a physical object (the photo) to reference and talk about with their grown ups before school begins.
Now day 1 of preschool is a little less new.
For our older students who are returning to preschool, they each have a turn for a scheduled class visit. They get some stickers and a photo too. Again, now day 1 is already day 2.
And that teacher photo that we give them, is now hanging on the door to our classroom. Now there is another connection between home and school.
One of the reasons these visits are so successful, is that they give our little students some information before school begins. Fear of the unknown is sometimes the biggest fear of all.
Another way to give children some information about school before it begins, is to create a photo book about your classroom to send to each student. This can be especially helpful if a home visit, school visit, or open house is not possible in your setting. It can still give the children something tangible to see and hold onto to prepare them for their big first day.
This template gives them some basic information baout the basics. The teachers, the cubbies, what they will eat at school, what there is to play with, and what to do if you need the bathroom or a diaper change.
Parents often tell us that that little photo of the teachers is a beloved family artifact, living on a fridge, or next to a bed. It gets referenced often, as children learn to be excited about and feel ownership of their school experience. I imagine this book can be added to their beloved school objects.
You can also laminate a copy to keep in your classroom library, and children can then say excitedly, "Hey! I have that book at my home!"