Tag Archives: preschool in NC

Five Stars? Really?

I visited a 5-star center in Guilford County with parents and their first baby.  The infant room teacher and assistant have their AA degrees and many teachers have higher degrees, which coincides with the 7 out of 7 education points awarded to this 5-star center.  The center was awarded 6 out of 7 program points and the additional quality point.

We had to walk through the toddler room to enter the infant room (divided by a half wall) where we saw a baby asleep on his stomach on a soft mat on the floor.  Thankfully, the director picked him up.  A second baby was on his stomach on another soft mat with a ridge, which he was using to help hold his little head and shoulders up.  Thankfully, one of the teachers responded to his verbal cues by asking if he was tired of tummy time.  There was no teacher on the floor with him.

There were three older babies sitting quietly in high chairs lined up along the wall, who had nothing to do but look around.  The teachers did not interact with the babies or give them a toy to play with while sitting there.   They placed two of the babies in hard low chairs that kept them upright but still didn’t give them an activity.

Toddler teachers were also providing routine care.  Toddlers were sitting and waiting quietly on a wooden seat for their turn on the diaper-changing table, while others went to the open area.  Toddlers waiting to be changed, as well as toddlers who had been changed, had nothing to do. When toddlers began fussing with each other over a toy that one picked up, the teacher did respond very appropriately by getting another toy and giving it to one of them.

The toddler room was small, not divided into curriculum areas, and not supplied with many curriculum materials/toys/children’s supplies.

The parents were definitely not interested.  After visiting another 5-star center and a 3-star center, which I’ll also write about, they decided to look for a nanny!

Why 5 Stars for the NC Piedmont Triad Center?

I’ve written in previous posts about my visit to a 5-star center in the NC Piedmont Triad center. How did the center earn 5 stars?  The center infrastructure and systems are well-established:  The building is well-designed.  The classrooms are well-furnished and well-provisioned.  The environment is orderly and pleasant, without written or verbal directives or loud voices.  The staff is trained in maintaining routine procedures.  Best of all, the director is very energetic and eager to improve the program for children, families, and teachers.

What I recommended:

Consider how to balance sanitation with children’s learning.   Family style dining is such a valuable daily learning experience for children, with great opportunities for language and social skills development.  Placing a prepared plate in front of each child while they wait with hands in their laps for everyone to be served is a passive activity, requiring them to learn restraint but not much else.

Cleaning the tables and cleaning up after them doesn’t help young children develop self-sufficiency skills.  Help children develop skills rather than doing everything for them because it’s easier and cleaner than helping them learn.  In the 2’s room, a girl spilled a little milk on the floor and the teacher handed her a paper towel and the girl started to clean up the milk, but the teacher said, “No, your mouth,” and then cleaned up the milk on the floor for her.  Help teachers understand these are teaching and learning moments as they interact with, rather than direct, the child.

Consider having children brush their teeth after lunch.  Labeled toothbrushes can be stored in covered hanging toothbrush stands that keep each toothbrush separate from the others.

Remind teachers in the room to talk softly to each other, not in normal voices, when children are starting to sleep.

Improve the welcoming appearance of grounds and front porch by adding attractive plants and perhaps comfortable rockers or other seating with homey touches near them.  Replace the bulletin board if one is still needed.  Add a sign about using the door bell.  Consider an interior sign that welcomes parents and children and instructs them to proceed directly to child’s classroom.

Improve playgrounds by adding natural elements – grass, small trees, plants – and varying surfaces for children.  Mulch is difficult to walk on, and infants can’t crawl on it.

Use bulletin boards to display and document children’s work, with short captions that explain why children are doing what they’re doing – what they’re learning.

Provide open-ended materials for children’s art, scribbling, writing, crafts, creativity.  Encourage exploration and creativity, problem-solving, thinking.

Provide teachers with planning time, or consider purchasing well-designed and planned curriculum resources, e.g., some of the Creative Curriculum kits that provide simple, age-appropriate pre-planned activities and instructions for teachers.  Current lesson plans may not provide enough information and if teachers don’t have time to plan and prepare, their implementation is probably fairly superficial.

Engage staff in discussing their ideas for how to improve beyond achieving 5 stars, by focusing on the individual child’s day-to-day experience in the center.  Encourage interactions, exploration, and active learning.  Encourage infants to move around on the floor and explore their environments.

Encourage children to interact with each other and with teachers and to explore their environments – Teachers may focus too much on order, control, and the great systems that have been developed and followed and too little on encouraging children to learn by exploring, doing, talking, and interacting.

Be sure children are interested in the books or other materials that teachers use during group times.  Reading a passage and then asking children to answer questions about it may be ok for a very short time activity to encourage listening and remembering but it should be limited to a short time and should be something that’s interesting for them.

Don’t keep children sitting with nothing to engage their bodies and brains.

What do you think?  What do you see in child care and preschool centers?

20 Years of Smart Start in North Carolina

About to wrap up the 3-day National Smart Start conference with a luncheon to celebrate 20 years of improving child care quality and school readiness in North Carolina.

North Carolina leaders started Smart Start because some kindergartners weren’t ready to succeed in school.

What do you think is most important for children who are entering kindergarten?  What should they know and be able to do?  How do we make sure they have this knowledge and abilities?

Children’s Work

At the 5-star center in the NC Piedmont Triad, the bulletin boards installed around the center displayed commercial and adult products, not what children are doing. I recommended the teachers display and document children’s work, with short captions that explain why children are doing what they’re doing – what they’re learning.

Likewise, classrooms had an abundance of adult-initiated work, use of templates that children added something to. Instead, teachers can provide open-ended materials for children’s work: their art, scribbling, writing, crafts, creativity – materials that encourage exploration, problem-solving, and thinking, rather than following an adult template or pattern.

What do you see in child care centers?

What Does Preschool Look Like?

When I visited a 5-star licensed center in the NC Piedmont Triad….

In the preschool room, a teacher sat in front of a table and held up posters about insects to the group of children who were all seated around a table.  After showing them a poster, she turned it around to herself and read the information on the poster, and then asked them questions about what she had read. Most children were distracted, looking around the room and fidgeting. 

After reading the posters, the teacher instructed the children to move their chairs back from the table so she could spray and clean them, while she led them in singing the alphabet and counting in Spanish.  The teacher placed a prepared plate of food in front of each child while they sat with hands in their laps waiting until everyone had their plate of food. 

In the other preschool room, a teacher was reading a book which she held turned toward her, not the children, because it was text and not pictures. It was about airplanes, reflecting the transportation theme in the room, and the group was quietly listening.

What do you think?

“The Hell of American Day Care”

Please google and read The Hell of American Day Care in New Republic magazine, published on Monday. It tells the story of how four children died in a fire in a child care home in Texas, and gives some reasons why child care is often unsafe. It focuses on a mother who spent two hours interviewing the child care home operator, who seemed open and honest, warm with the children, and promised to teach Christian values.

How Did They Get Those Stars?

Educators and families can be grateful that NC promotes child care teacher and director education, because it’s the strongest predictor of child care quality!

And now, after attending a NC conference Saturday, I finally understand how the education points, which help determine the number of stars on a child care license, are calculated.

I’m sorry to say, however, that there’s no easy way to explain it! It requires multiple worksheets to work through the formula. I may try in a future post!

Who’s Watching Part-Day Preschools

Did you know that part-day preschools, operating four or fewer hours per day, are not licensed in North Carolina? They may be great for preschoolers, but there’s no government agency visiting, monitoring, or providing any kind of oversight.  Are part-day programs licensed in your state?

Ready for Naptime

After preschoolers and pre-kindergartners finished their lunch and cleaned their places, they moved to the library area. There, one teacher read quietly to the group while another teacher helped each child one by one prepare his or her sleeping cot. At the end of the quiet story, each child lay down to rest in dimly lit rooms with quiet music playing in the background. Children knew the routine and were ready for at least a short rest after a busy morning full of activity.

What is Family Style Dining?

When I visited a child care and preschool center in Virginia, toddlers, preschoolers, and pre-kindergartners cleaned and sanitized the tables before setting them for lunch.  They put their own food on their own plates and poured their own milk.  Teachers helped the children who needed it, especially the toddlers, who usually need a little physical support with holding, serving from, and passing bowls and pitchers.

Teachers sat at the tables and ate and talked with children, guiding them in sharing a pleasant meal and conversation, just like families do at home.  Teachers use “family style dining” every day to help children learn self-sufficiency, social and conversational skills, as well as good nutrition.

After they were finished eating, each child cleaned up his own place.  Teachers guided and helped as needed but didn’t do the work for children who were still awake and engaged enough to do it themselves.  Why?  Is that what you’ve seen preschools doing?  Is that what you do at home?