- More family-focused
- Mixed-age groupings would better allow us to support the child in the context of his/her family. When children gather within social experiences, they are not segregated by age and forbidden to socialize with other age groups. It is our responsibility to prepare children and help build a strong social-emotional foundation in partnership with the family.
- Parents and teachers would have up to three years to build a reciprocal relationship before transitioning to our preschool program; the Birth to Three staff would still be nearby and the relationship could continue into the preschool years.
- Better assessment data
- I didn't even think of this at first, but think about how much more valid the assessment data would be for the children who stay with one consistent and reliable assessor for the first three years. The teacher would have years of prior knowledge to refer to when assessing children's progress.
- Parents and teachers would have a stronger relationship and when completing the Ages and Stages Questionnaires together, they would be better equipped to respond to the questions and reflect on the child's growth over time. This safe relationship would also allow an easier referral process if there were concerns about the child's development.
- Better for the children
- We would essentially be minimizing transitions to the bare minimum. Children could be in the same room until age 3 and then transition to preschool. As they prepare for kindergarten, they transition into their new school and we celebrate. Awesome, right?
- The alternative to this would be to have one infant (6 weeks to 15 months) and one toddler/two (15 months to three years) classroom as well as our preschool room. This would mean a possible 4 transitions (into the center, into the toddler room, into the preschool, and into kindergarten). Less is more when it comes to transitions for tiny humans.
- If we use this scenario, I could loop the teachers with the children so they at least have a familiar face. The only concern with that is turnover. We have had pretty low turnover at this location (KNOCK ON WOOD) but if the teacher leaves, I'm sending children into a new room with a new teacher and no familiar teacher to support the transition. I know there are ways to make it work if it's the only option, but right now, it's not the most attractive possibility.
- Better for our staff
- Teachers get very attached to the children they work with and this would afford them three years with their babies before they transition to the preschool classroom. I suspect I would see a boost in morale as those relationships with children are often the highlight of teachers' days at the center. This could further work to reduce teacher turnover as they wouldn't have to learn a whole new group of children but rather could watch their relationships blossom.
- Typically, when I ask teachers about the best part of their job, they say something along the lines of "When the babies get excited to see me come into the classroom."
Honestly, when we look at all of the amazing benefits, the challenges seem more manageable but also totally worth it! Professional development for our teachers? Of course! Pile it on! We want to make sure our teams are ready, knowledgeable, and excited about working with children for the first three years. Seems like a pretty smart investment.
Now let's see what our friend at licensing says... I'm hoping for good news.