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A parent's perspective

Tessa Gray, CORE Education online facilitator, National Blended eLearning Programme


My son Ashton goes to St Mary’s preschool in Mount Maunganui. It may be a little different from kindergarten, but he’ll be there till he goes to school none-the-less.

Five things I love about my son’s pre-school:

Culture

Every morning and afternoon, when I enter St Mary’s, I’m greeted with big smiles and a hearty ‘hello’ by all teachers, regardless of whether they are in the under two’s or preschool area.  This protocol sets a friendly tone and culture, which is noticeable on arrival. The children call out and acknowledge each other and the parents do the same. Such a simple ritual is the foundation for building a strong sense of community.

Relationships

Much like the greetings, there is a strong commitment to forming bonds and relationships. Not just with the children, but also with their parents and caregivers. Strong relationships are formed between child/preschool teachers, parent/teachers, child/child. I love the fact that someone has given my son a big hug for the day and told him they missed him.

When you walk through the door there is a picture of Ashton, myself and his grandparents on the day they visited the centre. There is also another photo in his learning journal, with an explanation that,

“Ashton’s wellbeing is being fostered when his family is acknowledged and respected within the centre environment.”

Daytime and evening events always include an invite to parents. Our input is valued and we often get asked for ideas when themes or topics are presented to the children.

Love and affection

The teachers at St Mary’s demonstrate a real interest and affection for the children. I also say love too, because there’s noise and mess, tantrums and tears and in the middle of winter, there’s a lot of noses to wipe. There’s the complexity of toddlers making and breaking friends, learning to share, climbing obstacles, navigating around flying balls, running games, and speeding cars. All the while, the pre-school teachers are alert, aware, attentive and nurturing. What more could you want when you can’t be there yourself?

They know my son’s strengths and celebrate his successes. They nurture his needs and often feedback on his progress with excitement. They know my son well. But he’s lucky; the teacher to child ratio is high.

They cook and prepare morning and afternoon tea – with the healthiest food options. It’s not just about social, emotional and physical development, but it’s also about his health and wellbeing.

Learning activities

The teachers are always on the lookout for good learning ideas. They often ask parents for input into current events and local news. They jump at the opportunity to become part of national events and make sure the learning activities are relevant to the children’s interests and needs.

On daffodil day they all dressed in yellow and green and walked over to the local mall to donate money to the Cancer Society. When they returned, they painted daffodils.

On father’s day they dressed up as superheroes, made muffins and decorated cards for their dads.

For the World Cup, they’ve made sushi for the NZ vs. Japan game. Today, I left a face-painted Ashton with a silver fern and the French flag on each cheek. I’ve offered to help make paper mache cups for the children to decorate.

There’s more to my son’s pre-school. They have their own soccer team, which they play against their sister pre-school (Papamoa), also called St Mary’s. The local Anglican Church founded both centres. The children also get to attend a church service every week where they engage with bible stories, songs and action rhymes.

Learning journals

The guiding principles and strands of Te Whariki are a visible part of St Mary’s.  The teachers make personal connections to the goals of Te Whariki whenever they can – which is mostly evident in Ashton’s learning journal.

On the first day we arrived at pre-school, there were three stories ready for his journal. The pictures showed a story of a little boy getting to know his new surroundings, taking risks, becoming independent, and making new friends. For me, it’s a window to a day I didn’t get to share with him.

image

This book comes home two or three times a week. I’m not sure who gets more excited about a new entry – him or me? Everyone gets shown the ‘kindy book’ and asked to ‘read it to me’. The book is fast looking tatty, maybe it’s time for a blog?

We are all so happy with Ashton’s pre-school and feel very privileged to be part of the St Mary’s community. It makes you appreciate just how important these early years are!