Just starting to think about the preschool selection process? To point you in the right direction, we asked Helen Cohen, director of The Frances Jacobson Early Childhood Center at Temple Israel in Boston, for her top suggestions of things to think about when looking at preschools. While there are many things to consider when choosing the best school for your family, these six selection suggestions will get you started on the right track.
- A school is as good as its teachers; therefore it’s important to inquire about the educational background and experience of the staff who will be teaching your child. The teachers should preferably have degrees in the field of early childhood education. That said, you must also look to see whether the teachers in the school are warm, nurturing individuals who demonstrate a respect and passion for working with young children.
- Does the philosophy of the school incorporate a combination of child-centered and teacher-directed play-based, developmentally appropriate learning opportunities? Look for evidence of this and have the director demonstrate that this philosophy is being applied.
- Assess whether the curriculum offered takes into consideration the diverse abilities and learning styles of the students. If the same activities are done by all the students in the same way, this does not account for individual differences. The curriculum offered should foster critical thinking and cooperative learning experiences for the students. In addition, the seamless integration between a rich secular and Judaic curriculum taught by a qualified team of educators should be visible.
- Does the school welcome parent involvement? If so, how? Parents should be seen as partners with staff members in the learning process of young children. This partnership can take many forms, from parents serving on boards and committees to participating in their child’s classroom, helping with the planning of special events, such as educational opportunities for parents, Hanukkah parties, school-wide socials, picnics and many other enrichment activities. In selecting a school for your child, you are also selecting a community for yourself. Preschool offers a great opportunity to meet with other families, so ask potential preschools about the opportunities for family engagement.
- The learning environment in which your child will be in should be well organized, clean, exciting and aesthetically pleasing. If you as a parent do not find the activities and challenges presented rich in learning opportunity, neither will your child. If the classroom shelves are disorganized, you cannot expect your child to develop habits of independence and organization.
- Ask about the student-teacher ratio in the class. Will this ratio allow for individual support of students? Also ask about the rate of staff turnover. A school that offers ongoing learning opportunities for its staff, and nurtures and demonstrates respect for its teachers, results in low turnover.
Ready to start visiting schools? With so many preschool options for families in the Greater Boston community, we thought it might help to create a directory of all the Jewish preschools in the area. With all of these wonderful choices in one place, we hope it makes your school selection process just a little bit easier.