Classroom Organization Tips for Teachers

Classroom Organization Tips for Teachers

In early learning environments, organization is essential for optimal learning. Proper organization promotes exploration, builds independence, and helps keep children safe. Organized environments can also boost engagement by reducing distractions and cutting down on interruptions to children’s play. There are several areas of organization to consider as an early learning professional.

Furniture

Furniture in early learning environments acts as not only space for work and storage but also helps define the learning centers of the classroom. Here are things to consider when thinking about the organization of the furniture:

  • Storage shelves should be used to indicate boundaries between learning centers. This means, whenever possible, they should be arranged away from walls since walls already present a boundary. Shelves should be low to the ground to reduce blind spots in the classroom.
  • When organizing learning centers create specific spaces for children to explore related materials. Here are a few common learning centers:
      • Blocks and transportation
      • Dramatic play
      • Creative arts and music
      • Math and manipulatives
      • Science
      • Literacy
  • Active centers, such as blocks and dramatic play, should be located away from quiet centers such as literacy or art center.
  • Messy centers (art) and sensory tables should be located close to the sinks to make handwashing convenient.
  • Shelves that store particular materials, such as puzzles, should be located next to the workspace intended for that activity. This means that tables need to be located within the defined learning centers. This helps children easily collect materials for play and return the materials to their proper place when done.
  • Shelves and tables should be arranged to reduce runways that can invite unsafe movement in the classroom. If running in the classroom is a problem, consider adjusting a shelving unit by a few feet to break up the open runway.
  • Furniture should be the correct height and size for the children in the room. Click here for guidance.
  • Inspect rugs for frayed fabric that should be removed. Remove or reposition any rugs that curl up at the ends to prevent tripping and other accidents.
  • Include space for children to work together in large and small groups. Children should have options to work in different group sizes, and independently, throughout the day.
  • Organization of furniture and learning centers should include a quiet calming space that children can opt to visit when overwhelmed or in need of a break from the large group. Just like adults, sometimes children need time away to decompress. This area should be easily supervised, while still providing space to be away from the group.

Supplies and Materials

In early learning environments, materials and supplies should be made available for children to explore. This can pose a problem if there is not a clear way of organizing materials. Teachers should spend time teaching children about the organizational system that exists in the environment.

  • Orient the children to what each center looks like when it is cleaned up. Post a picture of the cleaned-up learning center in the center so children have a reference. Practice cleaning up and recognize that this can be a daunting task for children. Break the task down into manageable tasks and adjust your expectations to meet the children where they are, developmentally speaking. Doing so reduces frustration and builds independence.
  • To help children understand the organizational system, use visual cues. Bins should have a label and a picture of the materials that should be placed in the bin. The shelf where the material is stored should have the same label attached to it.  You can take a picture of the materials or cut out pictures from a magazine.
  • Using learning centers can cut down on the spread of materials across the room. For example, if you have defined your block area with a rug and some shelving units, children will learn that that is the space for building.  If you place science materials on a shelf next to a table, children will learn to use that table to explore the science materials. Doing so will prevent materials from different learning areas from spreading all over the room. Of course, materials from learning centers can “visit” other learning centers, but you certainly would not want a child to start finger painting all over the library center.
  • If you have room for storage, you have the opportunity to rotate materials every so often. As you observe children, notice the toys that they are playing with and those that they are not playing with. Perhaps the ignored materials are too easy, or too challenging, for the children. Those materials can be shared with another classroom, or stored in a closet until children are ready to explore that toy. Having novel materials in the classroom help to reengage children with the materials in the learning environment.
  • Dramatic play materials can be stored in theme-related prop boxes. Prop boxes can be rotated between classrooms (after proper cleaning) or stored in the closet. Prop box themes can include anything from housekeeping to airport to pet store and much more. All those materials out at the same time can become too overwhelming for young children, preventing them from engaging in meaningful exploration.

Children’s Personal Belongings

The learning environment belongs to the children. They spend hours of each school day in the classroom and should feel at home in the space. Children’s cubbies should be a space where personal items are stored.

  • Provide bins that are large enough for the materials that will be stored in cubbies.
  • Place pictures of children’s families on their cubbies (and around the room, as well) to help children feel at home.
  • Use sturdy folders to store papers and forms for families.
  • Cubby areas tend to become cluttered with personal belonging and should be inspected each week for items that can be sent home.
  • Consider paperless family communication tools that can reduce the clutter in the cubby area and ensure that no important forms get lost.
  • Children’s belongings include the works that they create. Common display options include bulletin boards. Unique works of art should be displayed and kept fresh based on curriculum topics.
  • In addition to artwork, teachers can also take pictures of children’s construction efforts, playdough creations, and sorting piles. These pictures can also be displayed as a way of highlighting learning and building self-esteem.

In a classroom with 10-20 children, things can become very disorganized, very quickly. Teachers should develop daily, weekly, and monthly tasks to stay on top of the organization of materials and personal belongings. Develop helpful checklists, divvy up the tasks, and involve the children in maintaining the organization of their classroom environment.

Teaching is an incredibly rewarding and demanding profession. Remaining organized in and out of the classroom is a challenge for many educators, especially when resources are scarce. Many teachers feel that a disorganized classroom negatively impacts the effectiveness of their teaching methods and materials, potentially even resulting in missed learning opportunities. Fortunately, there are a few simple classroom organization tips for teachers that can save time and create efficiencies.

1 | Start Organizing by Decluttering

The best way to begin any organizational process is by eliminating what is not needed and then slowly adding more items as they become necessary. If it’s not useful or mission critical, find another loving home. This is particularly true if you’re organizing a small classroom where every inch counts. After removing unnecessary furniture and clutter, empty out the currently available storage spaces. A foundational principle of effective organization is that items to be stored must adapt to the space available, not vice versa. This means that you will want to visualize all of the available (or potentially available) storage space before going any further. Once all of the storage spaces are emptied and the furniture has been arranged for maximal spatial efficiency, you might be able to picture the space in a completely new light and reimagine the layout. Once the space is set, it’s much easier and faster to incorporate the remaining classroom organization tips for teachers covered in this article.

2 | Use the Classroom Walls

Go off the walls! While some classroom walls are covered in charts, maps and pictures, many are also barren and underutilized. There are an almost endless number of ways to use the flat, straight edge of a wall for more storage space. Some common ways include the following suggestions:

  • Distribute or receive assignments, store papers and much more by pinning or taping folders to the wall. If done properly, cardstock folders should create perfect pockets for storage, allowing you or students to customize their own!
  • Put up wall-mounted bookshelves, which are easily accessible and also display the available options with the covers facing out – enticing younger readers particularly well.
  • Let art projects dry by stringing clothesline along the width of a wall, high enough off the ground to avoid being knocked inadvertently but low enough for all to admire.

3 | Use Vertical Storage Solutions

Since effective organization for school teachers is all about managing constraints, it’s almost certain that you’ll have to save space by incorporating vertical storage components. Simple vertical storage solutions include standard bookshelves; especially those that mount directly to the wall as they protrude less into the room. Many teachers also utilize vertical storage bins, which can be great for holding entire activities or the personal belongings of a student as the bins are more private than a shelf and keep everything together in an organized way. The biggest benefit of vertical storage solutions is that they create more floor space that can be used for seating, walkways, tables or other physical activities.

4 | Stretch Storage Space Further

Get even more out of your existing shelves, cabinets or other furniture by installing dividers, pull-out racks or other in-cabinet storage solutions that make the space more functional. These storage solutions are specifically designed to help you fit more items, or items of a specific size and shape, in an enclosed area.

5 | Label Everything

Organization for school teachers is not just about clever storage solutions or creative management processes. Fundamentally, effective organizational practices for teachers are about making it easier to find what you need, when it’s needed. Clear labeling will help you find things faster and help students understand exactly where to put items away. Use consistent naming schemes and structure so that you don’t have to guess when reading a cryptic label.

6 | Recycle and Reuse Household Items

There are many ways to save money and get creative with storage containers. Old or unused items that most people have in their own homes or workplaces can be repurposed to hold pencils, desk items, craft supplies, personal belongings, school projects, and much more. One of the best parts about reusing old containers is that you won’t feel stressed if one breaks or gets messy. After all, that’s their purpose! Household items that are commonly repurposed for classroom use include:

  • Mason jars
  • Milk or juice cartons
  • Crates
  • Vases
  • Soda boxes

7 | Keep Student and Teaching Information Organized

Another key way in which organization for school teachers differs from other occupations is the additional level of preparedness required to accommodate a substitute teacher, a new student or any of other surprises that threaten classroom stability and lesson plan continuity. Adequately addressing these unforeseen disruptions requires a different kind of organizational endeavor: information management. Some of the top classroom organization tips for teachers from other teachers include the following:

  • Have a designated folder with extra materials set aside for new students, or for a substitute teacher that might have to take over at a moment’s notice.
  • Create and always have handy a classroom roster for notes, roll call, etc.
  • Consider sending a brief email newsletter that keeps parents in the loop. This can be an excellent way to ensure that students have what they need each day, and that families are well informed.

While organization for school teachers might look different depending on individual preferences, following these tips will hopefully help you be successful in organizing your classroom to become the most efficient and accommodating space for teaching students year after year.

Virtual Family-Teacher Conferences

The May 2021 newsletter is all about preparing for and conducting family teacher conferences. In the newsletter, we provide a number of strategies to consider when holding virtual conferences, but there is so much to consider, we want to share more ideas here. If you find yourself preparing for virtual conferences this year, keep these things in mind:

  • Accessibility – Webinar and online meeting providers are all a bit different. Check with the tool your program uses to see if they have features such as closed-captioning. Some programs may allow you to create a transcript of the meeting as well.
  • Showing children’s work – Practice holding children’s work up to the camera in a way that gives families a chance to see the work and the detail you are describing. Some programs may have access to an overhead camera that pieces of work can be slid under for viewing. If you do not have access to something like this, hold the item steady and make sure it displaying in the frame correctly. You might consider sending scans of the items you know you want to share to families ahead of time. That will limit the number of pieces you are showing that could be shaky, out of focus, or out of frame.
  • Screen-sharing – Sharing your screen may be an option for showing documents via the camera. This only really works for the preplanned documents you want to share, such as a developmental checklist or a specific work sample you want families to see. Be sure to practice switching between the camera view and sharing your screen. Confirm that the family can see your screen before proceeding. Also, if you are going to be in screen-share mode, be mindful of the files you have open and your desktop background.
  • Speak slowly and carefully – Virtual meeting tools respond differently depending on the speed of your connection. Be sure to speak slowly and carefully. Refrain from speaking over the other members of the meeting. Watch body language closely for signs that you have cut out or have been misunderstood. This is much harder to do in an online meeting than it is in face-to-face meetings.
  • Recording – Many virtual meeting tools have a record function that will make documenting your conversations that much easier. Decide whether to make the recordings available to families.
  • Limit distractions – Distractions will likely occur on both ends of the virtual conference. On your end, find a location that limits the chance you will be interrupted. Encourage families to do the same. Be flexible and recognize that you might need to reschedule the meeting, rather than pushing through a situation where anyone on the call is distracted.
  • Allow more time – By the time that everyone is logged in, dialed in, and dealt with common technology frustrations, 5 minutes of your precious conference time could be gone. Consider adding 5 minutes to virtual meetings to ensure you have the time you need to address the needs of the child and the family.

As you learn new virtual meeting tricks, be sure to share them with your teammates. Together you will make it through family-teacher conferences without a hitch.

February 2021 Newsletter: Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments – Teachable Moments with Families

Opportunities for teachable moments with families won’t be as abundant as they are with children due to the small amount of time teachers and families spend together. But that does not mean that teachable moments don’t exist.

How you speak to children when they arrive and depart can be teachable moments for family members on how to have meaningful interactions with children. Prompting a child to use a self-calming strategy when they are upset during drop-off can also be a teachable moment for family members.

Teachable moments can also occur during family-teacher conferences, as teachers prompt families to think differently about their children’s behaviors or teach them simple strategies to promote learning at home. Look for opportunities for teachable moments with families during community events, family carnivals, and when family members volunteer in your learning environment.

It’s also possible to modify the idea of a teachable moment a bit by sharing information on a phone call about how you handled a challenging behavior with a child.  Notes home can also fulfill this modified purpose.

For the main article Taking Advantage of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Capitalizing on Teachable Moments with Children, CLICK HERE

For the article Examples of Teachable Moments, CLICK HERE

For the article Teachable Moments with Coworkers, CLICK HERE

January 2021 Student Spotlight – Brooke Collick

I began my career right after I graduated High School in 2014. I immediately went to help my mom’s friend run her home daycare while she was on maternity leave, and it progressed from there. I am now the assistant in a Head Start classroom of preschoolers 3-4 years old and in the transition of going to assist in the GSRP classroom.

My favorite time of the day with the kids is when we sit down and do family style meals and talk about our day. In the morning, we talk about what they did at home the night before and anything else they want to discuss. During lunch time, we often talk about what they did during work time, outside, small group, etc. and I love having conversations with them. Not only does it work on their language and communication skills, but they say the funniest things. It’s like talking to a big group of friends, and I love it.  Their favorite activity right now is definitely going to the climber room we have. We go every afternoon, but sometimes in the morning if it’s too cold or rainy out. They love getting all their energy out by running, climbing, and jumping. Otherwise the class we have this year really enjoys work time because they are free to explore the classroom and materials how they want, and they all love playing with each other.

I’m motivated to work with children because I think early childhood education is one of the most important jobs out there. Teaching future generations to dream big, work hard, and be good, responsible, and happy people is so rewarding, and needed. I’m motivated to make a difference in young children’s lives and be a positive role model for them to look forward to seeing at school every day.  I enjoy the bonds that I make with the children the most. Over the past almost seven years, I’ve met so many children, parents, grandparents, siblings, etc. and the amount of them that I still talk to, even if I don’t work at that center anymore, warms my heart. I’ve taken care of children since they were six weeks old and watched them grow into strong and independent Kindergarteners.  I’ve been so privileged to be a part of the childhoods of so many, and what happens in childhood, especially in education, really shapes how a person will turn out.

I currently live in New Hudson, Michigan.  My favorite thing to do is read!  If you see me, I’m either reading or writing something. English has always been my favorite subject, and as much as I love being able to physically hold a book, the fact that I can take my phone out at any moment and get lost in a virtual library is amazing.  I see myself staying in the school system that I’m in right now and eventually becoming the lead teacher of the classroom. I’d like to decide if I want to stay teaching the younger children or possibly move into teaching high school English, because as I said before, that’s my favorite subject and a true passion of mine.

I plan on finishing my associates degree that I started after I graduated. It’s a slow process going to school and working full time, but I’d like to eventually have my bachelors.  I love getting my training hours through CCEI! I currently just finished the CCEI Self-Study CDA coursework portion and I am now scheduling my test and verification visit. Hopefully by this month, I will officially have my CDA! I recommend CCEI to everyone in the early childhood education field. Now that I’ve taken my CDA coursework, I’ve started recommending CCEI even more. For people that thrive in an online environment, working at their own pace, it’s perfect. Everything is easy to understand, quick, but informative, and all organized within a personalized profile. It really makes training so easy!

CCEI is a wonderful establishment dedicated to the education of those in the early childhood development field. It’s a simple, effective, and quite quick way to gain the knowledge and experience needed to further your career. I loved not having to go to a weekly college class lecture to obtain my CDA. Being able to log on and do up to six classes a day allowed me to work through the program in a little over two months. I had quick and easy access to my extremely helpful Education Coach, and all directions were easy to follow. Something as daunting as earning the CDA Certification quickly became just part of my routine because of how easy it was to accomplish the tasks and assignments needed. As much as I say it was simple, I still feel like I gained valuable knowledge and put in a lot of hard work and effort to graduate. It’s great to fit into a busy schedule, and I highly recommend it to anyone looking to earn their CDA. Otherwise, it’s also a wonderful place to gain yearly training credit with a large online course library full of different topics for various ECE age groups.

June 2019 Student Spotlight – Jamie Bradley

I began my career in early childhood as an after-school provider. I currently work in a large family home. I love working with children because it is a new adventure everyday, the laughs and bonding moments. My favorite time of the day is story time. My favorite activity is anything that involves creativity, story time, crafts, and free play. What I enjoy most about my job is encouraging the children to explore their creativity and develop a new skill as well as watching them grow and thrive.

I have completed the Oklahoma Health and Safety Pre-Service Certificate with CCEI. The course helped me evaluate if my home could accommodate childcare. It helped me to make a list of items I needed, steps to pursue a license and confidence that I could do it! I would recommend CCEI to anyone that is looking for training that is very well put together, self-paced, affordable, and convenient. I dream of having an in-home daycare and want to pursue my CDA. I want to continue learning and become as good of a provider as possible. I don’t think we should ever stop wanting to learn and grow.

I currently live in Moore, OK. During my free time you can find me at a rock concert, drinking coffee, or putting together a jigsaw puzzle.

May 2019 Student Spotlight – Lisa Stevens

I was a Head Start parent who volunteered in my daughter’s preschool classroom in the 1994-1995 school year. An Assistant Teacher position became available and I applied and started as an Assistant Teacher in 1995. I taught in the classroom for just over 20 years. I spent four years as an Assistant Teacher and then the rest of my years as Lead Teacher until I took a Mentor position.

My favorite time to be in the classrooms is still Choice Time (Free Play). The amount of discovery, “lightbulb moments”, and learning you can watch unfold, and help facilitate during that time of day is just the best! I think that, like myself, most of the children would say Choice Time is their favorite time of day!

I am currently the Education Mentor for our Head Start program and handle Professional Development tracking. At 18, I knew I wanted to make a difference in the lives of children, and I still get to be a part of that by supporting their Teachers as they reflect on teaching practices and further their work as quality preschool teachers. I was awarded my CDA early in my career and kept that until I began college for Early Childhood. I love the position I currently hold, and the agency I work for, so I can see myself staying in this position as long as that’s possible. What I love most about being an Education Mentor is being able to be a support to teachers, knowing I understand and have been in their shoes.

CCEI provides our teaching staff with SUTQ Ohio Approved training hours that are relevant to their work in the classrooms. Through coaching, we can individualize our Professional Development efforts and assign CCEI trainings to staff considering their current goals and the needs they have expressed. I have received positive feedback from the teaching staff about how CCEI courses made them dig deeper and reflect on their practices. I will be using CCEI for my own professional Development in the future.

In my free time, I love spending time with my husband and our four granddaughters. I love to do art projects or crafting with my granddaughters. I love being involved at my church because it’s really my “home away from home”. I like to read and be near the water whether that’s a lake at a local state park, a waterfall on a trail, or at the beach. Those peaceful moments help me to recharge and refocus, so that I can give the best of me to my family and my career.

CCEI is Reaccredited as an Authorized Provider of IACET CEUs

ChildCare Education Institute® (CCEI), an online child care training course and certificate provider, is proud to announce it has been awarded re-accreditation status by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET).

IACET Authorized Providers are the only organizations approved to offer IACET Continuing Education Units (CEUs). The accreditation period extends for five years, and includes all programs offered or created during that time. In order to achieve Authorized Provider accreditation, CCEI completed a rigorous application process, including a review by an IACET site visitor, and successfully demonstrated adherence to the ANSI/IACET 1-2018 Standard addressing the design, development, administration, and evaluation of its programs. ChildCare Education Institute has pledged its continued compliance with the Standard, and is reauthorized to use the IACET name and Authorized Provider logo on promotional course material. In addition, IACET authorization means that CCEI is recognized internationally as offering quality continuing education and training programs.

“CCEI is proud to offer IACET CEU credit on all coursework,” said Maria C. Taylor, President and CEO of CCEI. “Our renewed authorization by IACET is a demonstration of our commitment to lifelong learning and high standards for our courses and certificate programs.”

“We are pleased to continue our relationship with ChildCare Education Institute as an Authorized Provider,” stated Michael Todd Shinholster, President of IACET and Founder and Principal Consultant of Culture Bridge and a Lecturer of International Business at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, GA. Shinholster added, “CCEI joins nearly 650 organizations around the globe that have had their programs vetted by third-party experts in continuing education to ensure the highest possible standards are met.”

For more information on programs, training subscriptions, or ChildCare Education Institute, visit www.cceionline.edu or call 1.800.499.9907, prompt 3, Monday – Friday, 8 am – 5 pm EST.

About CCEI
ChildCare Education Institute® provides high-quality, distance education certificates and child care training programs in an array of child care settings, including preschool centers, daycare, family child care, prekindergarten classrooms, nanny care, and more online training. Over 100 English and Spanish child care training courses are available online to meet licensing, recognition program, and Head Start training requirements. CCEI also has online certification programs that provide the coursework requirement for national credentials including the Online CDA, Director and Early Childhood Credential. CCEI is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), has been accredited as an Authorized Provider by the International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET), 1760 Old Meadow Road, Suite 500, McLean, VA 22102; 703.506.3275, and is authorized under the Nonpublic Postsecondary Educational Institutions Act of 1990, license number 837.

About IACET
The International Association for Continuing Education and Training (IACET) is a non-profit association dedicated to quality continuing education and training programs. IACET is the only standard-setting organization approved by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) for continuing education and training. The ANSI/IACET Standard is the core of thousands of educational programs worldwide. For more information, please visit www.iacet.org or call 703-763-0705.

November 2018 Student Spotlight – Celeste Smith

My mom, Beverly Myers, who also worked at my elementary school for 47 years, was the main reason I went into education.  She loved teaching children, but never was able to afford to go to school for her degree especially while raising 4 children of her own.   She instilled a love of learning and children in me, and with her encouragement and support, I graduated from UCF with a BA in Elementary Education in 1985 and taught kindergarten for 5 years, while earning an Associates Degree in Early Childhood Education.  During this time, I could see the advantage of preschool, as the children who entered Kindergarten with prior school experience easily adjusted to the new school environment and were advanced academically.

I took 5 years off of teaching to have my daughter, Breylin, now age 28, and my sons, Chey, now 27, and Tanon, 25. I volunteered as a substitute teacher at my children’s preschool.  I loved teaching the youngest children and watching their faces light up when they felt success.  At this time, my daughter was preparing to go to kindergarten, and the school did not have a preschool available.  I approached the principal, Sr. Elizabeth, about opening a preschool, and she was immediately on board with the idea.  We had to share our building with the aftercare program, which meant setting up tables, chairs, and cubbies/centers every day and breaking them back down at the end of the day. Within 5 months of the approval, in 1995, the SJV preschool was established, offering education to 120 three and four-year olds.  I developed the curriculum for the preschool classes using a combination of various curriculum, creating a hands-on learning environment.  I was also given the opportunity to work with Sadlier to develop their first preschool curriculum, Mother Goose.  After five years, we moved from the remote building on campus into a new center in 2000.  The school just initiated a Dual Language program and the VPK program to better meet the needs of the community. I was given the opportunity to be the VPK director, hence how I was introduced to the ChildCare Education Institute.

This is the first time I was able to participate in courses with the CCEI.  The only other on-line classes that I was aware of were the ones I took through the Department of Children and Families’ ChildCare Training, where I received my Staff Credential for the VPK program. I was fortunate enough to be guided in the direction of CCEI, as I was having difficulty receiving the correct information of the direction I needed to take to be able to qualify for the Director’s Credential.  I do plan on continuing my education through CCEI coursework.  With my work and family obligations , the online courses and support of education coaches, is an easy, low stress method of keeping my educational arsenal updated with the most recent findings.

I highly recommend the courses offered by CCEI to my fellow teachers and staff, hoping to further the education of my coworkers.  CCEI was very helpful and a wealth of information, in comparison to other educational avenues that I have used.  I also wish to thank my educational coach, Charlisa Dixon, for her constant support and encouragement in keeping up my schedule to complete my coursework.  Prior to being introduced to CCEI, I spent over two weeks seeking guidance on the right course to take to earn my Director’s credential.  I had a short time to accomplish this goal, and CCEI allowed me to work quickly, and successfully, to reach it.  Thank you, CCEI, for pointing me in the right direction.

I would have to say my favorite time of day to spend with my children is recess.  I love interacting with the children, and watching the dynamics of the different personalities.  Watching the future doctors, firefighters, police officers, and mommies and daddies role playing on our interactive playground, brings a smile to my face. My assistants, Claudia and Wendy, and I enjoy just sitting back and watching their imaginations run wild!  I would say the students’ favorite time of day is center time.  They love the different challenging centers that we set up every day.  They love working in small groups, socializing and playing the learning games.  Their favorite centers usually include the STEM centers.

The joy I get from working with the children motivates me.   I love the “light bulb” effect!  I love watching the children’s faces when they learn something new or make a new discovery!  It is the best feeling ever!  Those smiles can’t be beat, and the hugs I get when they succeed, are the greatest reward I could ever receive.  I enjoy watching and helping children learn and grow.  I am sad to see them graduate, but excited for their future as they move on to Kindergarten.  I am fortunate enough to be able to watch many of my students grow up, as our school goes up through the 8th grade.  It is such a wonderful feeling when my “all grown-up” preschoolers come back on graduation day to visit and thank me for the memories.

I reside in Altamonte Springs, Florida, but work in Orlando, Florida, a few miles away.  In my free time, I enjoy spending time with my family.  Summers and holiday gatherings are among my most treasured memories.  Our favorite vacations are spent at the beach and fishing and lobstering in the Keys.  I also enjoy taking care of orphaned animals.  My children and I have rescued and raised many squirrels, raccoons, birds, and opossums.  They have all been released back into the wild- usually our back yard.

My immediate future career plans include directing a Dual Language Program/VPK program in the fall.  Upon retirement, I hope to own my own preschool, where children are challenged to reach their optimum potential through hands-on learning in an interactive environment, indoor and out.  I love the idea of children learning to farm, take care of animals, and to learn the value of working together to reach milestones.  I have always been “in tune” with nature and feel it is important in the development of the whole child.  One thing I have learned in the past 33 years of working in the field of education, is that there is always room to improve your teaching methods and curriculum.  New research, educational opportunities, and resources available to teachers now, enables a teacher to reach for the stars and provide the best possible learning experience a child can have, and isn’t that the goal of every teacher?!

November 2018 Newsletter – Meeting Children’s Most Basic Needs: Director’s Corner Supporting Families to Meet Children’s Basic Needs

As a leader in the ECE field, part of your role includes supporting families in working to meet children’s basic needs.  Reflect on the practices that your program currently used to help families meet the needs of their children.  Make sure that every opportunity to support families is being taken advantage of.  This might include any of the following efforts:

  • Providing connections to community resources. It is imperative that your program have information about community resources on hand to share with families.
    • Create a team that will work to create a community resource binder that can be shared with families
    • Include community resource information in your enrollment packets
    • Host community resource fairs or information sessions at your location
    • Create relationships with local homeless shelters, food pantries, and health centers so that you can support families in accessing these services
  • Model best practices and strategies for meeting children’s basic and emotional needs.
    • Share recipes for nutritious meals and snacks
    • Practice serve and return in front of families and explain how it helps builds relationships and promotes development
    • Use growth mindset language when communicating about children to their families
    • Ensure teachers are using arrival and departure routines to model ways to meet children’s needs
  • Conduct various forms of family education sessions
    • Share articles from ECE experts or write your own articles about meeting children’s basic and emotional needs for your program newsletter
    • Share information about toxic stress and stress reducing strategies with families.
    • Encourage families to participate in their children’s classrooms as often as possible, even if it is for only a few minutes at a time. Promote families spending time in the classroom, to learn with their children, and build trusting relationships with teachers.
    • Invite speakers to present information about meeting children’s needs to both families and teachers. Send home a summary of the event to all families so even those who were unable to attend have access to the information.
    • Create “homework” assignments related to meeting children’s needs that families can choose at random from a community board or display. Be sure to include a detailed description of the strategy and an explanation of why it is so important to child development.

Work with your staff to identify the needs of the children and families enrolled in the program.  Determine how you can enhance your program to ensure that you are doing all you can to support families as they work to meet their children’s needs after they leave your care each day.

For the main article on Meeting Children’s Most Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Children and Toxic Stress, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Emotional Needs, CLICK HERE

November 2018 Newsletter – Meeting Children’s Most Basic Needs: Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Emotional Needs

In addition to meeting children’s basic needs for food, water, safety, etc., it is also the caregiver’s role to meet children’s emotional needs.  These relate back to Maslow’s needs for belonging, love, esteem and accomplishment.

Here are just a few recommendations for creating an environment that supports children’s emotional needs:

  • Respond to children’s cues consistently and with a pleasant demeanor. Yes, working with groups of young children can be frustrating, especially when two or more children are signaling that they have unmet needs at the same time.  Responding in a positive manner to every child’s needs, every time, is a professional practice that caregivers must master.
  • Engage in serve and return interactions with children. This simply means that when you notice a child making eye contact or babbling (the serve), you respond with a similar gesture (the return).  You can read more about serve and return here
  • Engage in meaningful conversations with children. Consider your communication with children.  Is more of your time spent in conversation or in direction-giving and correcting behaviors? Look for opportunities during arrival, departure, mealtimes, and play time to engage children in meaningful conversations.
  • Help children understand their emotions. Teach emotional vocabulary and self-calming strategies. Give children tools to be more successful in their interactions with peers.
  • Encourage and capitalize on mistakes. We all learn from our mistakes, especially when we have someone beside us supporting our learning. Rather than seeing mistakes as something to correct and punish, begin to think about the lessons that can be learned through mistakes.  If a child spills milk, it is an opportunity to learn about responsibility.  If a child gets angry with a peer, it is an opportunity to learn self-calming strategies.
  • Create activities that encourage children to learn about one another. Discuss differences and similarities and how each person contributes to the classroom. Don’t compare children to other children. Identify and accentuate each child’s strengths and contributions.
  • Introduce growth mindset practices. Generally, this means that you communicate with children in a way that highlights children’s accomplishments, regardless of how small. Growth mindset communication focuses on the efforts children make, rather than the accuracy of the final outcome.  You can learn more by taking CUR121: Establishing Growth Mindset Practices in Early Learning Environments.
  • Ensure that you are adjusting the curriculum to challenge children appropriately. At times, it may be necessary to adjust your expectations and lessons to focus on the emotional needs of children, before expecting them to be ready for academic content.  Remember, according to Maslow, children’s basic needs must be met before they can focus on meeting their emotional needs; and those must be met before children can begin to focus on meeting the need to reach their full potential.

Implementing these strategies will help you build strong and supportive relationships with children, which scientists have identified as a contributing factor to children developing healthy stress response systems.

For the main article on Meeting Children’s Most Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Children and Toxic Stress, CLICK HERE
For the article on Taking Steps to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE
For the article on Director’s Corner: Supporting Families to Meet Children’s Basic Needs, CLICK HERE