What is the most important sign of a high quality classroom? Is it the books? The art supplies? The cleanliness? How about the methodology? Lesson plans? Organic home-made snacks?
I’ll tell you a secret: It’s not any of those things. But it is something that will not cost you a single penny.
You won’t have to find room for it on a shelf. This doesn’t need a label. It will make your classroom more efficient. It will make the children learn faster and retain things longer. Classroom management will be easier with the addition of this one thing.
This will make your classroom the one everyone wants their child to be in.
It will impact every child that you teach.
Have you guessed what it is yet?
The #1 SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing that distinguishes a high quality preschool classroom from an average one is your relationship with the students.
Get off on the right foot
When holding an open house, after a brief introduction, let the children and parents explore the classroom. Spend some time with each child individually to start to build a relationship.
- When they tour the center, ask the parents if you can spend a few minutes playing with their child. After all, the child will spend the most time in your classroom!
- Give the child your full attention during that few minutes. Forget about the million other things that need to be done.
- Be sure to get down to eye level, make eye contact, and ask follow-up questions.
- Use a friendly, calm voice.
- After a few minutes of engaged play, you can invite the child to continue exploring while you talk to their parents.
Learn How to LISTEN
Giving a child your full attention is not only helpful to you. It shows them that you care enough to stop what you are doing and focus on them.
- Stop what you are doing, if possible. There will be time to hang artwork or clean the desk later.
- Get down to their eye level.
- Use a pleasant tone and soft volume.
- Ask questions, especially open-ended ones.
Growing and Maintaining High Quality Relationships
Just like any relationship, the one you grow and maintain with each student will require some small effort on your part – but kids love to talk about themselves!
- Who else is in their family? This can be really helpful when they suddenly start telling you a story about their sister. Pets are included in this as well!
- Every child sees their birthday as the MOST IMPORTANT DAY. Make sure you know when they are coming up. A special birthday hug or high five, make a crown, let them be in charge of picking the book or song at circle time are all great ways to celebrate.
- Their likes and dislikes. If you know that Nazario doesn’t like chocolate pudding, making sure you have an option for him when you make “dirt” for snack shows that you listen and care about children’s preferences.
- Share some tidbits about yourself as well. My son remembered that his teacher couldn’t eat certain foods because of an allergy. He would ask every time we brought in a treat if his teacher would be able to have some. Tell the children about your own kids, a silly story about your dog, what your favorite color/candy/food is – and make sure you leave time for them to share back!
- Learn their interests. Billy might be super into trains, but Josie might go ga-ga for dinosaurs. Knowing and showing that you know this about each child will really go a long way toward making them feel important! Something simple like saying “Hey Billy, guess what we are learning about next week? YOUR FAVORITE THING!” really personalizes the classroom experience for the children.
High Quality Relationships are the key!
The most important part of any classroom – and in life – are the relationships that help shape and mold our children into who they are.
They might not remember your amazing lesson plan from October, but they will remember that you smiled, listened, and loved them.
Click HERE to download a free, editable “Getting to Know Your Child” form. Send it home at the beginning of the year and start your relationship with your students and their families on the right foot.
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