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Are most pre-school classes like this?

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 
My ds goes to a local co-op preschool two mornings a week. He started in June and loves it, but I'm starting to have serious doubts.

Since it's a co-op, parents must participate in the classroom on a regular basis, along with other duties around the school to keep it running smoothly.

The last two times that I've participated the class has been an absolute nut house! Kids screaming/crying throughout the morning...kids not listening/running around the classroom...just completely out of control. There is one teacher, a teacher's aid and two parent helpers in each class. There are 15 kids. After helping in the class I'm completely worn out and so is ds.

The atmosphere is just very stressful and on edge. The kids are constantly telling on each other and it just seems things are centered around correcting/discipline instead of just having fun. Also, the discipline obviously isn't working.

Over the summer the class was entirely different. Very laid back and happy and peaceful. The fall semester brought about 3 new kids who seem to consistently need correcting and guidance. It's just such a bummer because it's making the whole experience go bad. One child was even violent towards another kid with a toy knife and I stepped in right away to intervene. The teacher came over and just took the knife away...didn't really talk to the kids about what was going on or how that's completely unacceptable.

The class ranges in age from 2.5 to 4. Ds is one of the oldest.

I'm seeing ds mimic a lot of the bad behaviors at home and I keep thinking "I'm paying for my ds to learn these things?!"

After each time that I've participated and it's been crazy like this I've talked with the teacher about it to see how she feels and she has just dismissed it as being "one of those days", and that usually it isn't "so crazy". I have my doubts though because of the way I see my ds act after he's been in school.

I don't know. This is the only preschool in town that I can afford and ds really insists that he loves it. He begs to go every morning! Should I just ride it out and see if things get better or should I try talking to the teacher some more about what's going on in the classroom?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!!

post #2 of 24
Do the kids do activities/have a structured schedule, or is it just random free for all most of the day?

I've never spent the day with my DD at school, but I know they do "circle time" where they sing songs together, have outside time, snack, and a free play time among other things.

I also worked at a preschool/daycare with a 2.5-3 year old group half-days in college. I was in charge of about 8 or 9 by myself. We had a pretty structured day-nap/potty/snack/outside/inside play/go home.

So, what's the schedule like?
post #3 of 24
I can only tell you my experience at the daycare where I work. The 2 1/2 to 3 year old class has anywhere from 8-12 children and they have 2 teachers at all times. The preschool (3-4 year olds) class has up to 12 with one teacher. I never see it the way you describe. Sometimes things get a little noisy, but generally it's very productive and well-organized.

Do they have some sort of schedule to follow, like a general "this is when we play, this is when we have story time, ect"? The classrooms at my daycare have schedules they follow everyday. The children know what to expect and change activities without a problem.

4 adults to 15 kids seems like it should be enough, but if they aren't all on the same page and they are all running around doing something different, I can see how it could get crazy. If that's the case, it would probably be better to JUST have the teacher and teacher aide and not the parents.

I would probably give it a week or two and see if the newcomers start adjusting better. If it's still crazy I'd bring it up again.

When I sub in the classrooms, the only age group I have difficulty with are the 18 month-2 year olds. By 2 and up they generally aren't hard to manage.
post #4 of 24
Never ever ever have I seen it like that in any preschool class my kids have been in. Even free play is controlled and quiet. There is no running around or screaming in the classroom. I would not be happy with that situation at.all.
post #5 of 24
Sometimes you get a bad mix of kids, and it really does change the atmosphere of the whole class. Teachers can end up feeling like it's a "bad group", when really it's just a particular mix of a few kids. The days that one or more of those kids doesn't come to school will show the teachers how great the rest of the group really is.

Teachers can do a lot to make a group move around better. Songs, extra circle times, separating play areas differently. Sometimes, it's a combination of experience, enthusiasm and trial and error.

I have always been able to have nice toys out for my group. But, in the last three years, I have had three kids (all related) that will destroy anything. I had the same set of cardboard blocks for 10 years, these three ATE them. So, I have stacks and stacks of toys way up high, because I can't leave anything down for them, or they will just dump and throw. We can't do calender because they will rip the numbers down, then rip the bulletin boards down. So, our walls are blank. It's the first time in 30 years I've had a group like this. I have no idea how to fix it.
post #6 of 24
Originally Posted by bandgeek View Post
I can only tell you my experience at the daycare where I work. The 2 1/2 to 3 year old class has anywhere from 8-12 children and they have 2 teachers at all times. The preschool (3-4 year olds) class has up to 12 with one teacher. I never see it the way you describe. Sometimes things get a little noisy, but generally it's very productive and well-organized.
Yes, this. Dd's preschool class has a very structured day--specific times for circle time, snacks, rest, choice time, playground time, etc., plus various "special" activities (Spanish twice a month, karate one a week, etc.).

Even during choice time--essentially free play--things are pretty structured. There are various activities set out: crafts, different types of toys, puzzles, and so on. Only a certain number of kids are allowed at any one activity at a time. They also visit various places in the room--the reading corner, the science corner, the house corner--but again there are limits to how many kids are allowed in any space. I come to pick up dd at different times, and I've definitely seen "noisy," but the room is always completely under control.

The kids are very aware of classroom expectations/rules. Any violence toward other children is stopped immediately. The child who hits/pushes/whatever will be taken aside by a teacher and not allowed to participate in whatever activity he is disrupting. The child who was "attacked" gets lots of care and attention.
post #7 of 24
Originally Posted by mommy2maya View Post
Never ever ever have I seen it like that in any preschool class my kids have been in. Even free play is controlled and quiet. There is no running around or screaming in the classroom. I would not be happy with that situation at.all.
Wow. I can't believe that's the norm anywhere!

My now-kindergartner went to a co-op preschool for 2 years. We loved it but there was certainly a lot of yelling and running around! Most of the day was unstructured with 2 short circle times and a snack. There were a couple kids with behavioral issues but it was never a problem for me. The kids did tell on each other but don't all kids that age do that? I know my oldest did and he didn't even go to preschool. There was some occasional pushing, etc. but the teacher used redirection and gave the kids clear guidance on what behavior was unacceptable.
I have always been very quick to put a stop to bad behaviors my kids pick up from peers. I sometimes have to explicitly say things like, "If I hear [friend] XYZ's voice come out of your mouth, you won't be able to play with XYZ anymore." They will be in a similar setting eventually and I don't notice them picking up bad behaviors from peers anymore so I think my tactic worked.
post #8 of 24
That is really not normal for preschool. A few kids testing boundaries can really throw things off and some kids test very heavily when they are in a new environment. It sounds like there is more going on though since it isn't getting to a manageable level.

That is a very wide age span there for preschool and that has turned me off of centers I would have otherwise loved to have my dd in. Two year olds don't play at the same level as four year olds, they are almost never ready for the same level of structure as four year olds are, they require different activities, different toys at a lower level, they have a lot of energy and little self-control, and they require more hands on redirection than most older children. Toddler classes tend to be a little wild and free spirited and I can't imagine putting preschoolers in with toddlers and having a quality experience for the preschoolers. I think you should look for a place that is an actual preschool, not just a glorified toddler class.
post #9 of 24
Nope, not normal in my experience either. If there's chaos like you describe, it sounds like the teacher isn't very effective at classroom management. It certainly sounds like she's not very good at talking to the kids when something goes wrong and helping them through the incident (going after another kid with a toy knife? that would involve a sit down with both kids, and maybe more where my kids have been.)

I also think that the age range of 2.5-4 is hard. 2.5 is really young for preschool. IMO, most kids aren't ready until 3.5 or so.
post #10 of 24
Yeah, I also think that the range of ages is a potential problem. 2-year-olds and 4-year-olds are worlds apart in terms of cognitive and social development. Dd has been in two nursery/preschools (we moved when she was 3), and in both of them the kids fell within around a six-month range. When she was in a 2-year-old class, three mornings a week, there were 3 teachers for 12 kids. In her 3yo class, the ratio was 1:6 and in her 4yo class its 1:8, although there is often an additional aide in the room. Where we live, there are state-mandated teacher: student ratios--this might be worth checking out.
post #11 of 24
We have 20 students in our classroom, 5 are age 3, 14 are age 4 and 1 is age 5. Out of the 20 students, 17 are boys. We have three main teachers, with one occasional teacher who pops in at times.

During free choice time, things can get hectic if the teachers are all involved in helping on specific projects. However, as soon as things start to get out of hand, we disengage from whatever project and go involve the kids who are getting wild in something a bit more appropriate for inside the classroom. We also have lots of free time outside playing and if the weather is nice, we often go for walks and explore our surroundings. We are a very positive, play based preschool. I don't think I've heard the word No at all and there is no "discipline" persay, no timeout or anything like that. We try to be very proactive and not reactive.

Last year my ds was in a classroom like you described. It was exhausting to be there and my ds had a really hard time with it. I think there are mixes of kids who just feed off of each other and we have several of those. We're still finding out the best way to all work together harmoniously.
post #12 of 24
I echo the other posters who say that just one or two kids can dramatically change the feel of the classroom. A few suggestions you might want ot pass on to ther teacher:

divide the kids into "teams" and put very clear cut boundaries as to where each "team" is playing/working at. I don't know how the classroom is set up, but I had success with a very rowdy group of 30 kids (alone, often) by loosely "classifying" the kids like we did in our spec. ed. class as "high" med or low functioning and then grouping them so that there was 1 high functioning kid and 1 low functioning kid in each group, rather than putting all the 4 yo's together and all the 2 yo's together.

then, providing activities, for example, a table with paper, scissors and gluesticks. The paper has cutout activities on it, so the kids with more advanced scissor skills can actually create something while the kids who are just starting out (or ar rowdier, not into following direction, whatever) can do the same activity, but just adapted to their needs. Often the peer pressure of working in a group of 5-6 other well-behaved kids helps the less cooperative child to settle down when he is separated from his partners in crime.

I usually had about 10 activities prepared for the week for my class of 30. I started out setting out all 10 activities, with the kids in "teams" of 3 because any more than that and they would lose it. I had to put actual squares on the floor with masking tape to show the kids where they were supposed to stay during their activity. Every 15 minutes or so (or whenever things were starting to fall apart) I would pick somebody to ring this obnoxious bell I had, or turn on a song on the CD palyer, and we would come together to sing a song, or paly freeze dance for 30 seconds or so, after which I would send the kids off to new activities. Basically rotating them through all the activities.

I know this probably sounds super structured and authoritarian and all that, but if there is no way to change the actual classroom makeup (like creating two separate classes or something) it mgiht be a start and a way for the adults to make the day more manageable, and get the kids into a better routine. I find that once they get used to the routine and know what to expect, things go more smoothly. You will never reach that point, however, if every day is spent doing damage control all day.
post #13 of 24
I toured a co-op like that and although I was only there twice I have to say that I think the nature of its particular structure contributed (parents weren't given enough direction, the day didn't have enough rhythm). It's one reason we went for our Montessori.
post #14 of 24
We're in a coop preschool, and have an age range not so very different--2 years 10 months is I believe the youngest to 4 years 1 month. It is a spread, but it's early in the year yet. Does the coop have parent meetings to talk things through? Ours does, and if they feel a child doesn't fit into a particular group, teachers bring it up in the parent meeting or to the parents directly (DS is there now, and seems to be okay in the group he's in, but DD was the oldest in her group when she was there, and was moved up a group for a better fit). When did the fall session start? I would personally give it a month or so to settle back down, especially for a 2 day/week group.
post #15 of 24
Does the classroom use centers? Is there a limit as to how many kids can do one activity at a time? To answer your question though, no that is definitely not the norm in a quality early childhood program.
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post #16 of 24
I think it's a little hard to tell from your description. That it might be pretty loud at times seems normal to me. The business with the knife seems like it could have been dealt with better. How long have the new kids been there? What's the weather been like? I ask that most recent question because it's been raining here pretty much straight for over a week. I'm sure our preschool is louder with more kids running around than is usual. But I know the teachers also try to do stuff to let the kids get the sillies out in manageable ways: obstacle courses, lots of dancing, etc.

Ours is a mixed age preschool by the way with kids from about 2.5 to around 4.5. I actually think there can be real advantages to a mixed age setting.

A couple of your comments make me think you should keep trying and keep talking to the teacher. First, your son is loving it. Second, summer was different and it might just take more time to get routines nailed down with new kids. Third, the teacher says that what you have observed is not the norm. You either trust the teachers or you don't - that's a more fundamental question, but the message you are getting is that things were crazier than usual on the days you were there and that's completely possible. Finally, the level of parent involvement here is pretty high so I would think bringing this up at whatever kind of parent meeting you have wouldn't be out of place.
post #17 of 24
Thread Starter 
thanks so much for all of the replies!

the class has a schedule and routine that it follows, but it is primarily play based. they play outside first thing, then come inside for circle time, then centers, music/dance, inside free play, snack, story, outside play/parent pick up.

centers are really a free for all. there are no teams. kids just randomly go from one center to the next with no time frame or structure. there are usually five centers with a parent or teacher at four of them. the fifth is always play-doh and there is no helper there.

the teacher just started here this semester (which started aug. 16th). she has some prior experience but not a whole lot. i really think it comes down to her not managing the classroom well. things are allowed to escalate to a point of no return it seems.

my dh is participating next week, so we're going to see what his take is on all of this then go from there.

thanks for the perspective. i hadn't really considered that it is still relatively early in the semester and the new kids could still be adjusting. i think i'm going to take the wait and see approach before making any big decisions.
post #18 of 24
I agree that an influx of new kids can really change the classroom dynamic. Ds's preschool is also a co-op and with kids from 2-6 and I LOVE the mixed age aspect. Sometimes free play can be loud and crazy, sometimes in a good way other times in a not so good way!

The business with the knife is hard to really analysis because you don't know what has happened before with that child and that kind of behavior. Sometimes it is better to just walk over and stop the action when you've already talked about several times. Some kids just need someone to step in and stop them and "talking" about it only makes it worse.
post #19 of 24
Something that I've seen work well is limiting number of kids in a center. A sign used outside the center with say three bodies on it at the home living center. Another with two for library, one with four for art, same for manipulatives and so on. It gives the kids a visual clue and the teachers and helpers can reinforce. It really can help limit the chaos of 16 kids trying to use blocks at one time.
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post #20 of 24
That sounds like a teacher problem. She needs to be able to control the class better. That really doesn't sound like an environment that is good for kids. High stress and a free for all. Most kids that age really need order and routine.

I second limiting the number of children in each center. I think that is how these things normally work: in all the books about preschool classrooms I've read, they mention that this can be very important.

We chose Montessori because the environment is so calm even though the day is very unstructured. I wouldn't be happy with the free for all that you describe. And, no, it's not normal for a preschool to be like that. It seems like a guaranteed way for my 3yo to spend all afternoon melting down.
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