Often when I am talking to parents about why they choose our kindergarten for their children, the answer is so they can make friends with the children they will be going to school with. As a parent myself I understand the desire to do everything in your power to help your child to make friends, maybe even life long friends. Who doesn’t have fond memories of that special someone they played my little ponies with? (or was it transformers?) and we all want that for our children. Understanding that this was the main driving force for parents to even send their children to our kindergarten I thought about how this could influence how they transitioned to school. How can we help families to develop relationships with the families they will be going through school with, honouring their aspirations for their child?
Here in New Zealand our primary schools (ages 5 years to 10 years) are zoned meaning that your child gets automatic entry into your local school, the one that you are zoned for. If you are not happy with that option you can apply for a different primary school in an out of zone ballet, but there is no guarantee that you will be accepted. It really is a lottery. Our kindergarten sends children into 5 or 6 different schools but there are a core 4 that most of our children will attend. The idea was to invite all the children and families zoned for one particular school to an afternoon tea, I called it a school information afternoon tea. The children and families would get to see who else was heading off to their school and start to make connections amongst themselves and hopefully make the beginnings of the all important parent support network that will support them all the way through school. Next, I invited the associate principle from the school along with a classroom teacher to talk a bit about the school and be there to answer any questions the families may have, all very casual of course. Lastly I invited a past kindergarten family who had made the transition to school to talk about their experience of settling into school. Sometimes parents trust the word of another family over the sales pitch a school representative might give.
This afternoon was the first afternoon tea. It was wonderful to see the different groups of people chatting together about school and life in general. My favourite part was listening to our past family talk about their transition. They had a transition story filled with apprehension and nerves which resolved into confidence and pride. If nothing else I feel proud that I was able to provide a platform for this family to be able to share their story in a meaningful way to other families. Another highlight was hearing our past kindy kid speak with confidence about his new school to another child. Too cool! Creating opportunities like this one is why I am a teacher. I love it!
It will be the turn of our second set of families next week. Fingers crossed they get a lot out of this opportunity!
I would love to hear how you manage the transition to school at your centre/preschool? How do you foster friendships that last a lifetime? And, the all important parent support network?