15 signs of a great preschool!

We are loving Lilina's new preschool and the methods they using to teach and have fun.

We are loving Lilina's new preschool and the methods they using to teach and have fun.

Lilina started a new preschool last week in the 4-year-old class and even from the meet-the-teacher night we have been so impressed with the teachers and the school.  Here are 15 signs, in no particular order, of a great preschool:

  1. They incorporated writing and letter recognition immediately – Even in the quick visit to meet the teachers they incorporated the kids writing their names and letter recognition in two activities. When the kids come into class, they pick out their names out from a grouping of class names on the desk. It helps them learn their names but also learn other names. On Monday, they were working on puzzles made of the other kids’ names.
  2. Her teacher is actually a certified teacher – You can tell that L.’s teacher knows how to run a classroom and is making lesson plans as if she was with a regular elementary class. She’s innovative with her activities and does things I haven’t seen before in a preschool classroom.
  3. The teacher sends home their weekly plan with everything they will be covering, doing and learning – They have the normal morning circle time with a prayer, calendar and learning activities. But then they also do journal writing, song and poem books, read aloud small group activities, whole group activities, one-on-one instruction in writing, art, science, math, drama, sensory table and library (throughout the week).
  4. The teacher uses a theme to integrate her lessons (webbing or laddering for the teachers out there) — So for example the first week the theme was gingerbread man. When we arrived at school the kids were playing with play dough and cutting out gingerbread men. Later they read “The Gingerbread Man” story by Jan Brett. Then they actually mixed real dough and created their own gingerbread men, who later ran away. Later in the week, they measured flour in measuring cups and used balance scales to see what was equal.
  5. The teacher makes her own cinnamon play dough for the class when they studied the gingerbread man –  The whole room smelled so lovely.  (See recipe below.)
  6. When you arrive to the preschool everything is spotless, when you pick them up, the rooms have clearly been played in –  For example, there was flour all over the floor from the measuring exercise. That’s OK because they are learning and playing.
  7. The kids are messy too –  Lilina came home with flour on her shirt and something awfully sticky in her hair. But it just meant they had done good stuff.
  8. The playground is well-maintained and has equipment for all types of play – They have tricycles to ride, pirate ships to pretend in, jungle gyms to climb on, and sand to dig in.
  9. They are organized about snack – You don’t have to worry about the snack basket and who’s bringing snack this week. You bring it all in the beginning and they distribute. No fuss.
  10. They use basic things as a chance to learn – The kids created their own snack mats, where they wrote their names, put their hand prints and decorated it.  (Practice writing). On one side of the snack mat are sort and group circles where they ask the kids to sort and group their snacks – Goldfish go here, pretzels go here. Such an easy thing and they think they are playing with their snacks but they are learning.
  11. We are surprised by the things they are learning – I guess I should have remembered that Rose and Walsh covered the Pledge of Allegiance in preschool but I didn’t. Michael mentioned pledge the other day and Lilina immediately put her hand to chest. She doesn’t know the words yet but she knew it was called the “Pledge of Allegience.”
  12. Your child is thrilled to see her teacher outside of the classroom  – We ran in Lilina’s teacher at the Y and Lilina was just vibrating because she was so excited to see her!
  13. It’s always walk-in—no carlines – I love, love walking into preschool seeing all the kids, their classrooms, the teachers and the parents. You can get to know them and know what’s happening.
  14. They have school pets. They have four finches that lay eggs each year in a large glass cage by the front office and the children just adore the birds. They are fascinated by them and they greet them and watch them every morning when they arrive. I love that they are learning about the birds and how to care for them.
  15. The teachers are so used to talking to the kids at eye-level they talk to you from the ground — Lilina’s teacher at meet-the-teacher night realized what she was doing and said “Oh I guess I could stand up.”

Playdough recipe from Lilina’s teacher

2 cups flour

1 cup salt

1 tbs. mineral oil

2 tbs. cream of tartar

2 cups of water

1 to 2 Kool-Aid packets. (Use 2 for stronger scent and color.) I assume she used cinnamon here instead of Kool-Aid.

  1. Mix all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat, stirring until stiff.
  2. Allow to cool, then knead.
  3. Store in an airtight container or Ziploc baggies.

– Theresa Walsh Giarrusso, Momania on ajc.com. You can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

56 comments Add your comment

Don't Understand

August 21st, 2011
11:01 am

Funny how much attention parents give to the choice of pre-school – something they routinely pay their own money for – versus the choice of K-12 – something the rest of society is paying for. Maybe there is a connection between how much parents care and how much parents are required to actually pay of their own money.

Of course when you are paying your own way you can actually care and choose. When the government chooses for you and the rest of society is paying the vast majority of the costs, the best you can hope for is being able to afford a home in a district that doesn’t get redrawn, etc. at the whim of government bureaucrats.

And a free market solution would be somehow worse HOW??


August 21st, 2011
11:04 am

Also, she is not there every day.


August 21st, 2011
12:20 pm

I happen to be a certified prek teacher, done it for 3.5 years, and I’ve talked to parents who have put their children in a nice, new school but the teacher’s have high turnover,and aren’t happy. I work in an older school, granted it’s clean and sanitary, but it does show it’s age. Parents have said the experience in my school has been much better. This is because where I work, there is low turnover, everyone knows each other and are like family, hence you have happy, fulfilled teachers who love their jobs. Management steps back and lets us do our jobs, which is every teacher’s dream. I really think it depends on how much the teachers care and are supported, and not how “nice” the school happens to be. I worked for Primrose for 3 months, and all they cared about was keeping their building looking pristine, and so I was not allowed to put the children’s art work up on the walls, but was restricted to one small bulletin board. Also, I had to restrict the children from making “too much mess” in order to upkeep the building. A random scratch on the wall made by a child playing too rough with a toy truck was a horrific nightmare for management. Where I am now is so much more kid friendly, lets children be children, and gives us the freedom to let them do messy play. We are allowed to put the children’s artwork all over the classroom. I’ll take my older family friendly school instead of any perfect stuffed-shirt primrose any day!

preschool teacher

August 21st, 2011
8:13 pm

I have taught preschool for 10 years and I agree mostly with the list except for the “walk-in”. We do carpool at our school and we feel it is best. It helps with separation anxiety and as a teacher it helps me to focus all my attention on my students who are coming into my classroom. Many times parents will walk their child in and want to have a mini conference at the door. I am very happy to talk to parents but not at that time. My focus must be on my students. I teach older 2’s, young 3’s and we put a lot of time and effort into our planning and I try to make the room as inviting as possible. We do messy art projects, we explore science topics, we do pre-reading and pre-math skills but in a fun way. I send home a monthly calendar and letter that tells the parents what we will be learning and exploring for the month as well as smaller updates throughout the month.

To single dad: I am not “raising” anyone’s child, I am nuturing their child and partnering with them to give their child new experiences as well as learning vital social skills. They learn to wait their turn, walk in a line, be a friend, respect for themselves, for others, for those in authority, playing well with others, etc. I take my job seriously and I do not consider myself babysitting someone’s child.

Oh one last thing to check into: What kind of security procedures do they have in place? Are the teachers trained in first aid/CPR/heimlich?

Back when my own children were young, I was a stay at home mom who sent them to preschool a few mornings a week. They are in college now and are still friends with some of the children they met in preschool.


August 22nd, 2011
8:32 am

I agree that the teacher should be certified, but with the way the state has cut teacher pay I think it will be harder to find. A certified teacher could teach kindergarten in an elementary school and make twice as much. I think Georgia under estimates the value of early childhood education. As a former kindergarten teacher (now stay at home mom), I feel the state has made public pre-k nothing but a babysitting service. I would spend easily 200 dollars a month out of my own pocket to make sure my students had materials for creative activities. Parents would donate too, but some stuff we should have had but budget cuts kept us from having everything we needed. Educating children shouldn’t be so political. Which is why I started educating my own.


August 22nd, 2011
11:54 pm

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