Recently my student invited me to come to her school, A Child’sHaven, and observe her classroom. I always jump at the chance to see a classroom with children involved. So I made arrangements with her administrator to come out on Friday morning. I was amazed at what a wonderful experience this is for young children!
A Child’s Haven is is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. The children who attend the school are from infants to 5 years old. Many have developmental delays as a result of poverty, neglect, or abuse. Parents have to apply and the children are assessed before being accepted at no cost to the family and all costs are paid by Medicaid. Children are even picked up and brought home by the bus! Children attend from 9am - 1pm every day and teachers are there approximately 7 - 3 every day. Children attend this year-round until they can enter the regular public school.
I arrived at the school at 9:30 in the morning and was cordially greeted by the receptionist. An administrator, Megan, came to escort me to an observation room where I could see the class without disrupting the normal activity. The atmosphere of the school and hallways was very welcoming and bright. I was able to ask questions and Megan easily answered all of them. By observing from a separate room, I was able to see everything without bothering the students or the teachers. I wish all classrooms had an observation room like this not just for administrators or visitors but for parents too. I was actually able to look into 2 different classrooms from this one room. One class was the Caterpillars room and the other class was the Hummingbirds room. I was able to see a lot of similarities in the overall program but also see the differences that we made for the different children and ages.
The students were engaged in Center activities when I got there. I saw a dress-up center and a reading center and tables setup for small group activities. I also saw an area where they would have Circle Group. Many other shelves that were used for storage were covered a covering some to help minimize distractions to the students.
In the three to five-year-old classroom there were four teachers and 11 students ages 3 to 5. I was told there was no toilet training requirement for a child to be in this program. The teachers seem to work a lot on social interactions and acceptable behaviors. Each child had three goals that they were working on. I watched a couple of children have a meltdown but each was professionally handled within minimal amount of disruption to the whole class activity.
There seemed to be a lot of paperwork involved in this program. Teachers were involved in paperwork before and after school in order to be accountable to Medicaid. Throughout the day the teachers keep notes on all of the children and fill out reports from their notes. Things the teachers did in the classroom towards meeting the goals and how the children responded as well as a summary was completed every day on each child. I remember doing this as a new teacher my first year and really enjoyed reflecting on the children's’ progress at the end of the year. I wish I had kept it up throughout my career.
The playground area was very open. I watched the children play on the bouncy balls with handles. In the center of the playground was a water play area that is used in the summer. The slide was also built into a hill with large steps in the side of the hill going up to the top of the slide. There was also a fence that separated the very young children from the older children with a gate that connected the two sides for adults. This seems like it would be a very safe playground for children!
I was very impressed with the structure and the educational environment that I saw. I like the teacher-student ratio and how the classrooms are set up. I also like all the activities that the students were involved in. This was not just a preschool babysitting/daycare environment. This was an actual learning environment where children learn acceptable behaviors that will prepare them for success in the regular school environment.
I'm very glad I went to visit the school and I'm so glad my student invited me to see her teaching environment!