Kindergarten readiness and transition has been part of the Rutland BBF Action Plan for some time. This winter a steering committee was formed containing members from Rutland Head Start, Rutland Mental Health, Rutland Central Supervisory Union and Rutland City Schools to begin planning a summit of regional stakeholders to promote increased parent engagement and support during Kindergarten transition.
The planning team determined that a series of smaller mini summits leading up to a larger more inclusive meeting would work best. In May the first mini summit was held with participation from area schools, early educators and others.
What did we hope to achieve?
To build a system of communication and understanding between county early educators, kindergarten teachers & parents. To do so, the summits are designed to:
- Develop a single definition of what kindergarten readiness is.
- Build communication between Early Educators and Kindergarten programs
- To identify supports for early educators, kindergarten teachers and, families
- To help parents understand that self-regulation is key to good transition
Example of collaboration currently taking place
Kelley Toddriff (Rutland County Head Start) and Sarah Crossmon (RCPS) shared examples of their work from the last year. What went well and what was a challenge?
Cafe to go- coffee & conversation with parents at drop off helped to build community and build skills for kindergarten readiness.
Areas of focus during the cafes were: Academic skills, social-emotional activities, physical/gross motor skills, and the importance of being able to transition between activities, especially when they are a non-preferred activity.
Families surveyed at the end of the sessions felt more confident about the transition process. Many were surprised by the different expectations from preschool to Kindergarten, such as children dressing themselves to go outside or the fact that parents may not see the teacher every day. Children will be expected to learn a new set of rules, adjust to a new peer group, interact with a new teacher, perhaps ride a bus for the first time, eat in a cafeteria, and the list goes on. There was concern around these issues for both parents and children. We know that change can cause anxiety. The transition to Kindergarten can be a very stressful time with lots of changes and unanswered questions.
What do successful transitions look like?
All adjustments are stressful, but when parents, teachers, and administrators work together, the process of transitioning to kindergarten is smoother and children will experience less stress. Research shows that a child’s adjustment to school has a significant impact on his later academic achievement.
At the mini summit, the group discussed the need to incorporate more opportunities for parent involvement and increased communications between early educators and kindergarten teachers. An ideal situation would be to have each Kindergarten teacher visit incoming students. However, given that teachers are already pressed for time in their classrooms and children may be in a preschool setting that is not near where their school will be, the reality is that it may not be possible in all cases.
Everyone at the table agreed that a child’s social-emotional development motivates them to learn critical skills such as the ability to communicate, connect with others, resolve conflict, self-regulate, display kindness and empathy and cope with challenges. It will be important to help parents understand that emotional readiness is more important than children knowing their letters and numbers.
Through discussions it was discovered that each school in the region has its own documentation for transition. A preschool teacher in Rutland County could conceivably have 9 different forms to complete if their students were going to different districts. An effort is planned to create a universal document.
Steps to get there
The steering committee will continue to meet throughout the summer and will gather information and best practices from around the state. In order to be truly successful there will need to be participation and buy in from early educators and regional Supervisory Unions. The goal is to have as many voices at the table as possible. A second large group meeting will be held in October 2019.