This next phase of the school year begins as children have successfully separated from their caregivers and transferred trust to their classroom teachers. All separation looks different, takes varying amounts of time and can certainly be an ebb and flow. But the hallmark is a child’s ability to say goodbye to their adult and cross the threshold into the classroom with little to no distress. Teachers use tools to help ease separation: notes to or from home, transition objects like lovies, or a separation plan which could include a special hug or kiss followed by a special story once inside the classroom.
Teachers become a child’s go-to source of reference. They will seek out a teacher in moments of big feelings - joy or sadness - share in experiences like painting and building or ask for help with basic tasks like fastening buttons or dressing for outside. As this is occurring, teachers are setting up the environment to encourage children to become more autonomous. Children’s increasing comfort in the classroom lends itself to their ability to explore and engage in tasks independently.
Classroom design is changing, too. Rather than the familiar and comforting activities that first lured them into the classroom, teachers are introducing new materials and children have a say in what is happening in various parts of the classroom. The dramatic play area is now transforming based on children’s interests. Hotels, animal hospitals, and restaurants draw on children’s love of pretend and acting out familiar scripts - building on themes like caregiving and familial roles.
Opportunities for self-help skills are evident throughout the day. Children work to hang up their backpacks and coats as they arrive, dress themselves in their winter gear, and care for the classroom by participating in clean up as a group. Relationships between children, their teachers, and their peers are growing. Children reference one another in play, tune into each other’s feelings, and seek to make genuine connections.
This phase of the school year will last the majority of the year, giving way to mastery - the phase in which children feel pride in “knowing how to be at school.” For now, let us relish in their growing comfort and competence, sharing together in the joy of preschool.