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Important Questions to Ask a Preschool Director When Choosing a Preschool
When deciding on a preschool for your child, there are important questions to ask the director. During the research/shopping around period, take time to gather information and spend time touring schools, listening and asking questions. There are excellent preschools, average preschools, low quality preschools, and very low quality centers. Here are four important questions and red flags to consider when choosing a preschool for your child.
Be Prepared With the Right Questions
1- Check to see if the school is accredited by a national or state accreditation agency. This goes beyond the regulatory state license (which is very important), and means that the agency representatives have conducted a thorough review of educational delivery, health and safety implementation, and operational and campus environment excellence. They observe each classroom, most often during instructional times of the day. It doesn’t guarantee a perfectly run school, but it should and does mean the owner/director cares enough to do the work required for an accreditation. This should be first on your list. If the school is not accredited, ask why. Does it plan to go through the process in the near future? Which agency will it use? How long has the school been in operation? Is it a private business? I would not rule out a school if it isn't accredited, as some new schools need adequate time before the accreditation process.
2- Check out the school website and read carefully the school philosophy and best practices of the school. The objectives should be clearly focused on the child’s benefit and the professional manner in which teachers/staff implement the program. Write down what is most important to you in selecting a school and ask the director plainly, (an example), “I see that one of your objectives is to understand and use basic educational concepts in Literacy, Math and Science. Can you give examples of how this is done in the 3 year old classroom?" The director should be able to give a focused, descriptive response without hesitation. It’s best to ask the most important questions at the very start, as you may forget or get caught up in the tour or become sidetracked with other details and the school activity. Take a written list with you and don’t feel embarrassed to have it in plain sight as you interview the director.
Look for Professional Early Childhood Educators
3- Ask about the teacher’s credentials and the staff rollover. What are the education requirements of teachers? Ask specifically about who your child’s teacher will be and ask to meet her and observe the room. The prospective teacher will become a very important person in your child’s life. You should feel comfortable and confident that the teacher and your child are a good match. Ask if there are other teachers or staff who will be involved with your child. Go with your instinct and listen and observe carefully. Most teachers want the very best for each of their students. If you feel noticeably uncomfortable, keep shopping around.
4- Ask about the payment policy and make sure you understand it fully. Some schools are very strict in regard to how payment is made and enforce late payment fees. Even if your child is sick or staying home with visiting relatives for a week, unless this is specific vacation time that has been earned and scheduled, most schools require payment for the missed week. Most preschools are corporate or privately run businesses, so it’s expected that you understand the business end of your partnership with the school. A good director will be more than happy to discuss these details and they should be included in the parent handbook. If a signed contract with the school is necessary, make sure you read and understand it thoroughly.
Listen, Observe and Know What to Look For
Red Flags to Watch for When Choosing a Preschool
If you can’t answer yes to the following, it could signal a red flag. Proceed with caution.
- First appearances are important. Does the school look well maintained? Is it clean? If not, that’s a huge red flag. Move on.
- Are the staff appropriately dressed? Do they appear professional in manner and their attire? Are they clean in appearance? Does the director have a background in the early childhood profession?
- Do you hear laughter and see smiles? Are the children actively learning in a structured environment, or do you see kids sitting at tables with their heads down?
- Are the children required to stay outside for extended periods of time in late afternoons? Are they overly hot and dirty? Be sure to ask the director and teacher how long the children are outside. If they’re outside for longer than an hour session at a time without some form of reprieve, ask why. Does the time given match the posted schedule in the classroom?
The best parent-child-teacher relationships are those in which mutual respect is evident. The best teachers are pleasant, professional and well prepared. The best preschools have an excellent reputation in the community and live up to the high standards that parents should expect and require from a preschool.