Your school tour is a very important assessment tool in identifying the right early childhood environment for your child. As a long-time teacher, administrator, lower school coordinator, and mother to a one-year old son, I have given a lot of thought to what to look for in early childhood education and I believe there are often overlooked signs as to whether the facility you are touring truly offers the quality and programming your child needs.
My first belief is that all prospective parents can benefit from researching first. As so clearly outlined in this earlier blog on preparing for a tour, noteworthy pre-tour research includes checking that the school’s teachers have a background in early childhood education and that the school’s programs and curricula are informed by early childhood education and development. Through the school’s web site, parents also should be able to research whether teachers receive ongoing training and supervision in how best to promote children’s emotional, cognitive and social learning in a sensitive, attuned, understanding and responsive way.
The next step, in my view, is to pay close attention during the tour. Vitally important is that the school’s program offers early childhood education and not just daycare, as discussed here. As noted in that article, observations worth making during the tour include: how well childcare givers and teachers interact with the children; the availability and access children have to developmentally appropriate spaces, activities, toys, books and materials that are interwoven throughout the classroom; the display and visible implementation of a detailed curriculum and classroom schedule; and of course engaged, happy and interested children. (Interested parents are welcome to read our full article on other important signs of a quality early childhood education program.) One point our education director Angela Kenis always stresses is that parents should trust their instincts as soon as they walk into a child development center. Do you instinctively feel the center could be the right fit for your child?
But as a veteran early childhood professional who has received and given many tours, I also have learned to keep an eye out not only for the positives but also for warning signs as well. These warning signs include:
- Teachers spending more time on their phones than engaging with the students
- Dirty classrooms and bathrooms
- Unhappy teachers
- Crying children ignored for extended periods of time
- Few wall decorations
- Classroom visuals not accompanied by written words
- Dimly lit rooms (unless it’s nap time)
- Unpleasant smelling rooms
- Negotiable tuitions
- Unwelcoming teachers who don’t hold eye contact with visiting parents
- Evasive administrators who avoid answering certain questions
I hope as you evaluate programs for your young child, these pointers will assist you in finding a center that best meets your child’s needs.