A few weeks ago I attended my granddaughter’s graduation from preschool. Parents, siblings, and grandparents chattered excitedly as the graduates entered the room and lined up on one side. The head teacher explained that the children were “crossing over” from preschool to kindergarten, and so today, they would literally cross over a bridge—actually, a wooden rocking boat turned upside down. As each child’s name was called, he or she walked to the bridge, walked over the bridge, hugged or shook hands with the head teacher, and sat down on the other side of the room. Their faces beamed, and cellphone cameras clicked...
Although I had initially chuckled at the idea of a preschool “graduation,” I was very moved, and as my granddaughter carefully climbed up and down the steps, tears came to my eyes. I looked around the room; I wasn’t the only one whose eyes were glistening.
After the ceremony, I talked with my daughter about how much I had enjoyed the ceremony and how it seemed as though a great deal of care had gone into the program. She agreed and then added, “It’s the way they do everything. We’re really going to miss this place.” Later that day, I had the chance to ask her what exactly she was going to miss. Here are the things she mentioned:
- “The teachers interact with the kids in really caring and respectful ways, and they encourage that kind of behavior among the children. When we visit the classroom, the atmosphere is calm; there’s a sense of quiet and peacefulness, even though everyone is busy doing things.”
- “The activities and projects are based on the kids’ interests, and they have the opportunity to explore and observe, and then reflect on what they’ve done.”
- “When they’re doing projects, they don’t just use the same old markers or stamps all the time; they’re introduced to new materials, and they’re encouraged to use them in novel ways.”
- “The environment is beautiful! It’s spacious and light, and it’s not overwhelming. There’s a balance between stimulating displays and restful elements like plants and an aquarium.”
- “When we go for parent conferences, the teachers make observations that show how well they know our kid, rather than comments that seem generic (like, ‘She’s very enthusiastic’).”
- “The curriculum seems well thought out. The activities are connected and they seem to have a goal; they’re not just random.”
- “There’s lots of active play time, and they go outside as much as possible, not just a half-hour a day.”
As I reflected on my daughter’s comments, I thought about how many of them are indicators of a high-quality preschool and how lucky my granddaughter was to be able to attend such a school. This kind of experience shouldn’t be limited to the lucky few whose parents are able to afford it. Support Strong Start Tucson so high-quality preschool will be available to 8000 more 3- and 4-year-olds in Tucson!
Emerita Professor of Early Childhood/Elementary Education
Rutgers Graduate School of Education