Between preschool and their senior year of high school, children grow, learn, and develop at an astounding rate. When families entrust their children to schools to partner in shaping the worldview of these future citizens, it is essential that the relationship between home and school be one of open communication and true partnership.
We all enter relationships with our own set of expectations, based on our personal experiences and values. The learning process requires effort from both the teacher and the student. What follows is a guide from the leaders at Mount Paran Christian School to help families navigate expectations from teachers, and vice versa, all with the ultimate aim to ensure the best possible outcomes for students.
PRESCHOOL TEACHER EXPECTATIONS
For many preschool-aged children, entering a preschool program is their first experience in a formal school setting. This means there is ample room to learn and grow. There are opportunities to form a love for learning, as well as develop the social skills needed for successful relationships in and out of school.
Just as parents enter the home-school relationship with expectations, educators also have reasonable expectations of the families they serve. Preschool teachers understand the developmental milestones of young children. With those milestones in mind, here are some things that are expected of children as they experience their preschool years.
- A teachable spirit. Social and emotional development is incredibly important between ages 3-5. This is when children learn they affect their world. There will be times when children push the limits of their behavior to find out just how far those limits can be stretched. This realization yields times of great stubbornness, followed by easy-going compliance. No teacher of young children expects perfection, but they do expect children who respond to correction and redirection. This happens at home first, making it easy for any teacher to partner with families as their child develops.
- Personal care. Young children are still learning how to do many things for themselves. Some of those things can be easy while others are frustrating. With a classroom full of little ones, there are some specific skills that fall under personal care that children should know how to do when they enter preschool. These skills include being fully potty-trained, cleaning up small messes like putting toys away, and being able to take care of their general hygiene such as effective handwashing.
- Age-appropriate communication. Another area of great growth for young children is communication. In the first few years of life, children learn first how to understand and respond to language, followed by using and responding with language. Research shows that vocabulary grows exponentially through the first five years of life. Teachers hope that children entering school have a vocabulary-rich environment at home, which helps children use language to appropriately express their needs and feelings and sets them up to learn skills that lead to phonemic awareness and, later, reading.
PRESCHOOL FAMILY EXPECTATIONS
Parents of young children may be somewhat apprehensive about leaving their little ones in the care of others, especially when this is their child’s first experience away from home. For this reason, parents can expect several key things from teachers.
- Safety. Preschool/Transitional Kindergarten (TK) teachers and staff are uniquely qualified to care for, love, and teach these youngest of learners. At MPCS, not only is the entire preschool/TK staff CPR certified, but they also participate in additional training through GA DECAL/Bright from the Start in the security and safety of children ages 3-5 years old.
- Open communication. Developmentally, children ages 2-5 years old remember at most one-third of any event. They remember how an event made them feel but very little detail. Therefore, communication between school and home is essential. At many schools, preschool/TK teachers send home a daily folder in which parents can find information about their child’s day, including details on activities, specifics about social interactions with other children, and anything that is a celebration or concern in the child’s development. Additionally, teachers use various apps, such as Seesaw, to securely share pictures throughout the week.
- An open invitation to involvement. Because school partners with parents in the academic, social/emotional, and spiritual growth of their children, parents should feel welcome to be involved. Parents can expect teachers to make them aware of any and all opportunities to be on campus, in their child’s class, and in the big and small things happening at school. Children get excited when their parents come into their “world” at school. That sense of community fosters an even deeper love of school.
LOWER SCHOOL TEACHER EXPECTATIONS
As preschool students move to kindergarten and the elementary school experience, teachers hope that their young charges will come to school each day with three character traits in their learning arsenal.
- Be prepared and ready to learn. Teachers want students to love learning. We want them to engage with their teachers and peers actively. Collaboration is a vital part of our world today, and we want our students to learn the soft skills required to effectively work with others. Additionally, younger elementary-aged students should come to class having read for at least 20 minutes and worked on math facts at home each night, while older students should come to class with completed homework.
- Take ownership of their learning. At MPCS, we encourage students at an early age to advocate for themselves. We want students to feel empowered to speak respectfully to teachers. The more engaged students are with learning activities, the more they will remember. Students should be excited about learning. Students should also be okay with taking risks, being wrong, and “failing up”. We want our students to approach learning with a growth mindset.
- Work to the best of their ability. We want our students to do their best in all endeavors. As a covenant Christian school, MPCS teaches students to work as unto the Lord, not man. Students are to embrace their God-given talents to honor Him.
LOWER SCHOOL FAMILY EXPECTATIONS
When families become active and engaged with a school community, and when teachers take time to build relationships with students and families, the result is that parents trust that teachers know their children.
- Family-home partnership. Parents can expect to be partners with the teachers in their child’s educational journey. Teachers work with students where they are and help them to grow.
Teachers who are lead learners. Parents can be confident that teachers are highly-qualified and well-prepared to serve their children and their families. Excellent schools find that teachers provide engaging, challenging, and thoughtful learning opportunities for students. They facilitate experiences where student creativity, curiosity, and innovative thinking are developed.
UPPER SCHOOL TEACHER EXPECTATIONS
Building upon the foundation formed in preschool and elementary school, students entering their middle and high school years gain more autonomy and exercise more control over their learning experience. Families remain a critical part of ensuring students meet their potential. Teachers at the upper school level offer these five tips to help students make the most of their learning experience.
- Engage in the learning process. Participate actively in a class by asking questions, take risks to figure out the next steps, and seek to master the content for durable learning.
- Be good citizens. This means caring for the needs of others, offering to help in any situation, and taking pride in your school community.
- Advocate for themselves. Students should email teachers, as well as talk to them before school, during class, at lunch, and after school to receive support, extra help, or guidance.
- Be learning-focused. Teachers want to help students and are passionate about their content area. They expect students to match their intentionality and focus during instruction. Students must "dial in" during instructional time according to their developmental level. The school day is built with brain breaks, so students should work to use class time wisely.
- Take ownership of their actions. During the middle and high school years, students must “own” their choices – the good and the bad – and accept rewards and consequences with maturity.
UPPER SCHOOL FAMILY EXPECTATIONS
Families want to see their children succeed, graduating from high school and moving on to their next adventure. Along the way, teachers play a critical role in the pivotal years between adolescence and young adulthood. Parents can expect several key actions from their child’s teachers.
- Love and respect. Students should expect to be treated with love and respect by their teachers. In class, on the field, or on stage, students can expect to be cared for by teachers who love them. At MPCS, teachers should speak to students in a Christ-like manner and hold students accountable for abiding by the school’s covenant and policies. Teachers are responsible for living out the school mission of honoring God, loving others, and walking in Truth.
- Prepared teachers. Students should expect teachers to be prepared to teach and meet their learning needs. This does not mean every class will be easy, but students should expect teachers to vary methods of instruction and be willing to provide extra support when students struggle with mastering a concept.
- Clear communication. Students should expect teachers to communicate often and effectively. Teachers should provide daily feedback to students in class as they progress. Teachers should grade work promptly, conference with students who need clarification, and bring in additional staff and parents should a serious concern arise.
- A supporter in Christ. For faith-based schools like MPCS, students should expect their teachers to offer spiritual discipleship and encouragement on their faith journey. Teachers should be in prayer for students, as well as offer a listening ear and godly wisdom when asked for advice.
Every relationship, including the relationship between home and school, is one that takes partnership, mutual respect, grace, and a spirit of understanding. At Mount Paran Christian School, we are honored to partner with home and church to help children grow academically, emotionally, and, most importantly, spiritually.
Tawanna Rusk is the head of upper school and associate head of school at Mount Paran Christian School. Dr. Deborah Davis is the head of lower school for MPCS. Penny Harrison serves as the MPCS head of preschool.
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