Back to School: How Virginia Frank Early Childhood Development Classroom Consultation Helps Teachers Get Ready for the New Year
By Stacey Shor, Director of Development
Right now, many a child and family are gearing up for the new school year—buying school supplies, replacing outgrown uniforms, getting checkups. They are also worrying—will I make friends? Will I like my teacher?
Guess what? Your child’s teacher is going through a similar experience, as early childhood educators throughout Chicago also are getting ready for the launch of a new school year – making name badges, decorating bulletin boards, planning curriculum. They too are worrying -- who will be in my class this year? Will the students be ready to learn? Ready to make new friends? Am I prepared for what’s headed my way?
Fortunately, consultants from the JCFS Virginia Frank Child Development Center (VFCDC) provide invaluable support to over 40 early childhood programs. Whether a teacher is anticipating integrating children with learning differences into the classroom or looking to enhance the overall classroom experience for all children, VFCDC is here to help.
“The School Consultation Service that VFCDC provides impacts children, staff and parents,” says Joni Crounse, Director of the VFCDC. “We are able to provide feedback and suggestions after a classroom or individual observation of a child. We provide extensive staff training, workshops for parents, and support for the School’s director, staff and parents. All of this support (from the top down) enables children to have successful classroom experiences,” says Crounse.
Consultants share their knowledge of young children’s development focusing on the social/emotional needs of children during this first phase of the school year. They remind teachers to think about the underlying, if not overt, hesitancy, anxiety, and nervousness that children experience at new beginnings. In discussions with the teachers the consultant helps them develop ways to support children in this transition. The songs teachers decide to sing at circle time, the materials they put out on the tables, the books they read at group time and have available in the classroom – all can help children develop a sense of comfort and security in their new classroom.
Former Beth Emet Early Childhood Program teacher and co-director, Fran Zimmerman sums the value of their insight this way, “I believe that the essence of a high-quality early childhood program is the teachers’ understanding of the needs and development of children and their daily interactions with the children in their class. This understanding also guides the creation of the curriculum and the activities, routines, and discussions that take place in the classroom. The consultant plays a critical role in helping teachers develop this understanding and sensitivity.”
Ms. Zimmerman’s work was so impacted by the support she received from VFCDC that she currently serves as the chair of Friends of Virginia Frank. This group comprised of educators, parents of current and former clients and others who value the impact of consultation and other Virginia Frank Programs.
Sample staff training topics include: How to Manage Challenging Behaviors in the Classroom; How to Partner with Parents; and Brain Development. Topics for workshops for parents include: Discipline and Limit Setting; and Potty Training.
For more information about consultation, training and workshops from the VFCDC or to get involved in the Friends of Virginia Frank, please contact JCFS at 855-ASK-JCFS.