Friday, March 26, 2010
What to Ask Prospective Teachers?

Last night I went to my first school open house since my brother was little enough to do open houses.

It's been a while.

I forgot how wonderfully classrooms get decorated--the bright colors of projects and activities posted on every wall to the point where the fire marshal has to be called. Frankly, it was overwhelming.

Goose will be in kindergarten next year and I want to make sure the school she's going to will be a good fit for her. Although the troll that works in the office there at the school told me that I'd just have to wait until a week before school started to check out the climate of the classroom, I figured out another way.

Ok, so I may have looked weird being the only one with a notepad in hand and no kids in tow, but it helped me out a lot!

Here are some things to ask prospective teachers:

What is the class size?
(21 for the five teachers I spoke with)

What are the hours and how is that structured?
(3.5 hours. CA has some serious content standards and at the kindergarten level are working on basic knowledge of presidents, states, math skills, and reading/writing, so the teachers said with such a short day that they have 30 minutes in total--15 for early recess and 15 for free time at the end of class--but the rest is spent at desks or with whiteboards at circle time.)

What skillset are the entering students expected to have? (It varies. Some have never held a pencil before, and probably should have had an extra year of preschool but with many parents being unable to afford it, they often are put straight into class. So some children are reading and writing, counting, some are bilingual, trilingual, can count infinitely, etc. These students are often paired with those who are weaker so that they can teach one another. If a student is still behind the teacher will call for an intervention and students from higher grades will help teach. It's sort of clever how they've worked around not having aides here in CA, no?)

Do you use worksheets?
(I was hoping, chanting "please, god, no" in the back of my brain, but the teachers said that they do one every other day, as it's included in the curriculum required. I hate worksheets! I think they're rote and awful and have been shown they're ineffective in teaching, but the teachers assured me that they do quite a bit of work together as a a class on them. We'll see how that plays out...)

How do you deal with problem students?
("Goose is an angel. She'll never be a problem," I wanted to say, but figured that I wouldn't taunt them with my amazingly gifted daughter. Instead they told me about the levels of good--pretty standard fare, my classes used it too. Five levels each color coded and they start out second from the top. If they do bad they get a warning and go on to the color below, do good, move up to the top.)

Is there homework?
(Projects worked on together with family to be presented in class, but no take home worksheets.)

How do you keep in contact with parents?
(Notes home. A big strike for me, since I think electronic communication is more responsible earth-wise, but it's neater and I lose everything!)

That's about all I could think of other than volunteer stuff. I had heard that some schools didn't even allow volunteers due to CTA (California Teachers Association) issues. Was there anything I should have added?
posted by Lori @ 10:15 AM  

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Name: Lori
Home: Sacramento-ish, California, United States
About Me: I want to make things better.
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