The words “back to school” have the power to trigger strong and very varied emotions. While some students are preparing to return to familiar faces and friends, others are beginning their first ever school experience. The transition into school is an exciting one - but can also prove challenging for many children as well as their caregivers. Creating a safe and nurturing environment for each student is a critical component of the Corlears experience, and serves to ease this transition. Corlears’ unique approach begins in early September before students even enter the building. During this time, teachers from the 2s and 3/4s program conduct home visits for new students. These visits create an important opportunity to build trust between teachers, students and parents; laying the foundation for the home-school connection that will support children and their families throughout their school experience.
Why Visit the Child at Home?
The home is a child’s first classroom and parents, their first teachers. Children learn through play long before they enter the doors of Corlears. Understanding how a child navigates their home environment provides valuable insight into a child’s life and helps inform the approach teachers will take in the classroom. For instance, knowing the kind of play children engage in and enjoy will guide techniques for expanding on current play methods or introducing new toys and forms of play over the course of the year.
Corlears takes a holistic approach to education and home visits are an extension of that approach. Educators look at the whole child and mold their teaching methods to fit the needs of their students and the way each child learns. Home visits allow teachers to make valuable observations about how children explore the world around them, informing their methods in the classroom. Whether it be incorporating topics of interest or modifying spaces to create a more comfortable environment, educators absorb what they learn during their time with families and infuse the classroom with familiar elements; making the child feel special, cared for and classroom spaces feel welcoming and safe
Demystifying the Classroom
School Counselor Mark Greenwald says that the most important part of the home visit is that "first and foremost [teachers and students] build a foundation of trust." For students, meeting new adults for the first time in an environment that is a familiar to them can help ease their fears, says Mark. Interacting with teachers prior to entering school guarantees that, while the child may be entering a new environment, they will be greeted by a familiar face. For both the child and parent, the home visit demystifies the school experience and soothes anxiety. Entering the classroom for the first time can be intimidating, but our young students have the benefit of walking into a room and instantly spotting someone they know – their teachers! On their first day they are met by someone with whom they have already begun building a bond. As one parent explained “The home visit really helped [my son] feel more comfortable with going to a new school. The teachers put him at ease and made him laugh. [He] was excited to see familiar faces on the first day of school.”
Home visits are a chance for our teachers to get to know their students in their most comfortable environment and make a valuable connection. On her visits, 3/4s teacher Kensi (pictured right) pinpoints key details about her future students; using these details as conversation starters on their first day. By doing this, Kensi gets her students talking and helps to calm first day jitters. Remembering details about their travels, interests or even favorite movies, Kensi makes an instant connection with her students as she welcomes them to her classroom.
Who Benefits From the Visit?
Visits also serve as a chance for parents to begin building their relationship with Corlears teachers. For Corlears parents, meeting with teachers gives them a sense of what they can expect throughout the year and how to support their child at home. Educators and parents begin building an important partnership that will support their child throughout their educational career. This first interaction opens the door to clearer, more effective communication between parents and educators, and serves to support each student as they grow as learners. As one parent states, "It's such a wonderful way to make the family / teacher relationship instantly more personal. Its very special that Corlears allows for these visits to take place." The opportunity for teachers and parents to connect in multiple environments helps them to understand one another, and builds empathy and compassion - a core value at Corlears.
Reflecting Our Values
Home visits are not only a great technique for easing the transition into school, but reflective of the Corlears approach – which extends to children at all age levels within the school. As one parent explained, “home visits demonstrate the tight-knit community Corlears fosters from day one. [My daughter] still talks about how her teachers came to visit -- a warm, nurturing impression made from the start." As School Counselor Mark Greenwald puts it, "it's a part of who we are."