Monday, May 7, 2012

Preschool visit #1

A couple weekends ago, I went to get a pedicure with my friend, Nancy.  Nancy has 3 special needs kiddos that she's adopted (bless her heart) and she lives in the same school district as I do.  She was asking me about preschool and giving me tips and recommendations for our school district as well.  There was one teacher in particular that she loves, and we discussed a little bit about maybe visiting her classroom.  I got a lot of good information from Nancy about stuff, but I felt like I needed to know more and do some of my own research.

That Monday I got on the school district's website and found out which schools have developmental preschool and learned that there are 2 pretty close to us.  The one called Lomas is our "home school" and according to boundaries is where our kids should go.  The other, Manitas, which is where this fantastic teacher that Nancy loves is, is also pretty close to us.  And according to Nancy we "sort of" get a choice.  So, I emailed teachers at both schools to see if I could come tour and ask some questions.

The teacher at Lomas, we'll call her Mrs. Lomas, said sure and come on over whenever.  The teacher at Manitas, we'll call her Mrs. Manitas, said they don't do preschool classroom visits and she'd get me in touch with someone who could give me a tour.  I'm going to tour Manitas next Monday, but this morning I visited Mrs. Lomas's classroom.

I walked in at about 10:00, and preschool ends at 10:30.  They were just finishing up their activity and getting ready to transition to snack time.  There were probably 12 or 15 kids in there and they were sitting at two different tables.  The ones at Mrs. Lomas's table had their shoes off and she was weighing each of them on a scale.  I don't know if it was to track their growth throughout the year or if they were doing a science experiment or what, but it looked fun!  At the other table, with another teacher/aid, they were listening to seashells.

So then they all went to the carpet and read books independently while one teacher, and her helper, set up snack.  Mrs. Lomas helped kids go potty.  And the third teacher/aid kind of supervised the kids on the carpet.  At first glance they all looked like typical kids, but as I watched longer I noticed that a few of them were special needs.  There was one particular boy who was non-verbal and kind of had his own ideas about what he wanted to do and where he wanted to go.  So, the teacher had him on her lap and was reading to him and he was totally calm.  Actually, he looked really tired like maybe he needed a nap.  I imagine 2.5 hours of preschool is pretty exhausting!!

When it was time for their snack, they sang a song and did sign language to it.  Then the student who helped set up snack got to call out names of who got to go to the table first.  He was obviously looking for the ones who were quiet and looking at him, because that's a sign of being patient!  Snack time was amazing.  There were two tables set.  Each place had a name tag so there was no fighting over who got to sit where (the snack time helper put out the name tags) and each kid's place had a plastic cup with a paper napkin folded up inside.  In the center of the table there was a paper plate piled high with Sun Chips and another with banana pieces on it and there were two set of metal tongs.  There were two "pitchers" (aka big plastic measuring cups), one with milk, and the other with juice.  When each kid got to his place he/she spread out his napkin like a placemat.  There was a teacher at each table, then the student who was non-verbal had the third teacher pretty much to himself.  Each kid would use a complete sentence to ask for what they wanted, some had a little sentence strip with pictures to help, it went something like this: "I want chips please."  One little girl, who was obviously advanced, told Mrs. Lomas, "May I have some chips please."  Mrs. Lomas would pass the child the plate of chips and some metal tongs and the child would help themself. Then Mrs. Lomas would ask about a drink, the child would again use his/her sentence and Mrs. Lomas would pass the child the little pitcher, AND THE CHILD WOULD POUR HIS/HER OWN DRINK!!  I didn't see one kid spill.  NOT ONE!!  I was so impressed.

When they were done, they folded all their trash into their napkin and threw it away, pushed in their chairs, and went to get their backpacks.  Then they sang the goodbye song and each child gave Mrs. Lomas "some skin" (aka. a slow and gentle high five) as his/her name was called and their parents picked them up.

When all the kids were gone, I told Mrs. Lomas that, after teaching 7th grade for 5 years, I don't think I could even get this many 7th graders to act so civilized!!  But then I told her that my kid is WAY more disabled than anybody I saw in there.  She said that her afternoon class wasn't as high functioning, and that I came on a good day, usually they're not so well behaved.

We talked about equipment like standers and wheelchairs and using different equipment for different activities.  We talked about eating.  We talked about diapers.  And we talked about the changes happening next year (preschool is going to be 3 hours instead of 2.5, there will be more typical kids in a classroom than disabled kids, etc).  And I really liked her.  She was patient with the kids, and you could tell she liked her job.  Her eyes were kind and her voice was soft.

Chances are we'll end up at Lomas instead of Manitas, because our home school has the developmental preschool, I imagine they'll want us there.  But I wouldn't mind Sadie being in Mrs. Lomas's classroom.  I think wherever Sadie ends up, whether it's Lomas or Manitas, or even Foundation for Blind Children, she's going to love it.  There will be so much for her to do, and so many other kids to be around...maybe she'll even start taking a nap!!

Is there anything else I should have asked?  Are there more things I should do to get ready for preschool?  (our transition meeting is May 21st or something)  What kinds of things do you wish you had known before your child went to developmental preschool?

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