It was a day of anticipation, September, 2010, the first day of school! What a day, awaiting the arrival of our First Full Day Kindergarten students in its first year of implementation. It was a journey the staff, students, parents and myself were eager to embark on. Our road map was the experience, knowledge and enthusiasm the teachers and DECE’s brought to the program while embracing The Ministry Draft version of Full Day Early Learning Kindergarten Program. Three years later having experienced year one and two at one school, and now in my third year with year one FDK at another school, I can certainly state that children are seen and treated as partners in their learning process. By allowing children the space to find out what fascinates them we create a passion for learning that will last forever.
The teachers’ and DECE’s enthusiasm, knowledge, co-operation, trial and error, continued Professional Development, Inquiries, and Dialoguing have led to the numerous great successes experienced with all partners involved in Full Day Kindergarten. In our full day Kindergarten Classes educators have the opportunity to help children be responsible global citizens by focusing on skills to assist them to be life-long learners, flexible and creative problem solvers, critical thinkers, open minded communicators, collaborative and independent students at the start who are excited about learning. By following a true play-based approach, students have been developing strategies and habits that help them embrace change with enthusiasm, wonder and a critical eye. They are ready to face the fast paced quick changing world of the 21st century.
As an administrator I had to be well versed in intentional child-centered pedagogy. I found myself easily embracing the program. Of vital importance were the conversations with the staff of pedagogical practices, the environment, the resources, the schedules, the timetables, etc.
Having experienced three years of FDK, priorities had to be established.
#1 All planning time schedules at both schools were created AFTER the FDK schedules were established. While embracing the philosophy of a seamless day with minimal disruptions, and stability with consistent planning time teachers, our greatest successes were, and still are achieved with this in mind. As a team we felt an uninterrupted learning play based block should remain untouched, our planning time teachers were scheduled during outdoor play, (a.m. and p.m.), as well as additional consistent staff; librarian, and a music specialist. Our other success involved the lunch hour. We assured that there was a consistent lunch supervisor throughout the hour re: eating lunch, rest time and quiet activities. Live and learn, three years later we are still following what we believe to be a best practice.
#2 Parents are vital in our partnership; to this end we welcome parents into our classrooms 15 minutes before the beginning of the day and 15 minutes prior to school dismissal. This allows for easy transition for our students, and promotes effective communication with all partners in education. In addition, we provide time and welcome parents into our classrooms to see and participate in play-based learning during regular school times throughout the school year.
#3 Team is so crucial to the success of our program, the relationship of the classroom teacher and DECE is vital. Each professional has strengths. The team building and the sense of value, worth, knowledge and contribution is highly acknowledged and appreciated at all levels.
#4 Play-based learning is fascinating, and it ventures off into many levels. While acknowledging the emergent level of each and every student, long range plans are not necessary. What is important is to allow children the space to find out what is fascinating for them, and to create a passion for learning that will last forever. This was and still is highly evident in many celebrations and culminating events; a love of dress up and fairy tales led to a major celebration of a “Cinderella Ball”, an incident with a red fox in our school yard led to an Earth Ranger presentation and care for animals, a need to ride a school bus led to community helpers and visitors to our school promoting various opportunities and ideas for our youngsters for their future. The disaster in China, led to a culminating event including the creation of cranes and a prayer for peace, our FLAT STANLEY led our students on many ventures, throughout the world, and the excitement our children experienced was beyond belief for the children, parents, and staff. A celebration of all culminating events always included first and foremost the children, the staff, the parents, and special guests, inclusive of trustees, superintendents, consultants, priests, and yes even the former Minster of Education.
#5 In my present school we are blessed to have a Parenting/Family Literacy Centre. The connections we make with parents, caregivers, grandparents, the staff, are remarkable. We share resources, outdoor and indoor space and this inclusion is a best practice to be shared.
As an administrator in a FDK School through team work, we offer our FDK children the opportunities to be lifelong learners by instilling the foundational tools they need to learn how to make the right choices for themselves.
In our FDK classes we believe that…
Play is our Work
Play A Little,
Pray A Little,
Sing A Little,
Dance A Little…and laugh a lot everyday!!!!