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Learning Environment Concerns

  • 1.  Learning Environment Concerns

    Posted 05-14-2019 10:13 PM
    I am an afternoon daycare/preschool teacher who is beginning to feel like I am not making a difference in children's lives due to the lack of support from some of my co-workers. Many seem more interested in talking to each than on teaching or interacting with the children. Due to large class sizes, they generally do not do extended circletime activities such as matching games, language based activities (only the calendar, weather etc.), that make it very difficult for me (who is a very dedicated educator who enjoys planning and circletime activities).

    Many of the children have difficulty sitting, paying attention, or listening to stories. I put in a lot of effort into my lessons and have begun to add more toddler-themed lessons to a 3- year-old learning environment. This sometimes works, but due to lack of support from other teachers (aka helping with disruptive students), I am often not able to complete lessons and need to cut my circletimes drastically.

    Many of the children do not know proper crayon/pencil grip and many of the letters of the alphabet, and are moving on into the next class. While I understand Summer will begin soon, I am trying the best to prepare these children for their new classroom with table activities and shortened circletimes.

    I have the additional issue of beginning to receive two-year-olds who are not potty-trained into the mix.

    Do any of you have any ideas/tips of how to deal with this type of learning environment? Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    Jennifer United States

  • 2.  RE: Learning Environment Concerns

    Posted 05-15-2019 06:51 AM
    Can you post an example of a few of your circle time ideas / plans? One thing to recognize too is that 3 years olds are just barely out of toddlerhood.  3-5 minute circles may be all that they can handle. An opening song / fingerplay, a short story, and a dismissal to another activity choice.  You can plan activities after circle that the children could go to after the circle is over which will extend your concepts.  Obviously I don't know your daily schedule either to know if that would fit in - but it may be a place to start.  Behavior is communication.  If the children are not sitting and engaging with circle time, something about the circle time may need to change....

    You can only control what you can control - talking with your co-workers about your frustrations may be another good place to start. :)

    Julie Sizemore
    ECE Instructor
    Grand Rapids Community College
    Grand Rapids MI

  • 3.  RE: Learning Environment Concerns

    Posted 05-15-2019 10:58 AM

    Hi Julie, 


    Thanks for getting back to me so quickly. 


    I have tried to work with my co-workers and they know my concerns. Many of these children are no longer 3, but have turned 4 and are moving on to the next class this summer. These are some of the children I am mainly concerned about. 


    Since I am an afternoon teacher, I arrive at 12:00 when the children are finishing lunch. During the school year we have enrichments such as language, science, and math. I have begun to do some of these because a teacher has recently left the center too. I try to keep them as basic and enriching as I can. During Sports Week, we performed a What Can Slide on Ice Experiment? which went fine, but I still receive no response from teachers when a child disrupts the group so I can continue my plan. It is extraordinarily frustrating.

    There are other teachers in the room during enrichments/circles, but they are still talking or sitting in chairs just watching the situation. 


    The children then go outside to play and go to nap. The schedule was set by other teachers who say that the children should lie down on their cots. They are then told to go to the bathroom. This in turn, is very disruptive to the children who have gone to the bathroom and are trying to rest. Sometimes, the teachers come in a little early to sing songs and try to get as many children to the bathroom as possible, but half the time most of the children have still not gone to the bathroom before nap. 


    They sleep for two hours, wake up, go to the bathroom and have snack. This all ends at 3:30 pm. Circletime begins promptly at 3:30 pm. We do calendar (days of the week, month, weather, and a flag song) and a circletime extension activity. If time and attention permits, a book. I am now bringing in toddler books only. 


    The children then go to the tables to complete activities and a craft based on the topic. I am supposed to keep the children occupied until 4:30 pm, call them to the bathroom one by one, and then go outside at 5:00 pm. 


    I have worked with age groups from infants to kindergartners. I was able to a have a short circle with toddlers who were correctly able to recognize their shapes and colors (by pointing to them in their environment after I said the correct color/shape name). 


    The center has a very different set up then I am used to. I am used to a center-based set-up, where children are allowed to find different activities that they choose on their own based on the topic. Here, the centers are more like cabinets filled with the same objects at all times. The tables are the only areas where I am able to create small centers. 


    I feel very overwhelmed by the entire situation, due to the fact that some of the children coming into the class aren't potty trained. The enrichments end in the summer and many children are moving on to the next class. For most of the summer, I will be alone and the children will have to move between classrooms (if ratios are high). 


    I have a new issue that my co-worker will be leaving at 4:00 pm, but will still be creating lesson plans that I will need to implement on my own even though they are her own. 


    Do you have any suggestions on how to remedy this? Coupled with the heat in the room (even with the windows open) and the lack of support I feel very challenged.  

    Jennifer United States

  • 4.  RE: Learning Environment Concerns

    Posted 05-16-2019 10:11 AM
    Sounds like a difficult situation that really needs to be addressed. Support staff should be very in tune to your goals and children's needs. Unity is vital. It sounds like a conversation you need to have. Your director should be aware as well. Support staff at circle time (at least one other) not only conveys that this time is important to them, too, but that it's interesting and fun. Their participation helps keep kids on target and focused. Keep it interactive. So sorry you've been on your own. You sound like you have a real heart for improving the environment. Communicating this is key.

    Lisa Moen
    Grosse Pointe Nursery School
    Grosse Pointe Woods MI

  • 5.  RE: Learning Environment Concerns

    Posted 05-16-2019 08:23 PM
    Hi Lisa,

    Thank you so much for your kind words. My director is well aware of the situation. I have heard from another co-worker (whom I trust) that this is "just babysitting", and not school. They  seem to only worry about self-help skills such as washing hands and  putting on shoes, and find that there are too many students to do full circletime extension activities with. Another teacher may be in the room, sitting at circle, but not participating or interacting at all.

    I am also very concerned that rubbing 2, 3, or 4 year-olds backs is considered a no-no. Yes, some can put themselves to sleep, but others need a little more attention during this time. I am basically told to just go on with my work as the children begin to doze off on their own from the other teachers. I have worked in other schools and I was always rubbed backs.

    My director hired a co-teacher for the afternoon who will float between my room and another room during the summer. This woman leaves at 4:00 pm (when we are doing our center/table top learning activities). She will do a quick circle, hand off her lesson plan, and expect me to implement it as well. This is unbelievable! I thought I would be getting an extra pair of hands.

    I mentioned this to my director and she said that I sometimes will have such a small group during the summer, that I could now end up doing all the lesson plans anyway! She also believes that it is summer and there should basically not be much teaching at all. Yet, the woman she hired is still creating lesson plans for me to implement.

    We are also expected to create something for the children to do between 12-1 every day of the week (even though enrichments have ended for the year). Suggestions have been dance parties (right before nap?), board games (many of my children are too young to understand these), and obstacle courses. Most of these activities are very energetic and make it difficult for children to adjust to a nap-time schedule as they should be sleeping at 1:00 pm.

    I am very used to a very structured, well-laid out environment. Schedules rule and at this school it is very free-form.

    It is literally so maddening and I am at a loss for words. The situation becomes more muddled and erratic each and every day.

    Jennifer United States