For children, the first day of school can be an overwhelming experience. They’re stepping into unknown territory, completely different than their home environment, with unknown adults and children, as well as a range of possibilities of stimuli, games and interaction. When faced with such massive, new world, many feelings stir up inside them. That is why, here at be.Living, we deeply respect this special moment for the little ones and understand that the first day of school shouldn’t be seen as a process of adaptation, but rather a moment of welcoming.
“Adaptation entails that the children must adapt to an external factor – a fixed and immutable element imposed to them. In reality, we believe this is the opposite scenario. Our school structures itself around the newcomer; teachers prepare to welcome each new child, considering that each child has their own process, their own time and their own needs. The external element makes accommodations to welcome the child. So, the idea is not for the child to adapt to an imposed routine or a certain pace. The idea is for the child to start out slow and feel welcomed, receiving individual attention and respecting their own process,” said Camila Maia, Early Childhood Education coordinator at be.Living.
To ensure this individual approach tailored to each child can be applied in practice, each be.Living classroom has, in addition to the teacher and assistant, other team members closely monitoring each child throughout the entire welcoming period. That way, whenever their curiosity is sparked, they always have an adult to accompany and help them explore the school and participate in other processes, even if the group is involved in a different activity with the teacher. During these first few steps, they are also always accompanied by an adult with whom they feel safe, such as mom, dad, the nanny or a grandparent, for example. The presence of this adult gives the child freedom to explore, play, discover and experience this new space. Over time, the adult slowly moves away from the process. They continue at the school, but the child gradually starts disassociating this person from the school environment. When the teachers realize that the child feels confident enough and has already established a bond of trust with an adult from our team, they start saying goodbye to their parents and the length of stay at the school can be increased.
“During this initial period, when the children start being alone at school, we pay close attention to see if they feel more tired or if they start asking about their parents more often. If we notice that they’re no longer enjoying their time at the school, we call the family and have them leave earlier. Over time, the children start to build an emotional bond with the school, the educators and their peers, besides creating a notion of routine: the events that take place, the adults involved in each event, and the procedures related to each of these moments. This helps them better organize their time here at school, and that makes them even more confident, which ultimately boosts their sense of belonging,” said Camila.
Throughout the entire welcoming process, be.Living also welcomes the families of the children. “Oftentimes, the parents need some TLC too. It is crucial for families to feel welcomed in this process as well, because most parents are going through this experience of leaving their child in a strange environment for the very first time. This brings out many feelings, such as angst, anxiety, concern, and especially many expectations. It is very important for us to work closely with these families, because more often than not, they can get frustrated. Because reality never lives up to our expectations. Families need to be guided; they need to understand the reasons that lead teachers to make certain decisions, and since they are the reference of safety and human beings for their children, they must remain confident throughout this process, in order to convey this image of safety to their children. Children are extremely sensitive. If the mother is feeling anxious, they will notice it and it will affect how they feel as well. But parents can only feel confident if they can interact with us and experience the school’s daily routine, knowing the teacher, realizing that there is a lot of care and respect in this space, and opening up to our team about their feelings. Trust in the school, both from parents and the children themselves, is only built over time.”
At be.Living, we believe that carefully and thoughtfully welcoming children and their parents will be a major milestone in the academic path of these children. When the first learning experience is warm and welcoming, the little ones also create an emotional and long-lasting bond not only with the school, but with the process of knowledge building and development itself.