Tag Archives: early childhood center

Keeping Your Kids Ahead of the Class

gadda1With abundant choices available from daycare to nannies to 2s programs to pre-school, parents in New York City have a tough decision to make about childcare in the early years. More and more parents are looking for a one-stop solution that nurtures their child from infancy through pre-K while developing a familiar, social experience with a structured, learning environment.

With this in mind, the Kidz Central Station team recently toured the newly opened pre-school/daycare on 2nd Avenue called The Goddard School of Murray Hill in Midtown East. This is a play-based school with a focus on meaningful interactions with the children. 

We met Owner Rami Singh, a former Finance exec who developed a passion for early childhood education after becoming a father of two super adorable children who are now enrolled at the school. Like many of us, he found a void when considering the childcare debate. What is the choice for those of us who want a family feel experience for our kids that takes full advantage of these early, impressionable years?  His answer was to build it himself.

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A great advantage of The Goddard School of Manhattan in Murray Hill, which opened in November 2017, is the facility.  It is housed in a clean, vibrant space full of sunlight and brand new and spacious classrooms. And by clean, we mean the space is cleaned 3x a day!  The hallways are decorated with fun animal shapes, a world map, daily schedules, teachers’ curricula, and inspirational quotes. An outdoor rooftop playground is soon to come! There are more than enough areas to store strollers inside the building. Singh’s thoughtfulness for his venture shines through in the details, such as the international themes in the decor and even the intricate details in the rock climbing wall in the gym.  It is a truly modern space. We will say, from our experience, this is not easy to find in Manhattan. When many of us were searching for daycare years ago, we found many schools in the basements of buildings with cramped spaces that did not appeal to us.

Fantastic space aside, the curriculum and teachers are the real stars at this new school.  More than anything, the school strives to go beyond typical daycare and provide a “whole child experience” that appreciates each child’s individuality and taps into each child’s way of learning.  To that end, the curriculum is designed and then refined with the focus on the children, not the teachers or the parents, but the children.  The toys, the activities, the class layout, the schedule all focus on the children’s age and abilities.  We were intrigued by their philosophy of  F.L.EX to provide “a Fun Learning EXperience.”  That means giving children the freedom to have fun while discovering and exploring with hands-on activities, customized lessons, and nurturing encouragement.  In our opinion, the school was succeeding in this.

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We witnessed the positivity and warmth of the teachers firsthand as we toured the school.  The classrooms were filled with smiling faces and the teachers were happy to meet with us and let us see their classrooms in progress.  Each teacher is responsible for constructing the curriculum for his/her classroom to balance independent and cooperative learning with outdoor playtime.  For example, a Toddler full day schedule would include music, social skills, creative arts, yoga, nature studies, sign language, and Spanish among many other activities.  A Preschool schedule would include many of the above mentioned activities in addition to handwriting, math, science, dramatic play, computer lab, chess, reading readiness, and language arts.  It’s a full day schedule with many breaks built in such as nap/quiet time, snack and lunch as provided by the school, outside play, and circle time.

Many current parents give high marks to the school and enthusiastically recommend it to others.  They are are sent daily reports via app with photos and videos from the day.  They feel included in a cooperative and collaborative environment that takes their children’s progress and needs into account. The parents tout the engaged teachers, the beautiful facilities, the custom curriculum and the caring owner as pros.

The school is open through the summer and offers a camp that incorporates STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) learning.  They are developing a variety of themes to tailor to each child’s interests using play-based learning both inside and outside of the classroom.  And the rooftop playground (again, a huge plus in our books) is expected to be completed in July when camp opens.

We, also, want to highlight the several security measures in place at drop-off and for entering the building. Parents/caregivers must check in on a touch screen with a security code at drop-off and pick-up so that every child is accounted for. And there is a security code and Biometric Hand Scanner required to enter the school facility.  We appreciated this added layer for the children’s protection. 

The Goddard School of Murray Hill is a franchise of the nationwide The Goddard School and is currently accepting applications and tour requests. It is located at 751 2nd Ave between 40th and 41st Streets. It welcomes children from infancy to age 6 and offers year-round full day 7AM – 6:30PM schedules or half day depending on your needs. Please check them out for yourselves!  Click here.

A Director’s Calling: Decisions That Shape the Lives of Children

20150212_100358It Takes Quality

Without a doubt, the decisions an early childhood education director makes—from how much to spend on flowers to staffing changes—have a profound impact on the culture and life of a school and its students. Many of these decisions are invisible to a parent’s eye. They happen behind the scenes while the director is at home, riding to work on the train, or simply in conversation with his/her team. But these decisions matter. They impact children’s daily lives, their emotional experiences, and what they learn every day.

When you select a school or a childcare center for infants and toddlers, you are really choosing the director. In essence, the director becomes the parent when the parent is away. He ro she oversees the tone and content of the teachers’ language, the selection of classroom materials, and the composition of teams. Directors make sure a center is safe and clean, and most importantly that the children in their care enjoy lives filled with the challenges and joys they deserve.

It Takes Time

It takes time for a director to put down roots in a school and shape the culture. At first, depending on the institution, he or she may be faced with a smoothly functioning machine or the director may need to manage a team that has been functioning poorly for a very long time. He or she needs to work with a strong vision, a supportive team of administrators, and a have a constitution of steel. The best directors always make the job look easy—they walk through the center with an air of comfort and belonging, even when serious and difficult decisions are about to be made.

Here are some of the ways a center director may impact the life of your child:

Building a Teacher Community: The director selects who spends time with your child every day. Directors therefore are faced with the task of determining if each and every teacher is right for the school and their particular positions. Are they knowledgeable about the age group? Do they understand and share the values of the school? Are they patient and kind? Do they find the children fascinating? Are they aware enough of the whole classroom to keep all of the children safe? Selecting (and dismissing) great teachers is an art, and something directors learn over time.

Assessing Teacher Performance: There’s a lot of media debate on how best to assess teacher performance. Should it be accomplished through formal means like testing and portfolio reviews? Or perhaps through special tools developed by the school? No matter the approach, the director decides what excellence looks like. He/she also helps teachers become better at their jobs. Parents only see a small portion of a teacher’s abilities. The director is the only one who has a 360-degree vantage point to determine teacher effectiveness.

Managing A Budget: Directors with a strong visions make ongoing financial decisions that impact daily activities and ultimately the quality of a center. Will the children bake every week? Will musicians visit the school to play live music? Will each class have a pet, visit the apple orchard, or ride in a buggy throughout the neighborhood? Funding always shapes what the children do, who the teachers are, and what a center looks like. Directors control the purse strings.

Building a Beautiful Environment: Each director faces his/her own unique challenges when it comes to building a center’s environment. A director either inherits an environment they can adapt or, less often, he/she must build one from scratch. Either way, with support from a board or corporate office, the director makes many small and large decisions that impacts the creation of spaces for children. The environment can either infuse everyone with good feeling and a sense of order and belonging, or undermine a school purpose and sense of cohesion. Don’t underestimate the power of place in children’s lives—it lies at the heart of their learning.

Access to the Outdoors: We hear a lot about the importance of children getting outside. In effect, how contact with nature positively impacts their physical and mental health. Directors determine where and when children go outside. They answer questions such as: Will the school have its own outdoor play space? How often will each class go outside? Will there be a set schedule? Can teachers go out whenever they want? How far can the children walk to a playground? Will they go out in all kinds of weather?

Margie Carter and Deb Curtis have written extensively on what makes a “visionary director” (Carter and Curtis, 2009)—one who has all of the practical, personal, and educational tools to shape a center. They point out that it can take up to 18 months for a director to be truly rooted in a school’s culture and feel an organic sense of acceptance, faith, and control over the life of the center. Directors should be lifelong learners and model that stance for teachers and parents. By bringing all of us together—a community of children, teachers and parents—the director sets the magic in motion and masters the magic over time. When parents select a center, they choose that director’s particular brand of magic, which may be newborn or beautifully aged over time.

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the chief academic officer at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is committed to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. She has three sons, Ariel (16), Raffi (14), and Shaya (13).

Touring an Infant Toddler Center: Questions for the Director

Touring an Infant Toddler Center: Questions for the Director

When touring a child care center, most of us feel unprepared to assess the quality of education and care provided to children. We all want a center that compliments and even enhances what we teach children at home; we want individualized love and attention, a clean, safe place, a home away from home. We want to be sure that caretakers are professional and the center provides families with knowledge about raising children and how to fill our days with growing experiences.

As an educator, and a mother of three boys, I have had the opportunity to be a parent, teacher and Director at many centers. Here is what I’d ask when visiting an infant/toddler or preschool center:

1. Embrace the Mission — Does my family share the center’s vision of children and educational values?

The most important aspect in selecting a center is finding a place that shares your family’s educational outlook, a place where you feel at home philosophically. Do you believe that play and friendship are central to learning? Do you think it is important to do worksheets and learn to read before three? The school’s mission determines how children spend their days and what they learn. Make sure you embrace the mission before you sign your contract.
On your tour ask the following question:

  • What is the school’s mission and how does it impact what the children do everyday?

2. Professional Background — Are teachers prepared to work with children of this age?

Teacher preparation is the single greatest indicator of a professional educational environment, one that is safe, nurturing and sets appropriate goals for students. Teachers must understand child development and have an understanding of best practices. They must have experience taking care of very young children, and be able to love and relate to them no matter what the mood or need.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • Do Head Teachers have a Master’s in Early Childhood Education?

3. Accesibility — Are Administrators and Teachers available to me?
As a parent, you will have many questions, concerns, and hopefully compliments to give at the center. You must be sure that when you need to talk to someone, the staff is available either in person, by phone, via email or able to make an appointment within 24 hours.  Before you sign your contract, meet the Director and make sure you feel comfortable with their expertise and ability to support your family.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • If I have a concern who do I speak to first and how do I reach them?

4. Intention — Teachers should work with a plan, set goals, and have a mindful approach to all of their interactions with children and materials.

There are several ways you can determine if the school has a culture of intentionality. When visiting the classrooms, does every object seem to have its own place? Are materials presented to children in an orderly, relaxed manner? Do teachers seem to be thinking with the children, considering what they do and say? Are they listening and observing as they work?

On your tour ask the following questions:

  • Do teachers keep a plan book? What is recorded there?
  • Do the teaching teams meet weekly with administrators? What do they discuss?
  • Do teachers document the children’s work? Are there artifacts that keep track of children’s work and growth over time?

5. Tone — Do adults in the center listen to children and speak with respect at all times?
When visiting the center take note of how teachers listen and how they speak to children. Children need to hear their own thoughts, to process what is going on around them, and have time to contemplate. There should be a mix of engagement and auditory space throughout the day.
When teachers speak to children, they should use a natural voice. They shouldn’t speak too fast, loud, in angry tones, or silly voices. Young children should be treated like they have important ideas to share, and are competent, creative people with greatness inside them.
Teachers and administrators should speak to each other with respect, as children are impacted by emotions of adults around them.

On your tour ask the following question:

  • What is your approach to listening to children? Can you describe how teachers should talk to children?

It can be challenging to select your first center, as you entrust strangers with your most precious and incredible child. Ask as many questions as you can, call the Director and reconnect until you are comfortable. The center should teach and support the whole family and elevate the learning for everyone.

Renee Bock is a dedicated early childhood educator, who is currently the Educational Director at Explore+Discover, a social learning center in Manhattan that is dedicated to setting the standard for infant and toddler care and education. Renee has more than a decade of experience in the field and holds a Master’s in Early Childhood Education from Bank Street College in New York. In her present position, she is helping Explore+Discover open the first of 27 New York City centers focused on children from 3 months to two years old. She can be reach at Renee@K3Learn.com.