I was a Head Start child. Honestly, I struggle to remember things about third or fourth grade, but I can picture my mom dropping me off at Head Start. I enjoyed the teachers there, and we got snack and took a nap. Also, I am an only child, so it was the time I got to be with other children and not just be around grown-ups.
I see those social-emotional skills develop every day for my students now. They learn through play, by interacting with each other, and by experimenting with different things. We have individual learning plans for each student and watch to see if they’ve mastered certain skills.
We set up the classroom to promote what we want them to learn. We may put rocks in the science area to teach students to classify. Other activities help to learn one-to-one correspondence or how to notice a pattern. They interact with each other and learn together. Then, we move them to the next skill.
Head Start works with learners of all abilities. No child should be excluded, no matter what. We have a lot of training as teachers, but the teacher-child relationship is the center of that. We have to build trust with each child, and then we can learn what works for them.
That might mean switching up the schedule or knowing what activities or transitions in the day might be hard for a child. For example, if we go to the gym and then come back for work time and clean up, clean up might be hard for a child. So, I look into my teacher tools and figure out what I can do to help that child’s transition be easier. Maybe it’s giving him a few more minutes. Or tell him, we have ten minutes, we have five minutes. When the hand gets on the two, you know we’re going to have to start gathering our toys.
No child is the same. No child learns the same. To do this job, you have to know that all children are different. I feel good knowing I’m helping all learners.
Editor’s Note: Learn more about Head Start services for children with special needs here.