One of my favorite aspects of my job is working with the preschools and families of the incoming kindergarteners. Every year in January we get a list of all the preschoolers receiving special education classes who are slated to come to our school for kindergarten the following year. We go out and observe them in their current educational environment- some at school, some at their homes, some at day care centers. We meet with their current case managers to hear about their strengths and the support they'll need to be successful in our full day program. We bring their parents into our school for a meeting with their current preschool teachers and their future kindergarten special education teacher to make sure we are all on the same page about the student's needs. It's a lot of extra work on top of my current case load, but for the most part I absolutely love working on the transition process.
It's hard not to immediately fall in love with my future kiddos when I meet them in preschool. I love going to their houses to meet them and seeing them bounce around at home, excited to tell us everything they like to do. I love going to their school and seeing them interact with their current teachers and peers, envisioning all the things we'll do when they enter kindergarten. By this time of the year I've met all of them and I'm completely committed to them for the Fall. I think about them on my way to work. I start mentally planning what we'll need to do for them those first few weeks. I start researching their conditions to be sure we'll be ready when they enter our doors.
One of the aspects I enjoy the most about the transition process, however, is meeting with their parents. For many of them it is their first window into the world of kindergarten and I love being able to give them their first impression of our school. As we talk you can see them relaxing- their body language becoming softer as they realize we really will take good care of their child. It's so easy to forget what a difficult transition kindergarten can be for some families. We do the first day of kindergarten every year, but for the kids and their families, they only do it once. And they start getting nervous about that day, NOW. I love hearing their questions about kindergarten- they are never the questions you'd think a parent would ask, but once they do you understand what is important to that child and the family, what's going to be the most difficult part of the transitioning process. You start to get a feel for what mother will need more support and emails in the first few weeks, who will need to come in and observe early on, or who will be relaxed and may need extra encouragement to come in and be involved.
This year we have a rather large onslaught of upcoming kinders for next year. There are so many we can barely keep them all straight, and for the next few weeks I'll be in a preschool transition meeting just about every other day. It's easy to get lost in simply trying to complete the IEPs and check the meetings of my to-do list. I've got to stay focused on those upcoming little ones and the reason why we're doing all this.