If there were a genie who specialized in hearing out and granting wishes regarding preschool concerns, he would probably be working overtime compared to his other genie friends. Lines and lines of preschool advocates would be rubbing the magical lamp nonstop, day in and day out, hoping to get their chance of making local preschools better for their children.
We asked parents and educators to reveal some items from their personal preschool wishlists – from the most practical and radical ones - hoping against hope that upon declaring it to the universe, the genies will work their magic.
1. More exposure to cultural performances While books and pictures may do a good job introducing certain topics to the kiddos, nothing beats actually experiencing these new things. Would you rather look at pictures of a ballet recital than watch the ballerinas perform gracefully as they move to the melody of the music? We thought so. And well, so do young kids. This is why Kristine Ribiero, a Filipino mom (to Vitoria – 3 years, and Ernest – 22 months) who is now based in France, wishes that our local preschools would have more (age-appropriate) shows for preschoolers. “Here (in France), they have Animation Day once a month where kids are shown a performance based on a timely theme (e.g., Christmas, Valentine),” she shares, “And the parents can also watch.”
2. Ideal student-teacher ratios Jamie Alvarez, a former nursery teacher and now a soon-to-be-mommy, wishes that local preschools had lower student-teacher ratios. “I've experienced teaching 18 - 23 students in one class and I had a co-teacher helping me out. We'd always have a few 4 year olds running around, fighting and not paying attention,” she shares. “Of course, this distracts the whole class and my co-teacher would have a hard time taming them down. I just feel that children learn more if they are given ample attention inside the classroom, which you could only do when the class population is small.”
3. A mini-petting zoo Ruling out lions, snakes and piranhas from the list, preschool teacher Ginger Tayag wishes for a zoo that her young students could enjoy. “Through the animals, a child learns how the world and living things are interconnected. If properly supervised by teachers, a child can learn how to take care of other living beings, and can take pleasure in seeing and keeping the animals healthy and happy,” says Tayag. “Research all over the world demonstrates the incredible benefits of owning a pet animal. Animals can teach children about friendship, responsibility, loyalty and other essential life skills.”
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4. An enchanted forest Okay, maybe a forest would be too much. But most teachers agree that having a big garden would do wonders for the children. It is always said that learning does not happen in the classroom alone. Having a big garden allows children to experience the bigger, natural world. “Nature feeds the different senses of a child, through the scent of the wood, chirping of birds, the changing seasons and seeing various shapes of leaves, clouds, sticks and stones around them,” Ms. Tayag shares. “A child’s curiosity will be piqued as they explore and keep on asking questions about the mysteries of nature as it unfolds right before their eyes.” Interacting with nature leads to an appreciation of it and, hopefully, motivation to care for it.
5. A library that has answers to everything Tayag shares that books make great companions for children not only because they entertain, but also because they create worlds for them they never knew before. “Books help develop basic language skills and expand vocabularies, help develop critical thinking skills and nourish children’s imagination,” she stresses. Books can answer questions and create more questions for children – thus, a library that has books covering all sorts of topics and interests would be a dream come true.
6. A moment of silence It would be a great day every day if mornings and afternoons were calm not only for teachers, but also for young kids as well. Ten minutes of silence before class starts would help raise sanity levels among preschoolers. Rachel Malay, a Filipino pre-nursery teacher in BinaBangsa School in Indonesia, stresses how schools speak of “not hurrying the child” but somehow “forces” them to explore as soon as they enter the classroom. Ms. Malay wishes that both children and teachers exercise yoga before the day starts or before they call it a day. “Yoga addresses the mind, body, and spirit, she shares. “Through yoga, wellness is promoted by not only developing a child’s physical strength and flexibility but also his intimate relationship with himself, his peers and with nature.” In the long run, parents can even join a class when they drop off their kids, instead of hurrying to work right away.
7. A “Junior Masterchef”-like kitchen This takes “bahay-bahayan” and “lutu-lutuan” to a whole new level. “Children are active learners and they learn best when their senses are stimulated. Seeing, touching, tasting and hearing activities with food can be found in the kitchen,” Malay shares. “I wish preschools had a built-in kitchen in the classroom that is accessible for the children.” With this addition, not only will the children feel more comfortable doing kitchen chores at home, but they can also learn about different kinds of food and hopefully would make healthier food choices.
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8. A medical city Aki Gonzalez, a Head Teacher from KIDS Academy and mommy to 5-year old Tommy, shares, “I wish our local preschools had well-equipped clinics with skilled in-house medical staff who can give ample & immediate treatment for minor injuries,” she says. Parents would be put to ease with the thought that their children are in the best hands should a medical crisis occur.
9. 24-hour surveillance cameras It may be the advent of too many reality shows that brought about this desire, but nonetheless, if most parents were given a chance to ask for this, they would do so without batting an eyelash. “I wish that preschools had a 24-hour CCTV camera so that anytime we want to check on our kids, we can do so,” says Kelly Cada, mom to Tyler, 2 years old and Chloe, 7 months old. Working parents would be thrilled to have this wish granted. The comfort of checking in on one’s child during a meeting or a busy day at work with just one click would be so convenient. Sites like these, for sure, would give Facebook and Youtube a run for their money.
10. A yaya lounge Gossip hardly does any good to anyone and so parents and teachers alike have on their list a special wish just for yayas. “I wish that local preschools would provide a room for yayas where they can undergo training or lessons every week,” shares An Claravall, a preschool teacher from CHILD Preschool. “Lessons can cover hygiene, relating with their bosses, and discipline strategies to be used on their ‘alaga.’” If this wish were granted, their employers wouldn’t have to repeat themselves over and over again, and a more productive use of their waiting time would be guaranteed.