By Ms. Brittany Carlson (IMCOM)September 14, 2009
STUTTGART, Germany -- For a first day at school, this one was pretty easy.
Katie Wrona, 5, walked into her kindergarten classroom at BAfAPblingen Elementary/Middle School and had the whole place to herself. There were no assignments - just toys to play with, places to explore, and a story, read to her by her teacher, Teresa Senna. Best of all, Mom was there the whole time.
Katie's day was part of the Department of Defense Dependent Schools kindergarten home-visit program, which gives each child the chance to meet with their new teacher one-on-one before the first day of school.
The visits were held Aug. 31 to Sept. 4 for U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart. Kindergarten started Sept. 8.
Families of kindergartners can opt to host the teacher in their own home, visit them in the classroom, or both.
"Some of them have never been to school before," said Lucy Roach, kindergarten teacher at Robinson Barracks Elementary/Middle School. "It's a way of softening things and making them feel comfortable coming to school."
Almost 100 percent of all kindergartners enrolled at RBEMS, BEMS and Patch Elementary School participated in home/classroom visits this year.
"Some of them are a little shy, and it helps for me to see them," Roach added. "They get to know me, and they get to see that I'm a normal person. If I'm at their house, it means I must be welcome."
The familiar atmosphere helps break the ice for first introductions, Senna added. "Meeting them at home makes it more comfortable - it's on their turf."
In addition to the home visits, classroom visits give children a chance to see where they will spend time in school, from the tables and play area to their own cubby.
"I usually have [children] draw a picture of themselves. Then I hang it in the classroom so they can see a part of something that they've done," Senna said.
Besides helping children to be comfortable, the visits inform parents of their child's curriculum and school policies, such as pick-up and drop-off times. Children are informed of the types of things they'll be learning and doing, from reciting the Pledge of Allegiance to taking physical education class.
"I tell them what they need for the classroom," Roach said. "I hand them the itinerary - what they do during the day. This way they know what to expect."
For Katie's mother, Kimberly Wrona, the home and classroom visits were especially helpful. "Katie's more shy," she said. "This is important for her so that she can be more confident the first day of school."