One Teacher, 15 Kids? You've Got To
Q: I'm concerned about my son's preschool. There will be one
teacher and 15 children in what amounts to an all-day program.
My daughter's grammar school class size is smaller than his
preschool. What concerns me most is that, in the grammar
school, classrooms are side by side, but the preschool is
isolated down a very long corridor.
A: The National Association for the Education of Young Children
endorses a lower ratio than that. For one teacher and one
room, the optimum number is 10 three-year-olds, 12
four-year-olds, and 15 five-year-olds.
Of course, when you increase the number of students, and the
number of rooms, adding a teacher is the only thing imaginable.
In an all-day program, any teacher will have to leave her
classroom for at least one of the following: a phone call, a short
parent-teacher conference, a cola or cup of coffee, art supplies,
copying, a book, a visitor or a trip to the toilet. When children
are left alone, it could create a dangerously unsafe situation.
When there's an emergency and the teacher attends to the
needs of that child, who is watching the other 14 children?
What if two children cut themselves on the same piece of
glass, or come down with chicken pox, or run into one another
Without the proper staffing, children watching children causes
Remember "Lord of the Flies." In a group, kids do unsafe things
such as run wild, run out the door or provide talented little side
shows for one another such as unplumbing the sink or maybe
just washing their own hair in the nearby water fountain.
One teacher should be able to hold the whole group's attention
during circle time, music, dance, theatrical play, gym and story
time, yes. But what about other, ordinary work needed, such as
clean-up, potty errands, phone calls and setup for the next
With no second teacher, there's a real difficulty with presenting
hands on projects such as math, science, handwriting and art.
Fifteen children doing a project is a monster with 30 hands. But
dividing teaching to half the children now and half later is
disappointing and again puts kids in two areas one without a
Here's an example: Today, we're fingerpainting. While the
children play unsupervised teacher puts 15 fingerpainting
sheets down at three tables. She labels each child's page with
his name, she sprays water on the 15 sheets twice then
calls the children over five minutes later.
Does she put a paint shirt on all 15? Probably not.
After distributing a tablespoon of red paint to each child, she
demonstrates how-to. Every child digs in. In five minutes, there
are seven who are "done," who want to wash their hands, right
Does she leave eight painting and take the seven boys and
girls to the bathroom all at once?
Does she tell the seven to wait while they spread paint on the
next child or themselves because waiting is boring?
Does she let the finished kids wash in a bucket in the room,
which is a health hazard and a possible huge mess?
Does she tell the unfinished children to stop their work and
take all 15 to the bathroom?
Does she abandon projects such as painting altogether
because they are too hard and just "let them play" most of the
time? No, because that's baby-sitting, not preschool.
Should you be concerned? Yes. Whoever set that up is
obviously not in touch with good child-care practices. Find a
program where the ratio is lower and the proper staff is
If you need help picking good day care, you can order Judy
Lyden's booklet, "Looking for Day Care," by sending a
self-addressed, stamped envelope to Day Care, The Evansville
Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702.
(Judy Lyden is a licensed day-care provider. Write to her c/o
The Evansville Courier, P.O. Box 268, Evansville, IN 47702, or
e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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