One Teacher, 15 Kids? You've Got To
 Be Kidding

 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
 while playing?

 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

 Scripps Howard News Service

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