Darby school started on August 24 with their new program of transitional kindergarten for youngsters ages 4 and 5 as a pre-kindergarten way of learning how to be a good student and be prepared for the next step.
“It’s going well,” said Megan Trowbridge, TK educator. “It is wild.”
The class size is 10 kids in class and two who are distance learning. Students who are age 4 don’t have to wear masks but the 5-year-olds do. They all wear masks for transition times and special programs and they put them in the zip lock bag taped to their desk.
The majority of the time they are doing it correctly.
Trowbridge said transitional kindergarten can have a big impact on a student’s education as it prepares the students who are just barely too young for kindergarten.
“It is so they come to kindergarten knowing how to write their name, know their numbers and letters and know some sight words,” Trowbridge said. “Right now, they are working on writing their names, learning the ABCs and numbers 1-10.”
The students are playing with their hands, learning to hold pencils, color and cut, experiencing recess, library and music. They are learning to use their inside voices, sit quietly in sharing circles, line up and follow school rules.
The class lasts all day and although there is a scheduled nap time only one student has truly fallen asleep.
“I wish they would fall asleep, that may change as the school year progresses,” Trowbridge said. “I was telling one of the other teachers that we’re kind of tired today. It has been a rough day.”
This is Trowbridge’s fifth year as a teacher. Previously, she taught in Hawaii and last year taught kindergarten in Victor which gives her great insight on preparing these students for kindergarten.
“This is the youngest I’ve taught,” she said. “I grew up here and graduated here. The classroom I’m now teaching in was the first-grade room with my favorite teacher, Miss Blinn, when I decided I wanted to be a teacher. So, it is cool that it came full circle.”
The tradition continues and she may be inspiring future teachers.
“It is fun, I thoroughly enjoy it,” Trowbridge said. “I am super-excited to see how far they come throughout the year. They definitely are cute.”
Darby Superintendent Chris Toynbee said the key reason to have a Transitional Kindergarten is to prepare students for learning.
“We noticed, the last five years especially, that the majority of our kids are not ready for kindergarten,” Toynbee said. “They still lack the basic skills that they need.”
Rather than holding the students back in kindergarten or first grade the TK program was proposed, to prepare early learners with the skills they need.
“So next year when they are kindergarteners they are ready to go,” Toynbee said.
The requirements for TK is the student must be potty-trained and age 4 by Sept. 10, or be age 3 with special needs. The program has been underway for just over a week and is making modifications as the year progresses. Some students may come just for a half a day.
The program numbers filled up quickly and Toynbee said he thought they would have to cap it at 15 but the numbers have worked well.
Toynbee said the poverty and need level in the Darby area is high.
“These kids are much better off being able to come have a free breakfast, a free lunch and given a safe secure environment for them to start learning in right away,” Toynbee said. “Parents appreciate this program. It is like day care but they know they can go to work and their kids are learning something. We have a certified teacher and in two or three years I’m looking forward to seeing what they know.”
Toynbee said the young brain is flexible for learning fundamental skills. He said the aim is to have students beginning reading by second grade and able to learn by reading in third grade.
It all starts at the beginning.
“You need to have those skills of how to read so that later, as you get into those higher levels you can actually read expository texts and understand what you’re reading,” he said. “Our goal is to make sure you’re a proficient reader by the end of second grade.”
Toynbee said they school will continue enforcing the mask requirement no matter the daily numbers each day in the county.
“We’re not going to play red light, green light with masks,” he said. “Until we get an order from the governor or are in phase three we’re just going to have to wear them.”
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