“They love him as much as we do": A parent-teacher partnership story

Mother and son meeting with their child care teacher

Little Jack was beside himself.

It was his first day of preschool — something he seemed excited about. But as any parent will tell you, change for a toddler can be hard. And the day of the switch, he surprised his parents Molly and John by melting down. “We’d never seen anything like it,” says Molly, who was used to her son cheerfully waving goodbye.

“It was heartbreaking.”

The moment eventually passed. But making the shift took all hands, and spoke to the partnership that had developed between Molly, John, and Jack’s teacher, Jamie.

How did Jack’s experience play out? We talked to family and teacher about their story.

Molly: We came to Bright Horizons in August when we moved out of the city to the suburbs. John and I were new to daycare. We’d had a nanny before, but we didn’t have another child and Jack really needed be around other kids. But the toddler room felt too young for him.

Jamie: Jack was sensitive and shy, but extremely bright in all core areas. He was ready for preschool and met the requirements. But we knew it would mean a big change — he’d be coming into a classroom of older children that he didn’t know; children who had been with each other and with the same teachers for a long time.

Molly: John and I felt moving to preschool was a good move. He was fortunate to be in Jamie’s and Ashley’s [the other teacher’s] room.

Jamie: Jack was originally supposed to go to the classroom next door. But after getting to know him in the toddler program, I realized he needed something different. That other classroom was a little more gregarious, which didn’t feel like a good fit. So we brought him to my classroom.

Molly: It was a bigger classroom, and the kids were bigger. He went from being the oldest and biggest kid to being the youngest and the smallest.

Jamie: I knew the only familiar face Jack would know in the new classroom was going to be mine. I wanted to make sure he felt comfortable. So even before he changed classes, I started visiting him in his toddler room. I got to know him and made sure he knew who I was. I also had transition meetings ahead of time with his family.

Molly: Jamie and Ashley were great. Jack seemed good with the new classroom. We thought we were all set. But then...

Jamie: The first days in preschool were really hard. Jack was crying. Molly and her husband were really worried. And Molly wasn’t available on the phone during the day because, as a therapist, she was with clients all day. She couldn’t call to see how Jack was doing. We knew we needed to shift a little with how we supported the family.

Molly: It was heartbreaking for both my husband and me to see him struggle. Jack even threw up. We just needed to be able to go to work and know he was ok.

Jamie: I could see Molly and John were worried. I could tell they needed us to figure out a way to update them. In preschool, we don’t send home individual notes about naps and things the way we do for toddlers. But I offered to continue to send some of those updates in the app — for example, we’d alert them if something was off. That really helped with the communication piece and put their minds at ease. This way, they were able to see what he was doing throughout the day.

Molly: They were lovely the way they handheld it, which really helped with our anxiety. We could check and see Jack was ok. If he had a difficult drop-off, or he was having a hard day, Jamie and Ashley could send us note in the app. That was really helpful because as two busy working parents, we didn’t need a big conversation — we just needed to know he was okay. Those updates are such a bright spot — a moment to take a breath and see him playing with a little buddy. It helps me and my husband, though I think I look at it more than he does. It helps just to know that things are cool.

Jamie: It took about two weeks for Jack to fully transition without tears in the morning. We found ways to help him. We figured out he loves to draw. So we sat down and drew some things, and that got him talking about things he likes. We also used some of our signature teaching practices and connected him with kids he got along with. He enjoyed letters and numbers and puzzles. I knew he was going to be ok. But Jack was their only child and they were leaving their son crying during drop-offs.

Molly: Jamie and Ashley were so great about working with us. They spent a little more time at drop-off and pick-up. They really tuned into what Jack needed. He has a picture of us that he holds when he’s sad or when his routine is mixed up. And when he was having trouble, they knew to give him that picture. They’ve even helped us with tools at home.

Postscript: Jamie and Jack’s parents still connect often — both daily at pick-up and regularly at their scheduled conferences. But the change in Jack is evident. “I think they can tell just from pick-up how happy Jack is because he doesn’t want to leave,” says Jamie. “And drop-offs are much easier now — he just drops in and starts his day.”

Most important for Molly and John is that they felt heard. “They found a preschool space for Jack when they first said they didn’t have one,” says Molly. “They moved one of his buddies up from the toddler room shortly after Jack got there so the two of them could be in the same class. They really understood us. It felt very similar to the situation we had with our nanny — that we were on the same page,” she says.

“We know the teachers love him as much as we do.”

Mother and son meeting with their child care teacher

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