Preschool Language Barrier

Parker's Story

“We realized Parker’s separation anxiety and ability to integrate into the classroom and learn English was not being helped by having grandma with him.”

 

When 3-year-old Parker entered JDN a year ago he suddenly had lots of new things in his life — new friends, new school and a new language. Parker, whose parents are from Beijing, spoke fluent Mandarin and only a smattering of English.

The east-meets-west language barrier posed a challenge that JDN staff had successfully handled before, but there was one other matter that needed attention. During the critical new student transition week, Parker’s mother, who had started a new job, sent her Mandarin speaking mother-
in-law with Parker.

At JDN the parent-child transition to ease children into their classroom life is thoughtfully planned. “Our goal is for parents or caregivers to stay for steadily decreasing periods during a child’s first week at which point the children are usually comfortable enough to be left with their teachers and classmates,” said Suzanne Appel, JDN director.

But Parker was so reliant on his grandmother — and vise versa — that every time the elderly woman tried to leave the room or the nearby hallway, the 3-year-old let out piercing shrieks that rang throughout the building.

Parker’s “big feelings” affected his classmates and the teaching staff. It was also an unwelcomed distraction as his grandmother constantly entered the classroom to wipe Parker’s tears, help him
in the bathroom, clean his face after lunch, pat his back during rest periods and bundle him up in layers of clothes for outdoor play.

After three weeks the teacher and the rest of the JDN staff knew this could not go on.
Upon conferring with the JDN support team it was determined that “grandma had to go,” said Suzanne. “We realized Parker’s separation anxiety and ability to integrate into the classroom and learn English was not being helped by having grandma with him.”

After a discussion with Parker’s mother, it was agreed upon that it would be best if grandma
stayed home.

To help ease Parker’s anxiety, a storyboard to show him pictures of classroom activities was used. The teacher pointed to pictures of children saying good-bye to their moms, kids at play, and children eating snacks. When Parker had an occasional meltdown, some of his older classmates came to his side and held his hand or patted his back.

Within a few weeks Parker began to enjoy preschool, successfully bonded with his teacher and
interacted with the other children. He added new English words to his vocabulary every day.
“He turned into a sunny preschooler who happily waved bye-bye to his mom at drop-off each morning,” said Suzanne.

Parker’s parents are grateful their son has achieved so much at JDN. “He absolutely loves coming
to JDN each morning,” said his mother. “He sings lots of songs, knows many numbers and letters, and can even read and write simple words. All of these amazing changes have happened because of JDN teachers and staff. There is no doubt we found the right preschool for our son.”

Learn more about JDN Early Childhood Center

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