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Cayman Parent | Articles | Community | Sister Janice’s Preschool | Story Of A Transformation

Sister Janice’s Preschool | Story Of A Transformation

Sister Janice’s Early Learning Centre has been teaching and preparing students for primary school for over twenty years. They have just over seventy students, ranging in age from zero to five, and five of them having special needs. The school was founded by Sister Janice, with the aim of teaching children the basics they needed before attending the next level of education, alongside the Christian faith. Today the school engages their pupil’s minds in an enjoyable learning environment where each week is focused on learning from a story or a fable alongside the incorporation of the Government’s Early Childhood Curriculum Guidelines.

In 2012 the Government of the Cayman Islands added the goal of building “a world-class early childhood care and education system” to their Strategic Plan for Education 2012-17. This came with ensuring that every child had the best opportunity to develop as a learner, and that they were sufficiently prepared for the school years to come. To achieve this goal, the Ministry of Education carried out inspections of every early childhood care and education centre, highlighting where schools needed to improve. These reports looked at the environment students were being taught in, as well as what and how they were being taught. Similar to the majority of early childhood centres, Sister Janice’s was put under review and the outcome of the report was not positive. The report stated that the small classrooms, little range in activities for the students to partake in, and lack of structure to how the children were being taught, was negatively impacting the children’s learning and progress. It was thanks to this report that Sister Janice’s Early Learning Centre completely rethought the way the students were being taught and what they were learning. They embarked on a plan to create a school where students are excited about the next day of school, and where a teacher’s passion for their job is allowed to flourish. Parents now see happier children that are easily adapting to primary school.

The current principal of the school, Carol Mae Watson, joined Sister Janice’s in 2006 as a teacher. However, in early 2012, almost a year before the review, she took up the principal’s position and was the mind behind transforming the school into what it is today. With the help of the curriculum guidelines she developed an understanding of what needed to be incorporated into lessons, and what changes needed to be made to the environment the students were being taught in. It was thanks to these guidelines and support from the Ministry of Education that Principal Watson came up with the idea of basing teaching around a different story each week. From these stories, students were taught about Science, Maths, English and the Arts. She explained the reasoning behind this new method of teaching was due to her “wanting each classroom to have a play centre” in it, but the rooms where too small. This led to them having every classroom focused on a different subject, and students being moved around to study the subject, instead of being sat in one classroom all day. For example, when learning the story of the three little bears, the students would go into the drama room to act out the story, but also be taught about the number three in the maths room and bears/animals in the science room.

With students in the past being given three pieces of homework a week and taught in one small classroom all day long, to now rotating classrooms and only being given project-based homework, some truly incredible changes in the students and how they view learning have taken place. The one thing that was perfectly clear to Principal Watson, was not only did the students adapt almost immediately, they all prospered from this change. She said how moving the students from room to room taught them how to adapt to new environments easily as well as teaching them to explore and learn from a new environment. When talking with a parent whose child was at the school during this change, it was clear that students were not only happy, but sufficiently prepared for primary school. The parent voiced how before the changes the child was tired and uninterested in talking about school, but following the change she was excited to discuss her day. Further, the positive impact of this new method of teaching stretched beyond the child’s enjoyment of school: most students heading off to primary school were able to read and write.

 


“The students are all happy, the teachers are loving teaching the children.” – Principal Carol Mae Watson


 

One of the issues highlighted in the Ministry of Education’s report was a negative reflection on the teachers. It was indicated that teachers were not providing enough diversity for the students, as well as lessons not being planned well enough. With a new understanding of the Government guidelines, teachers are planning lessons that are engaging for students, benefiting them as all-round learners. Principal Watson suggested that the teachers at the school were enjoying their teaching more. The new method of rotating the children to different classrooms was of huge benefit to students as they did not become unsettled from sitting in one room for long periods of time. Additionally, the teachers could teach a variety of different subjects in one day. The new methodology of teaching also incorporated more play into the children’s day, meaning that teachers could better observe the students, pick up on who was falling behind, and in turn, allowing them to pay special attention to those who need more help.

Although students and teachers quickly adapted and benefited from the new system, many parents had concerns with their children no longer receiving traditional homework as well as the introduction of a learn-through-play teaching philosophy. It took time for them to realise that with the introduction of play alongside learning, the children were enjoying what they were doing, and therefore more engaged in what they were learning.

Principal Watson, describes how this change in the school has grown her own passion for early childhood teaching. She sees first hand that the students are happy, and teachers are much more fulfilled. To the Ministry of Education Sister Janice’s stands as a testament to the positive outcome of their Strategic Plan for Education and what can happen when changes are suggested and acted upon. For parents the results speak for themselves: happy children who are excited and prepared for primary school.

 

 
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