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FINE Newsletter, Volume VII, Issue 3

Issue Topic: Blended Professional Learning: Preparing and Supporting Educators to Engage Families

Voices From the Field

The Bridging Worlds case became a catalyst for robust discussion about the assumptions teachers make and their potential consequences for children and families in my Early Childhood Teacher Education Methods class. Additionally, teacher candidates identified a variety of barriers to positive transition practices between the Head Start program Maya has attended for two years and the kindergarten program in which she is currently enrolled.


Students noted that a number of different assumptions were made throughout the case, hindering a positive transition to school for Maya and her family:

Assumptions about the value of early childhood education. All of the teacher candidates expressed surprise with Ms. Robinson’s (kindergarten teacher) statement, “I have no idea what kind of curriculum she was exposed to, what kind of standards, if any, they adhered to, and how she was assessed, if at all,” when noting that Maya had attended Head Start. Candidates wondered how Ms. Robinson could be so uninformed given that the majority of Ms. Teresa’s Head Start students attend Davis Elementary for kindergarten. Using the words “if any” when referring to the Head Start curriculum was viewed as assuming that Head Start does not have rigorous standards and that children would be unprepared for kindergarten by some. Others saw this statement as a negative assumption about preschool programs as a whole. Still others thought her comments reflected an underlying belief that preschool is nothing more than “glorified babysitting.”

Assumptions about kindergarten. Further analysis of the Bridging Worlds case by this group of teacher candidates found that Ms. Guzman, the Head Start teacher, also acted on some assumptions that served as a barrier to successful kindergarten transitions. They pointed out her refusal to take students to Davis Elementary School for a tour, although she acknowledged that most of her graduates attended this school. Candidates also questioned why Ms. Guzman was making assumptions about the neighborhood school based solely on test scores (she noted that Davis was low-performing), which stands in sharp contrast to her own teaching, which includes an “authentic observation assessment system” and “individualized lessons” Some believed Ms. Guzman may have a somewhat stereotypical view of low-income families and high-need schools.

Assumptions about family involvement. Candidates found that the kindergarten teacher in this case also made a general assumption about parents being “less and less involved in their children’s learning over the years” (page 11). Several questioned what “less and less involved” meant to Ms. Robinson, noting that some of their own children’s teachers may say the same thing about them due to their busy work and school schedules. This group felt strongly that involvement does not necessarily take place under the watchful eye of the teacher but can occur in the home when parents read to their children, help them with their homework, or engage in other activities that enhance learning. The “All About Me” book that Nicole helped Maya create was noted as an example of the mother being involved in her child’s education.

Assumptions about Maya’s development. Another assumption identified by teacher candidates was Ms. Robinson’s statement, “I’ve had some concerns about Maya. She’s been very quiet and doesn’t seem to follow directions.” They expressed concern that the kindergarten teacher viewed “quiet” as problematic, given that some of their own children tended to be quiet when they were around people they did not know well. Several suggestions were offered as to what the teacher could do to make Maya feel more comfortable in the classroom, including having specific community-building activities each day; adjusting activities to a variety of learning styles; using picture directions; and assigning peer partners. Some candidates wondered if Maya’s quiet behavior in the classroom could be attributed to a developmentally inappropriate curriculum. They pointed out that Ms. Robinson had mentioned Common Core standards and increased kindergarten expectations three different times in the case, and speculated that she may be feeling pressured to push her kindergarten students to master skills they were not yet ready for.


Students also noted a variety of barriers to a smooth transition in the case. For example, the Head Start education director mentioned that class lists are often given to teachers at the last minute. Some candidates noted that teachers need earlier access to class lists in order to be better prepared for each student and to reach out to children and families before school starts by making home visits or sending welcoming postcards.

Ms. Robinson’s absence from “Kindergarten Day” was also viewed as a significant barrier to positive kindergarten transitions because this was such a wonderful opportunity to get to know the children and their families who will be part of the classroom family for the coming year. The kindergarten teacher mentioned that she wished “parents had also been given information about the Common Core and the expectations we have for kindergarten preparedness.” Candidates were in agreement that this is the teacher’s job, and that if Ms. Robinson wants parents to know more about Common Core expectations, she needs to come up with a plan. Suggestions for how this may be accomplished included preparing handouts for the first day of school, having a Meet the Teacher evening in the classroom before school starts, and having handouts and visiting with families at Kindergarten Day.


The Bridging Worlds case was a meaningful way for teacher education candidates in this methods class to analyze and interpret what may happen when children transition from preschool to kindergarten. Sharing their widely different perspectives with one another gave each of them insights that deepened their understandings about preparing children and their families for the transition to kindergarten. A rich discussion ensued about how to overcome assumptions and barriers during this important time.

Read the rest of the faculty reflections.

About Anita Ede:

photo of Anita Ede Anita Ede, associate professor, Northeastern State University, Department of Education

This resource is part of the August FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

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