The purpose of this handbook is to assist Early Childhood students in their daily work at the Center. Please feel free to contribute your suggestions and ideas and to ask questions about any areas that may not appear clear. Your input is welcome.
Please read this handbook carefully. You are responsible for the information contained inside. You will need to complete a form at the end of this handbook which states that you have read, understand, and will be held responsible for all policies and procedures.
- Center for Young Children and Families
- Karen Sanders, Director
* Voice mail is active at all times when the Center is closed.
The mission of the Center for Young Children and Families is to provide a high quality early childhood program to young children and their families. A high quality program is identified by its ability to offer comprehensive learning experiences through a planned environment. A child development center is not a “day care” in the traditional sense of the idea. Child care is only one component of the program. Within the Center environment, the developmental needs of children are planned for in a consistent and secure setting offering developmentally appropriate practices. As part of the Early Childhood Studies Department at Plymouth State University, the Center is a model early childhood program for the training of students in the fields of early childhood studies and child development.
The Center for Young Children and Families offers developmentally-based programs that focus on the needs of the whole child—physical, emotional, social, cognitive, and familial. All staff members recognize the importance of teacher-child interactions and strive to establish and maintain warm and trusting relationships with children and their families. Activities and routines at the Center are based on sound developmental practices and build on children’s natural curiosity and problem-solving abilities. Children participate in many play and language activities and have the opportunities to work and play in small and large groups and individually. Our child-centered philosophy reflects an understanding of the needs of young children in a complex society. Our program seeks to serve all children, including young children with disabilities.
The Center for Young Children and Families offers four programs for children ranging in age from approximately 13 months to 4 years 10 months (as of August 31): Toddler, Early Preschool, Preschool, and Pre K . Please review the descriptions and goals of each program, included at the end of this handbook.
- Wendy Hartke, M.Ed., Facilitating Teacher
- Marcia Huckins, Early Childhood Assistant Teacher
- Meredith Leighton, B.S., Early Childhood Teacher II
- Amanda Myles, B.S., Early Childhood Teacher I
- Kayla Roper, B.S., Early Childhood Teacher II
- Carly Roy, B.S., Early Childhood Teacher I
- Karen Sanders, M.Ed., Director
- Natalka Sywenkyj, B.S., Early Childhood Teacher I
Plymouth State University Student Classroom Assistant
Plymouth State University Early Childhood Students
Department of Early Childhood Studies
- Patricia Cantor. Ed.D, Chair, Early Childhood Studies Dept. & Professor of Early Childhood Studies
- Mary Cornish, Ph.D, Professor of Early Childhood Studies
- Elisabeth Johnston, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Studies
- Meagan Shedd, Ph.D, Assistant Professor of Early Childhood Studies
Early Childhood Practicum Students are regarded as part of the teaching team in a classroom. This is the equivalent of a student teaching experience for them. Practicum students meet together in weekly seminars and are invited to attend teachers’ meetings when they can. Practicum students will work with a cooperating teacher in the classroom and will be supervised by the Center Director, Facilitating Teacher, or an Education Department Faculty member.
The Center is host to many students throughout the year on many different kinds of assignments. Students from the “Preschool and Kindergarten Curriculum and Instruction” class will be at the Center Monday – Thursday mornings on a regular basis. Students from other classes will visit the Center for a one-time observation or activity or for a longer-term assignment, individually or as part of a class. Other visitors to the Center may include prospective Plymouth State students and their parents.
We ask that you be patient with all visitors to the Center and provide them with any help they need. The Center is an important part of the academic experience for many students, particularly Early Childhood students, and we wish them to feel as welcome as possible.
People who work with children know that their day consists of many different activities ranging from art projects to outside play. All staff members, including students, should be dressed comfortably, yet appropriately, for participating in diverse activities with children, meeting the public, and supervising the playground in all seasons.
Please use your judgment and dress professionally. Baseball caps or similar hats should not be worn indoors. Shorts are appropriate for warm weather, but please wear shorts that allow you to sit on the floor comfortably and modestly. Be sure to always have appropriate footwear for playground conditions.
Early Childhood students and are expected not to wear jeans. EC students are considered to be student teachers and should dress accordingly. We suggest EC students model their dress after the regular staff. The last Friday of each month has been set aside as “Casual Dress Day” and jeans may be worn on that day, provided they are in good shape and have no holes.
Nametags must be worn at all times when you are in a classroom.
CPR and First Aid
All staff members are CPR and First Aid certified. Students are not responsible to administer First Aid or CPR.
Fingerprint/Criminal Records Check
Each student who works with the children on an extended basis is required to complete a Fingerprint/Criminal Records Check for the State of NH prior to their first day at the Center. The cost of this process is the student’s responsibility. Please see the program assistant for information.
Unfortunately, there are no parking arrangements at the Center for students. You must park in your regular parking area on campus. If you park on Cummings Street or in the hospital lot across the street from the Center, you will get a parking ticket from the town of Plymouth and may very well have your car towed.
Staff and students should not park in the front driveway, in the Visitor space, or in the Handicapped space (unless you are permitted by law).
If you do become ill, please use good judgment about whether to come to work. If you must be out due to illness, please call the Center directly to report an absence. All absences, whether regular staff, student classroom aides, or Early Childhood students should be reported to the office as soon as possible. The Center answering machine is on at all times, so messages may be left in the evening. Please do not e-mail.
All staff members and students are expected to be “on the floor” at the time that they are scheduled to begin to work. Lateness seriously affects the staffing in the room and impacts negatively on the other staff and children.
Early Childhood students will be required to make up any excused absences they miss. Please be sure these arrangements are made with your mentor educator.
Spaces have been designated upstairs for the storage of personal belongings of Early Childhood students and student classroom aides. Please do not bring your belongings (such as coats, bags, or backpacks) in the classrooms, unless specifically asked to do so by the classroom teacher. Any students who will be going outside during their time in the classroom should bring their jacket to the classroom and ask the staff for an appropriate place to keep it.
The Center is not responsible for the loss or theft of any personal items. Please be sure to store your belongings carefully.
- Set aside regular meeting times for program teams and for teachers
- Establish and communicate clear expectations
- Deal with issues directly if possible, talking with the individual involved rather than discussing with others.
- Write down messages for colleagues. Forgotten messages can create bad feelings and even problems if important information about a child is not communicated.
- If you have questions about your responsibilities, please speak with the Mentor Educator immediately.
The information in the children’s files should be read only by the teaching team in each program.
It is important that all family questions about a child’s behavior or other issues regarding a specific program be directed to the appropriate teacher. It is every staff member’s responsibility to direct families to the appropriate person. If you have a concern about a child, please share it with the Director.
As part of our confidentiality policy, families’ wishes regarding videotaping or photographing their child must be respected. Families communicate their wishes on the blanket permission forms filed at the beginning of the school year. Families or others who wish to come in to videotape or photograph their child’s class should be asked to speak with the teacher first.
Staff members should not give families the phone numbers or addresses or last names of other children or parents. If a family wishes to contact another family, he or she may leave a written note in the family’s Center mailbox.
The privacy of staff members, including student classroom aides and Early Childhood students, will be respected as well. Families often ask for telephone numbers of students for babysitting purposes. We do not release student telephone numbers, but will instead pass along written messages to students so that they may choose whether to respond to the request.
Note: In custody disputes, staff members may be asked to talk with a Guardian Ad Litem or an attorney. If this happens, please discuss immediately with the Director.
Staff members are expected to involve student classroom aides and Practicum students in the daily routine and activities of the classroom and to establish and communicate clear expectations for them. Practicum students should be regarded as part of the teaching team.
All staff members, student classroom aides, and Practicum students are expected to wear name tags at all times.
You will be actively involved with children and materials both indoors and outdoors. Please dress appropriately (casual clothes for activities, hat, mittens, and boots in winter). You will go outdoors with children in all weather. It’s easier to enjoy activities with children when you are not concerned about your clothes or comfort.
We will share personal information about children, families, and ourselves. Respecting confidentiality is your professional responsibility.
You will be involved in: planning, set-up, activity supervision, clean-up, outdoor play supervision, appearance of the Center, guidance and discipline, preparing and cleaning up snack, dressing, seminars, parent interaction and communication, and other tasks as requested by your mentor educator.
You will be part of a teaching team including professional staff and university students. We need to be supportive of each other and responsible to the team. We all have different backgrounds. Each contributes to other’s learning and growth. Teamwork is your professional responsibility.
Don’t be surprised if you feel confused and overwhelmed at first. Part of growing is trying things. We all learn through our experiences—some experiences are more successful than others. We expect you to take initiative, make mistakes, ask questions, be enthusiastic and demonstrate a positive attitude and a willingness to learn!
Self-reflection and feedback are important components of your professional growth and experience. Your cooperating teacher and faculty supervisor will give you ongoing written and verbal feedback. If you feel you need more feedback than what you are receiving, please do not be afraid to ask for it.
- All adult conversation will be pertinent to your work with the children. Please avoid socializing. Direct your attention to the children.
- Conversation about children happens in seminar and meetings with your team only. While with children, talk to them, not about them! You should only talk about the children with your teaching team, not with people outside the Center.
- There is no chewing gum, food or beverages allowed in the classroom (except water or if you are here for lunch time).
- Please avoid the use of perfumes, scented oils, aftershaves, etc.
- Arrive Promptly.
- If you will be absent, call the Center as soon as you know you will not make your regular shift.
- Be a participant observer. Be involved with children and be observant of what is going on throughout the program. Sit on the floor or chairs. Tables and other furniture are for children’s activities.
- Always wear your nametag while in the Center.
Families may have important information about a child’s day. Please explain to them that you are only there for a short period of time and redirect them to the classroom teacher for sharing of important information.
At times, families may wish to have an in-depth discussion regarding their child during arrival and departure. Please be mindful that your primary responsibility at this time is to be with the children. Be sure that you are watching the children while talking with families and try to keep your conversation brief.
- Activity areas will be chosen/assigned—a week in advance during your meeting with your mentor educator.
- Learn where materials for activities are stored. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it, but plan ahead, don’t wait until right before your activity.
- Try to tie activity ideas to ongoing curriculum and developmental levels.
- Set up your activity. All materials must be ready when children come into the area.
- Be sure the appropriate number of children are in the activity area. Each child needs adequate space and materials to have a successful experience.
- Try to help as many children participate in an activity as possible without setting rigid limits.
- Encourage children and enjoy the activity with them. Talk with them, listen to them, and ask them about what they are doing. Try not to ask them questions to which you already know the answer to. Ask them questions to encourage their thinking and problem-solving. While doing creative activities, when appropriate ask children: “Tell me about that” rather than “What is that?” Participate with the children but let them do their own activity. Do not draw with or for children. Encourage each child’s creativity.
- Children need to help clean-up the activity area. All materials that were taken out need to be put away in their proper places or set aside in a designated area until you have the chance to return the materials to their correct spots (ie: if something goes on the collage cart, in the kitchen, another classroom, or upstairs). Children and adults need to be respectful of the materials and put them away in a manner that is respectful and aesthetically pleasing.
- Your enthusiasm and active facilitation will support children’s participation.
- If you have done something with the children that you would like to share, please ask your cooperating teacher about making a display.
- Preparing/cleaning up snack responsibility may be assigned on a rotating basis.
Please be sure that you know about any food allergies of children in your program. Keep an eye out for possible reactions to new foods, especially among younger children.
Children are not allowed to share food at lunch time due to food allergies and family food preferences. Children are not told what to eat at lunch (ie. You can’t say eat your sandwich first) but are encouraged to make good, healthy choices and eat a balanced meal.
- Introduce yourself. Smile and be friendly. Wear a nametag.
- Try to attend open houses, family meetings, and social events as another way of getting to know families.
- Discuss something positive that happened during the day about their child. Share positive anecdotes about their child. These can be written as well as verbal.
- The discussion of children’s issues, accidents or difficult times is the responsibility of the professional staff. Please refer parents to supervising teachers if they have questions or concerns.
- Be cordial and communicate with all families. Keep trying! Don’t give up – parents are people too; some are shy, some are outgoing, and some are in between – just like you.
When A Child Becomes Ill at the Center
If you suspect that a child is ill, please notify the teacher in the classroom at once. Only the teacher should take the responsibility of calling a family to send a child home.
Some children at the Center have allergies and cannot eat certain foods. Families have documented this information on their child’s entrance forms. Please make sure you are familiar with any dietary restrictions.
Some children and staff members are allergic to various perfumes, hairsprays, and air fresheners. Please use these items sparingly, if at all, at the Center.
It is Center policy that lotions and sprays—such as diaper rash ointment, insect repellent, or sunscreen—can only be applied if the item has been sent in by the child’s family and is labeled with the child’s name. Many children are allergic to these items. For that reason, these items should only be applied by regular staff (not students), and the child’s reaction to the lotion or spray should be carefully monitored.
Be as sensitive as possible to children’s comfort level, indoors and outdoors. In general, Center policy is to have the children wear the indoor and outdoor clothing that was sent in with them by their parents that morning; HOWEVER, teachers must use their judgment to decide whether the child’s clothing is appropriate for prevailing weather conditions. Please be especially sensitive to this during our New England falls and springs, when mornings may be much cooler than the afternoon.
Please be sure that children drink plenty of fluids, all day, indoors and out. Water should always be available to the children.
As stated in the Family Handbook, only prescription medication can be administered at the Center, and only with signed permission from the family. It is Center policy that we do not administer non-prescription drugs or medication to children.
Only the professional staff may administer medication to children.
If you suspect child abuse or neglect, immediately report your suspicions to your mentor educator, classroom teacher or the director.
Controlling the Spread of Infectious Disease
All staff working at the CYCF must practice appropriate health precautions when serving food, changing diapers, assisting children with injuries which involve open wounds, and assisting children with toileting. Good hygiene practices should be modeled by staff and students at all times.
Remember that frequent and thorough handwashing is the first line of defense against infectious disease.
Periodically wiping toys down with a bleach solution or putting them through the sanitizer is required of all programs. Please do not put toys with sand in the sanitizer and be sure that items have been rinsed thoroughly, especially if you are putting items that held paint in the sanitizer. Tables and mats are also to be cleaned daily with a cleaning solution provided by the physical plant. Please check with the lead teacher in your classroom regarding the cleaning routine.
Student classroom aides and Early Childhood students may NOT administer first aid, even something as simple as applying a Band-Aid to a scraped knee. ONLY staff members administer first aid. EC students are encouraged to watch as first aid is applied, so that they can learn through observation.
Please read the following section on Universal Health Precautions very carefully. Be sure you understand the sections that apply to you as a staff member, student classroom aide, or Practicum student. Students are NOT involved in any diapering, toileting, cleaning up bodily fluids, or administering first aid; however, they should be aware of effective methods of handwashing and know when handwashing is appropriate.
Points to remember when working with children of any age:
- Use respectful and courteous language with the children and with other staff members
- Avoid referring to the children as “you guys”. This is a tough habit to break, but if you are conscious of it you will use it less. “Boys and girls”, “friends”, or “okay, everyone” will work just as well to get the children to pay attention.
- Take care with your pronunciation (watch for “gonna” or “wanna”)
- Use specific and precise language to help children develop a rich vocabulary of words they can understand and say. For example, rather than asking a child to “Please give me that one over there,” you can ask, “Please give me the big red truck with the yellow wheels.”
- Encourage children to experiment and play around with oral language, just as you encourage them to experiment with drawing and writing. Sing songs, recite rhymes, tell jokes, and share long or silly words that you think they might enjoy.
- Be patient with the children and give them time to say what they need to say, rather than finishing sentences for them or immediately responding to their nonverbal cues.
- Address all children and adults by name. This is a sign of respect ad helps the children learn and recognize each others’ names. Try not to refer to children just as “honey,” “sweetie,” etc.
- When we tell children to “use your words” to resolve a conflict, please keep in mind that they may not know what words to use. It is more helpful to model the language that would be appropriate in the situation.
- Setting clear, consistent, and fair guidelines for classroom behavior, and reminding children of these guidelines when necessary.
- Listening carefully to what children have to say about their feelings.
- Regarding mistakes as opportunities for learning.
- Helping children to develop the skills to solve their own conflicts.
- Modeling appropriate and respectful treatment of people and materials.
- Redirecting the children to a more acceptable behavior or activity.
In the case of inappropriate behavior, a staff member would first try to determine what happened, and then use his/her professional judgment to decide how best to handle the situation. Children are encouraged to talk about what is bothering them, and staff members try to involve children in resolving conflicts. Staff members also try to encourage the children to see each other’s point of view, which is a first step in developing empathy, an important prosocial behavior.
The Center does not use a “time out” chair or area. On occasion, a child may be redirected away from a group or activity, but this is not used as a punishment. Instead, an attempt is made to change the situation that is leading to the inappropriate behavior.
Staff members are strongly encouraged to be “reflective practitioners”: that is, to think about what they do. This is especially important because we serve as models for the university students at the Center. In addition to dealing with discipline in terms of handling inappropriate behaviors of individual children, we need to consider our overall classroom management strategies. The way a program or activity is structured can have a major impact on how the children behave. In cases of inappropriate behavior, staff members need to evaluate whether their own teaching styles or techniques are a contributing factor and to consider whether the program or activity could be designed in a way that would encourage more prosocial behavior. Reflective teaching should be discussed with and modeled for student classroom aides and Practicum students.
Staff members are expected to be respectful in their dealings with each other, the university students, with families, and with the children.
The following actions will not be used at the Center under any circumstances: hitting, yelling, criticizing, threatening, or making hurtful or sarcastic comments. Hitting or threatening to hit a child is grounds for immediate dismissal. Withdrawing food from a child, refusing to give a child snack or lunch, or denying a child outdoor time are not acceptable forms of discipline.
When showing a video, follow these guidelines:
- Do not show a video you have not already seen.
- Be sure that children who do not wish to see the video, or families who do not want their child to view the video, are given an appropriate alternative.
- Leave some lights on in the room. Watching a television screen in a dark room is not good for children’s eyes
- Do not insist on absolute silence, and do not constantly shush the children or allow them to shush each other. Research shows that children derive the most benefit from television programs and videos if an adult watches with them and discusses the content with them while they are viewing or immediately after.
- Other activities, such as table blocks, puzzles, or art materials, must be available in the classroom where the video is being shown, so that children who do not care to watch may choose to do something else. These other activities should be supervised.
- Staff members and students should be with the children while videos are being shown, either watching the video or supervising other activities. They should not be chatting or reading.
- At least one student or staff member should be stationed at each piece of major equipment to serve as a spotter or facilitator. There should also be one person stationed in or behind the house structure. THIS IS ESSENTIAL. Please be sure that each teaching team agrees on a system for supervising children on the equipment during playground time. Student classroom aides and Practicum students should be advised of the system, and all adults should follow it. Please be sure to guide students to more beneficial placements on the playground.
- Students should not be left in charge on the playground. At least one staff member should be out on the playground at all times, and an adequate staff-child ratio must be maintained at all times.
- Staff members handling playground accidents should follow standard First Aid procedures and the Universal Health Precautions outlined in this handbook. If you are the only staff member on the playground during an accident, please go to the Preschool door or the Early Preschool door and ask for assistance. Please do not leave a student in charge of the playground or to take care of the accident.
- Keep in mind that children have different levels of tolerance for hot or cold weather and watch all children carefully. In hot weather, monitor the children carefully and make sure they drink plenty of liquids. This is important for preventing heat-related illnesses. Watch for hot, red, dry skin. In cold weather, staff should be alert to signs of cold-weather injuries such as “frost nip.”
- Try to limit discussion on the playground with other staff members or with parents. While some conversation is necessary, if you feel you need to engage in a longer discussion, get someone else to take your place at your station. Parents who seek spur-of-the-moment conferences on the playground should be encouraged to set up a separate meeting time.
- Please do not sit on tabletops or stand on tableseats, and do not allow the children to sit or stand on tables.
- While on the playground, you are expected to be standing at a piece of equipment or moving around with the children. You should not be sitting down unless engaged in conversation with a child or group of children, or unless sitting is a better way to supervise (as at the sandbox). If you are engaged with one child or a small group, please be sure to be scanning other areas of the playground.
- If you notice a hazard on the playground, such as broken glass, or if the children are playing in a potentially dangerous way, redirect the children and explain the hazard. Report any safety hazards to the head teacher immediately.
- If you notice a hazard on the playground, such as broken glass, or if the children are playing in a potentially dangerous way, redirect the children and explain the hazard. Report any safety hazards to the head teacher immediately.
- All of the equipment, including tricycles, scooters, swings, and slides is designed for children. Please do not use the equipment yourself, as it may break under your weight. You could also be denying a child the use of the equipment while you are on it yourself.
Note: Classroom doors to the playground should NOT be left open during the day, whether children are in the classroom or on the playground. While children are on the playground, please make sure classroom doors to the hallway are also closed. Children should not be sent into the building for toileting or other purposes without an adult going with them.
Each room has their own first aid kit, which should be taken on all field trips. Each playground also has its own first aid kit. In case of a medical emergency that requires you to call an ambulance, emergency telephone numbers and directions to the Center are posted above each telephone.
Please make sure that your teaching team designates people to carry out responsibilities related to fire drills. Staff who are on break are expected to participate in fire drills. They are asked to check first to see if the Toddler room needs help, and then to help in other programs.
Red fire alarms are located near ALL exits. Be sure that you know how to pull the fire
alarm. Fire extinguishers are located
- On the front hallway wall near parent mailboxes
- In the kitchen on the left side of the refrigerator
- In the upstairs conference room
- In the library/room between the Early Preschool and kitchen.
Please familiarize yourself with the location and use of extinguishers.
In Case of a Fire Drill/Fire
- Take the attendance sheet posted on the parent sign-in board
- Exit children quickly through your fire door (make sure doors to room are closed)
- Toddler Room: take the children out the room rear door and walk them to the sidewalk in front of the Center (keeping out of the driveway). Follow this procedure also if the children are on the Toddler playground.
- Early Preschool: exit children through the playground door and out the sandbox gate and walk them to the sidewalk in front of the Center (keeping out of the driveway). Follow this procedure also if the children are on the playground.
- Preschool: exit children through the side door closest to the driveway and walk them on the grass toward the sidewalk in front of the building. If the children are on the playground, exit through the double gates and walk across the parking lot to the small hill behind the dumpster.
- PreK: exit children through the door closest to the driveway and walk them on the grass toward the sidewalk in front of the building. If the children are on the playground, exit through the double gates and walk across the parking lot to the small hill behind the dumpster.
- When all children are outside, immediately check attendance and compare it to the attendance sheet.
- Do not re-enter the building until clearance is given by the Fire Department. No one may remain inside the building, upstairs or downstairs, during a fire drill.
The Center is closed on University-wide holidays.
Please notify the Program Assistant immediately if you have an accident or are injured while at work. This applies to staff and students alike. Paperwork needs to be processed through the Human Resources Office within 24-hours. See the Program Assistant immediately after the accident or injury and before you leave the Center to arrange the paperwork.
For planned days off:
Clear your request for a day off through the office as soon as you can before the day off. Please put your request in writing.
For unplanned days off:
- If you know the night before that you will be out the next day, call the Center and Leave a message in the office to indicate that you will be out.
- If you do not know until the morning that you will be out, please call the Center as soon as possible.
- Make sure that the office knows that you will be out. It is the Program Assistant’s responsibility to notify the Director about who is out for unplanned absences. If you are not at the Center for one of your regularly scheduled times, it is the responsibility of the Program Assistant to find a replacement for you.
EC students should call the Center and speak with their mentor educator directly, if possible. EC students are required to make up any time they miss.
You may also download the Early Childhood Student Handbook (PDF)
The Plymouth State University Center for Young Children and Families is licensed by the State of New Hampshire and is accredited by the National Academy of Early Childhood Programs of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. This national accreditation recognizes and honors early childhood programs of high quality. Only seven percent of programs nationwide have achieved this honor. The CYCF is part of the Plymouth State University Education Early Childhood Studies Department and is a training facility for early childhood and child development students. The Center is viewed as an academic laboratory program for Plymouth State students.