At the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year, Stephanie was painfully shy. She struggled to leave her mom each morning, and tears were not uncommon. With this year being her first inside a classroom, some shyness and hesitation was to be expected, but Stephanie seemed to struggle with leaving her family much more than other children in the classroom. She clung to her teachers throughout the day instead of playing with others in the class. She looked sad for most of the day, and was terrified of new people.
In September, volunteers came into the classroom to drop off new backpacks and school supplies for each child. Stephanie was so overwhelmed; she threw up on the carpet. Her teachers explained that this level of nerves and anxiety was not uncommon for Stephanie.
Recognizing the difficulties Stephanie had in class, her teachers reached out to her CFNC social worker for help. Stephanie’s social worker worked closely with her family to help her anxiety through frequent home visits. She also helped her parents implement strategies at home to ease Stephanie’s anxiety and make school an easier, more enjoyable experience. CFNC also enlisted the help of the Preschool Prevention Team to give Stephanie additional social and emotional support inside the classroom. In addition, CFNC’s program manager made weekly visits to monitor Stephanie’s progress and ensure that all the tools were in place for Stephanie to grow.
Fast forward to January, and Stephanie has grown leaps and bounds. She now actively plays with other students in the classroom – she laughs, runs around, and plays dress up with other kids in the class. She no longer hides behind her teacher, but instead actively welcomes visitors and volunteers into the classroom with a big smile and hello. Of course, she is still shy girl, but no longer to the extent where it affects her academic, social, and emotional growth. Throughout the rest of the year, we expect to see Stephanie continue to improve. Her teachers are confident that by June, Stephanie will be kindergarten ready.
Had Stephanie not been a CFNC student, her story could’ve been quite different. Had she not been able to attend pre-k at all, it’s likely she would’ve experienced this same anxiety and nervousness when she reached kindergarten. Arriving to kindergarten every morning so anxious would have been an extremely large barrier to learning. She would’ve likely missed out on essential lessons, falling further and further behind academically each day. Stephanie may have spent each day in class without interacting and playing with her peers, holding her back socially and emotionally. Perhaps she may have gotten so upset that it was too difficult for her mother to drop her off, and she would have had a long list of unexcused absences. Not only do absences hinder children from keeping up with material, too many can mean Stephanie may be held back and forced to repeat kindergarten.
Had Stephanie not attended CFNC and her kindergarten teachers were tasked with finding ways to help Stephanie, they likely would not have the resources or time to give Stephanie and her family the support that they needed. At CFNC, Stephanie and her family had access to a social worker, who not only observed her in class and worked with her teachers, but visited her at home and worked closely with her parents on strategies for improvement. The public school systems simply don’t have the resources to do this. Perhaps she would’ve received some in school support, but public schools do not have the resources to work so closely with the family and offer such necessary support. It is possible that Stephanie’s needs may never have been properly addressed, and she could have easily continued elementary school without ever being given the emotional and social support she needed to be successful academically. CFNC’s partnership with community resources also brought outside assistance into the classroom with the Preschool Prevention Team.
CFNC is a safe place for all students and their families, and Stephanie’s story is truly an example of that. The safety of CFNC’s classroom and the support that came from her teachers, social workers, program staff, Preschool Prevention, and family gave Stephanie the confidence and space to grow into the smart, curious, happy pre-kindergartener we see today. The safety of CFNC made Stephanie’s family open to welcoming in our social workers, open to new parenting strategies, and open to having difficult conversations.
Of course it is completely possible that Stephanie would’ve done okay without CFNC, but are you willing to take that chance? We’re not.