Classroom Co-oping

On Your Work Day

Your workday is an opportunity for you to learn by doing. Here you will develop skills and techniques in understanding and guiding children. You should follow guidelines for participation.

It is important for you to be at school and ready to work at your assigned time, because you will help get the school ready for the children when they arrive. Be sure to clock in so you will be credited for your co-oping hours. Come in comfortable clothes. Report to the teacher right away, and check the work schedule to make sure you know your duties.

If you cannot work on your scheduled day, even if you are ill, you are still responsible for your workday. Rosters with parents’ names and phone numbers are available in the office. Telephone the Director for suggestions on whom to call. She will be the most knowledgeable in this matter. The Director is responsible for offering suggestions only. She is not responsible for finding you a replacement. You may telephone other parents to find one who will trade days or substitute for you.

On your workday, your child may want a lot of attention from you. Accept this as natural, and give your child the attention he or she wants. Try to help your child to an activity. If you are having excessive difficulties, please ask the teacher to help. However, if the behavior is unduly disruptive and it is not possible to correct the behavior as long as the parent is there, then it may be better to have the parent do their classroom work in another class.

Your role as a working parent is to assist the teacher. The teacher’s directions are for the benefit of the children and the smooth running of the school. If the teacher assigns you a definite activity to supervise, do not leave this activity or turn your back on the children, especially if you are supervising a potentially dangerous activity such as carpentry, shovel work, or climbing. If you must leave your post, tell the teacher and wait for a replacement. Hold conversation with other adults to a minimum.

There are a few housekeeping chores that must be done daily. These chores are divided among the working parents. They include sweeping (and occasionally mopping) the floors and emptying the trash. Schedules and workday cards are provided. Be sure you complete the particular job for which you are responsible and check with the teacher before you leave.

On your workday, you can be a source of rich additions to the program. If you enjoy gardening, music, puppets, or if you can paint or dance, you can add a new dimension to the daily schedule. Don’t be shy with your abilities and talents; let us share them! Contact the Director or teacher ahead of time so your idea can be planned and anticipated.

Work Schedule for Co-oping at UPNS

  • Morning co-opers should arrive at 8:30 in order to leave at 12:30; afternoon co-opers should arrive at 1:30 in order to leave at 5:30.
  • If you arrive later, a fine will be assessed.
  • Check in with your child’s teachers and let them know you are there to co-op.
  • See the current list of duties in the classrooms.
  • Open blinds in the classroom.
  • Sweep the yard, make sure sand is swept back into sand area, and off equipment and sidewalk. Take buckets and shovels and put in sand area in an inviting manner.
  • Assist in the classroom, sit down with the children and encourage them to participate. Write names on art projects. Do not help children do art projects, they must explore for themselves.
  • At clean up time encourage the children to pick up their toys. Please wipe tables and wash any materials from messy projects.
  • During outside time keep talking to a minimum and watch the children on the yard. Children resolve many of their own conflicts, but if children are physically fighting, try redirecting them.
  • Encourage children to put bikes away when they are finished with them.
  • During circle time we like our co-opers to set up snack. If you finish setting up snack before circle is over, please join us on the rug. At the second circle, please warm up children’s lunches.
  • Bathroom time: assist children in the bathroom; ensure that the toilets are flushed and that the children wash their hands with soap.
  • After snack time and lunch time, please clean the tables with bleach and water solution. Sweep the floors and mop if needed. After lunchtime please put chairs on top of tables.

Suggestions for Working with Children

  • Respect the child as an individual. Be courteous to her, as you would be to anyone else.
  • Allow children to work out their own difficulties when possible, unless a child’s physical safety is at stake. If you feel hesitant, ask the Director or teacher for help.
  • When inside, sit down as much as possible so that you are not conspicuous: remain on the child’s level. Always sit facing the group for which you are responsible. Be sure you have a child’s attention before speaking to him. Do not call across the yard to a child.
  • Encourage independence in children. Allow and encourage as much free and creative activity as children can handle without possibility of frustration or danger. Remember that all activities are optional. If a child is struggling with a task, do not interfere unless you are sure he is becoming discouraged. Then help him only to the point where he can complete the task himself. Allow children choices whenever possible and let them make the decisions independently. Adults should stay in the background ready to help if necessary but allowing freedom.
  • Never leave a group, even for a few minutes, without telling an adult. Avoid visiting with other adults.
  • Make statements in the positive manner whenever possible. Use direct action verbs, such as “We walk inside” or “We slide down the slide.” Use a quiet voice at all times, as it is possible to be quiet and firm. Avoid the words “don’t” and “no.” Try to tell a child what to do, instead of what not to do.
  • When supervising art activities, avoid making a model for the children or asking, “What is it?” or “Is it a cat?” If you are curious, try asking this way: “Tell me about your picture.” Most pre-schoolers are involved in the process of manipulating the brush or crayon. They are not really concerned with the “what” but with the “how.” If the child spontaneously tells you about the picture, try to get a piece of paper and write down the child’s words, for the parents’ later enjoyment.
  • Do not discuss children, other parents, staff or school issues in the children’s presence or while working.
  • Avoid putting your hands on children and dragging them to conform to routine.
  • Throwing objects, except for balls and beanbags, should be discouraged. If a child persists, have him throw away from the group, or substitute something else.
  • Kicking is not tolerated. Try the negative practice of having the child kick a door or a tree if he cannot understand that kicking is not allowed. However, it is better to provide something the child can kick constructively, like a ball. If necessary, divert the child’s attention, suggest another activity, or isolate him when another child might be hurt.
  • Hitting is not permissible. Try to re-direct the child or substitute a more desirable activity.
  • Let one adult handle a situation to its completion, leaving the guidance of your own child to another adult whenever possible.
  • Do not hesitate to ask the teacher for help if you need it. The teacher does not want you to assume more responsibility than you are ready to handle at a given time. Do not be afraid of making mistakes; do the best you can and discuss the matter with the teacher later. If a child is hurt, acknowledge the hurt, but minimize the situation.
  • Give particular attention to the reserved, quiet, or new child. It is normal for new children to take quite a while before really integrating into the group. Don’t immediately go to the shy child, but let him know he may come to you if he feels the need. Every child should receive true individual attention during the course of the day.
  • Praise is recognition of achievement. Praise something specific, not the child in general, such as, “You did a good job with that puzzle.” Especially praise a child when she succeeds after failure.
  • Encourage playing together and sharing. When two children are fighting over a toy, try saying, “He has the truck now; next it will be your turn. You can play with the boat for now.” Make sure, however, that the second child receives his turn. Remember your promises to children.
  • Print or have the child print his first name on all artwork. It is important to print in capital letters, since children are learning letter recognition throughout their pre-school years. Writing instead of printing may confuse them. For example, a written “a” may look like an “o” to a child. Ask the child where she wants her name placed.
  • Give warning of change in activity ahead of time. Direct children to a new activity when the present one is finished.
  • Use home discipline at home and school discipline at school. If you have some objections to the school way, let another adult handle the situation and discuss your objections with the Director and/or teacher away from the children.
  • We may disapprove of a child’s actions, but never of a child. Children need to know that they are still liked even though they have misbehaved.
  • The subject of toileting will be covered thoroughly by the teachers with reference to individual children; however, these are the basic principles to remember: let the children do as much as possible by themselves, but offer help when needed. Every child should wash his or her hands after using the bathroom. Every adult should wash his or her hands after helping and in between helping each child. Give the children privacy. Encourage other children to give their friends privacy, but as long as children are in the bathroom, they need adult supervision. Under normal circumstances, working parents will not be asked to change diapers.
  • If clothes are soiled, help the child change clothes with as little fuss as possible. Be sensitive to the child’s self-esteem. Let him know that all people have accidents sometimes, and that you know that he will have better control as he gets older. Place any soiled clothes in a plastic bag in the child’s cubby (and don’t forget to wash your hands).

How to Step in and Direct a Situation

Here are some general ideas for dealing with difficult play situations.

  • If children are doing something dangerous, then stop them, saying “I’m afraid someone will be hurt. Let’s try (suggest an alternate activity.)”
  • If someone is hitting, pushing, or kicking, then stop the child and ask, “Are you trying to tell __________ something?” Make it clear that it is okay to be angry, but we cannot express anger by hitting, biting, kicking, etc.
  • If you need to tell children not to do something or to censure behavior, then start by giving a gentle, clear explanation, and then make your warnings more severe if they don’t change. For example:
    • 1st warning: “John, for this activity we want the dinosaurs to stay at this table.”
    • 2nd warning: “John, please keep the dinosaurs on this table. We need them for this activity.”
    • 3rd warning: “John, if you take the dinosaurs away from the table again, you will have to leave the table – without a dinosaur!”
  • If children are having trouble doing a task or routine, show them how to manage and describe what you are doing. For example: “There are a lot of us washing our hands at one time. I can share my sink and soap. Angela, would you like to share my place?”
  • If you think a particular unpleasant behavior is designed to get your attention, then you can ignore it. This avoids reinforcing undesirable behavior.

What to Say

When speaking to children, talk to them where they are, at their eye level, by sitting down or stooping or squatting. Avoid shouting at children from a distance. Try not to turn your back on a group of children, unless you know someone else is watching them. Speak in a pleasant, calm voice, giving positive instructions when needed, offering a choice only when there really is a choice.



Don’t Say

Sit down when you slide. Don’t stand up when you slide.
Dig in the sand. Don’t throw the sand.
Sit in the swing. Don’t stand in the swing.
Use two hands when climbing. You’ll fall down if you don’t watch out.
Climb down the ladder. Don’t jump or you’ll hurt yourself.
Sticks stay on the ground. Don’t play with the stick, or you’ll hurt someone
Keep the puzzle on the table. Don’t dump the puzzle on the floor.
Turn the pages carefully. Don’t tear the book.
Sit on your chair. Don’t rock in your chair.
Talk quietly please, or use inside voices. Don’t shout
Walk around the swing. Careful, the swing might hit you.
Wipe your brush on the paint can. Don’t drip paint on the floor.
Put an apron on. Don’t you want to put an apron on?
Time to wash your hands. Don’t you want your snack?
The blocks are for building Don’t throw the blocks