Leaders in Early Education: Jordana Fruchter of My Little School
This week we’re thrilled to feature Jordana Fruchter of My Little School, a leading NYC preschool that fosters a culture of observation, feedback and strategy implementation to best serve children.

Tell us about your school, what makes My Little School special?

My Little School is a joyful place with a commitment to intention in everything that we do. Our incredibly passionate, innovative and dedicated educators create dynamic learning experiences for children every day. Their collective commitment to getting to know each child holistically is a direct reflection of our school culture, which emphasizes the importance of developing meaningful and thoughtful relationships amongst teachers, children and parents. As a parent once remarked after their child’s parent teacher conference, “I am now certain that the teachers know my child better than I do!”

My Little School is a Jewish preschool, and so families often find that they enter into a warm, close-knit community where opportunities for engagement abound. Jewish values and traditions are woven into daily school life, and holidays are important markers within our community for celebration, fun and connection. We integrate these experiences with our child centred, hands on approach to learning. We draw from the Reggio Emilia approach, and add our own signature by creating clear cut goals for each age group across a variety of cognitive, social and physical domains.

How has the pandemic affected your school’s approach to behavioral and developmental health?

Our school has always been committed to growing in our capacity to support every child. Just as we did prior to the pandemic, teachers and administrators are proactive in identifying what areas children may need support in, and what steps we can take, either within our team or together with our network of specialists, to help children develop confidence and make progress.

A big part of Clay’s mission is to catch concerns at the earliest onset of symptoms. What steps do you think schools can take to prioritize behavioral health from an early age?

A culture of observation, feedback and strategy implementation between teachers and administrators is important, so that we can understand what supports work or don’t work well for a child, and use this information to guide next steps. Coupled with this is proactive communication with families, so that parents are in the know about what the school is noticing about their child. Ideally parents should never feel that a serious concern is being brought to their attention without prior knowledge. In addition to the school Director having a broad understanding of child development, it’s important to have access to a variety of specialists so that they can lend their expertise to conversations about children and how best to support them when needed.

We’ve seen that parents routinely turn to their preschool with behavioral health concerns. What are ways parents can feel supported from their preschool?

Here I go back to proactive and thoughtful communication. It’s important that teachers ensure they are clearly communicating what they are noticing, what steps have been taken and will be taken to support the child, and if or what parents can do at home to support further. An authentic and reassuring tone, and a reminder to reach out at any time with questions or concerns, is essential. If the teachers and/or administration can provide further colour, I.E why this may be happening, that’s also helpful. Furthermore, this ties back into the importance of getting to know children and families, so that there is an established rapport before these kinds of conversations take place. There is a saying, “connect before you correct,” and I think that if connection and relationships are built into a school culture, then parents and schools have a better chance at successfully navigating challenges along the way.

What are ways preschools can best equip their teachers to intervene early when there are developmental or behavioral concerns?

Professional development in these domains is important and helpful for teachers, so that they have a better understanding of what challenges are typical for children to experience versus what challenges may require further attention. Learning different techniques for how to manage developmental or behavioral concerns can benefit all children. Regular meetings and communication between teachers and Directors to thoughtfully discuss each child help ensure a culture where every child is supported and no one ‘falls between the cracks.’ 

How do you believe Clay can help your preschool’s educators, children and families?

I think that the screeners could be an interesting tool to provide teachers with, to get a sense of the developmental health of the children. A follow up conversation with the Director and the Clay specialists would make this most effective.

To learn more about My Little School, visit their website here.