As the director of Drama Zone, I work with children to prepare them for professional auditions in commercials, feature films, soap operas and stage roles.
One day, I was taken aside secretively by one of our parents who asked if I would work with her child to prepare him for his upcoming kindergarten interviews. Since this was not for the latest Martin Scorsese film, and ironically one of our students last year actually did audition for Scorsese, I wondered, “Why all the secrecy?”
The truth of the matter is that getting into Manhattan’s private schools is competitive at best; just as it is competitive to expect children to walk into an audition with confidence and manage to carry on a delightful, focused and articulate conversation with the director. Children interviewing for kindergarten admissions are expected to carry themselves both with peers and school personnel equally as focused.
Nonetheless, whether I work with children for auditions or interviews, the goal is to give the child the tools needed to relax, feel comfortable and display verbal and behavioral confidence.
I worked with Mary to put her best foot forward. The first day I met her, she was wearing an upscale dress and Mary Jane’s and was uncomfortable and shy, unable to make eye contact. Through most of my evaluation, she fidgeted with her uncomfortable dress and stockings and was reluctant to answer my questions. Afterwards, her mother bragged how her nursery school teacher described her as extremely verbal for her age. I started to work with Mary and by our third session, I began to see a shift in her focus. She began to learn the skills necessary to tell a story with a beginning, middle and end. She explained to me how easy it was to do her puzzle and spoke about her favorite visits with her family to the theater. She was relaxed and delightful. She got into the school of her choice!
Of course there is a lot more that goes into getting such results for each child, but most importantly, she felt prepared and knew what to do. If children were given three interviews, it would not be such a risk to leave them unprepared. But statistics are not in their favor. A lot of children are tutored on basic skills while others have preparation before taking their ERBs. But the reality is, unless a child has been given some preparation for his interview, the best parts of him could be overlooked.
Some parents ask, “Is the interview preparation fun?” The answer is yes! Enjoying the activities we work on together help to open up your child’s impulses. The more your child enjoys each activity, the more confidence he has while displaying or speaking about his skills.
There is a misconception that children who are prepared for interviews are asked to be artificial and memorize planned responses. There are also those that say my child being himself should be enough. Make no mistake, I agree that each child is special. Unfortunately, being unprepared with so few seats available and over 50 applications, well... we could all use a little help.
Tips For Parents Whose Children are Entering Kindergarten
- Choose an outfit your child likes and is comfortable in.
- Buy two outfits and take the other with you in case of an accident with food or other mishaps.
- Spend one-on-one time with your child exploring new places.
- Ask your child the top five things he enjoyed about his time with you.
- Observe how your child interacts with adults.