Saturday, November 17, 2012

Preschool Switcheroo

Posted by Heather at Saturday, November 17, 2012
So, back in October, we pulled Katy out of Forest Hill Christian Preschool and later enrolled her in St. James Lutheran Preschool.

Withdrawing Katy from FHCP mid-year was a tough decision to make. As a parent, I struggled with the fact that I was choosing to disrupt Katy's schedule. She had already started to make friends at FHCP (we didn't have a problem with the other students in the class- it was the teachers and their teaching style that bothered me). She was learning things in preschool. Yet, the reasons for taking her out boiled down to something very simple; We needed to get Katy out of a toxic environment.

A blog can be a very open way of expressing one's opinions, so it can be a bit touchy to publicly announce to the world WHY we did what we did. Maybe, in some small way, our experience can help others avoid our situation. If nothing else, it's a way for me to express my thoughts and vent.

Katy had a great start to preschool at FHCP. She was happy and never cried when I left- I thought everything was going great!

Then, slowly, little "incidents" started popping up that really made me, as her mother, uncomfortable. First, it was the fact that she wouldn't say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then, it was the fact that she wouldn't say "Here" at roll call, every morning. The icing on the cake, though, was the fact that Katy was caught hitting another little girl in her class. Yet, the teachers failed to further investigate the catalyst for Katy's behavior (Turns out, one of Katy's classmates knocked down her block tower- not right- but at least it proves that Katy didn't just maliciously hit another child for no reason).

Every time Katy's teachers would call me into the classroom to tell me yet another one of Katy's shortcomings, I kept telling myself to not be overly sensitive. I didn't want the teachers to think that I thought my daughter could do no wrong. Trust me, I know that she can have bad days- we all have bad days. Yet, a little voice inside of me kept telling me that something was wrong...

It was quickly becoming apparent to me that EVERY day there was some new negative report. Every school day was a struggle getting ready. Katy didn't want to go to school. She would dilly-dally eating breakfast and getting ready. When I would pick Katy up from preschool and ask her what she learned, she'd reply offhandedly, "I don't know." This happened every single day she had preschool.

Where were the GOOD reports? Why were the teachers only telling me about the negative things? Why did her teachers keep forcing her to do things (over and over and over again, I might add), that really don't matter in the long run? Katy hates to do hand print artwork-she doesn't like to get her hands messy. It's okay with me if her piece of paper is blank- it's not like she HAS to do it! Plus, why couldn't her teachers see her for the individual that she is and just trace her hand, instead? Why was it so important to them if she did or did not say the Pledge (she's only two, for goodness sake!)!

Structure in the classroom is a good thing. However, structure without flexibility (especially with a classroom full of two year olds!) is bad- very bad.In my opinion, this is what was going on in Katy's classroom. Katy wasn't towing the party line and she was being reprimanded for it- constantly. It's as if, one time, something happened and then after that, her teachers were constantly on the look-out for Katy's misdeeds. Her teachers wanted order in the classroom, at any cost- never mind that they were teaching a classroom of toddlers (where chaos and free play are the norm). Time-outs were doled out for any and every infraction. Katy once got a time out for showing her teacher her princess underwear. Now, anybody who has ever had a two year old, knows that Katy wasn't trying to be an exhibitionist. She was showing her teacher her underwear because she was PROUD of the fact that she was potty-trained- not every two year old is potty trained! Now, if Katy is showing off her underpants ten years from now, we'll talk.

Let's just say, I wasn't getting the warm fuzzies from her teachers.

Finally, I had had enough. Enough is enough is enough. Enough tattletale comments. Enough negativity. Sometimes, a mama's got to do what a mama's go to do. I truly believe in a mother's instinct- don't squash it- just go with it- it's there for a reason. Something was wrong- Katy needed out. Preschool is supposed to be fun, not negative and/or stressful!

So, after some phone tag with the preschool director (another strike against Forest Hill Christian Preschool- lack of communication), Halloween was Katy's last day at Forest Hill Christian Preschool. We said our good-byes and we didn't look back.

Then, we decided to check out another preschool, St. James Lutheran Preschool. This preschool is right up the road from us- within even closer walking distance than FHCP. Katy already had a friend in the two-year old class. Best of all, the preschool director was prompt and accommodating in her emails and her time. We visited the class on the first Monday in November and she started attending the very next Wednesday- it was that good.

When we visited the new class, I was really able to observe the teacher's interactions with the students and vice-versa. The teachers were structured, yet flexible. They were authoritative, yet comforting. Most of all, they chose to treat the children as the individuals that they are on not some sort of military collective. At circle time, the kids were all well-behaved and participatory. Sure, they weren't all exactly sitting down- some were standing and some were laying down. However, they were all engaged, nobody was hurting another. The teachers didn't mind working with what the students had to offer, instead of demanding perfection (as was the case at the other preschool).

When I asked the new teachers about their approach to discipline, I was encouraged to hear them tell me that they let the child dictate the route in which they respond. For example, some children need to be ignored while throwing a tantrum. Others, just want to be hugged and told that everything is going to be okay. In other words, it wasn't a "one size fits all" solution to discipline. Hallelujah!

So, only time will tell about Katy's success at her new school. However, I have hope that St. James Lutheran Preschool will be a better fit for our child. For now, I'm just happy that Katy is happy to attend her new class and is excited to start her (school) days! Katy comes home eager to tell me about what she did at school. She talks about the other little kids in her class. One of her teachers (Ms. Amber) even told me that it was like Katy has always been a part of the class. Music to this Mama's ears!


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