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JenX 03-09-2011 10:47 PM

So today really got me wondering. When I came in and pick up DD, I got to take part in the goodbye song/ritual. Nice. Then, out of nowhere, the teacher launched into acting out a "story". She took a tree branch that had been sawed off and called it her gun. Then she took a stuffed dinosaur and called it the deer. Then she shoots the deer and hits it with the gun to make it fall down, thereby killing it ( She is verbally explaining every step to us.) i'm totally shocked at this point. But, my DD isn't getting any of it, so I decide to see it through. Then she transforms the tree branch into a saw, then proceeds to saw off the leg of the deer, start a fire, roast the leg, then pass the leg around so all of us could eat it.


Luckily my kid has no idea what shoot, kill and dead are, but eating the deer leg gave her a bit of a surprise. I was rendered speechless.

Then out of nowhere, the oldest kid, a 5 year old, grabs the "saw" and starts sawing off the leg of the other little kid, who is 3 and speaks no English. The 3 year old is screaming, crying and rolling on the floor. Luckily, my DD is off playing with a big tube and has not noticed any of it.

Turns out the kid who speaks no English was acting out this scenario the day before, but nobody could figure out what he was doing since he couldn't speak English. The teacher asked the mom to go home and run through it with the kid and write down his narrative. Mom comes back with the story, so teacher spontaneously acts out the story in front of the group to help the kid gain access to whatever issues he was trying to work out during the play the day before.

So yeah, that might have been helpful, but there's a catch. The kid she was trying to help does not speak or understand one word of English! So there she is, saying gun, shoot, kill, deer, saw, etc... And the kid doesn't understand a word of it! So how is this therapeutic for a little kid, who then gets the oh so fun experience of having the oldest kid saw on his leg with the branch????

I told her I understood her intentions were good, but didn't know if it worked out. I told her the subject matter wasn't salient for my kid yet, so it didn't have a negative impact, but it's hard to predict ahead of time what she gets and doesn't get.

I tried to explain that DD is pretty sensitive, but will speak up if something is " too scary". ( eg, music from Fantasia, the threat of throwing out the Toys in Toy Story 3, the snow avalanche sequence in the Tigger Movie, the villain in Sleeping Beauty--- she demanded these get turned off at playmates' or at grandparents' houses). I told her that as long as she is mindful of my kid's developmental level and comfort zone that I would trust her to work intuitively with the kids. But, if my kid comes home freaked out, that we'd be having a meeting of the minds.

I came home and told DH and then realized how freaking weird that was !

Could somebody explain what the significance is of doing that would be for the group?

Oh yeah, and does anyone know what is wrong with seedless watermelon? We got home and I unpacked DD's lunch, only to find she didn't eat the watermelon she had specifically asked for. I asked her why and she said " teacher told me I needed to eat that when I got home"

So I told DH that, and he wrote an email asking " I' m wondering how it is that it's OK for DD to take part in the symbolic shooting, clubbing, killing, sawing off, roasting and eating the leg of Bambi, yet she isn't allowed to eat seedless watermelon that has been sliced into bite sized chunks? Please clarify...."

This is so outlandish, I'm beginning to wonder if there's a hidden camera and somebody is going to jump out and say "Psych!"

Could someone help me understand .....? I don't know if I should laugh or give into the feeling of being weirded out by this situation. Go figure.

zebra15 03-13-2011 05:11 PM

IDK what type of 'school' your DD is in but this whole scenario would have me running for the hills.

JenX 03-13-2011 08:17 PM

You and me both! I am still in shock over it. DD didn't show a negative reaction to it. I asked her afterward what she thought about the story with the deer and she shrugged and said "fine". I dropped it because I didn't want to project my horror onto her and turn it into a trauma for her.

DH is upset too. He talked with the teacher and made it clear that's not acceptable.

Frankly, I'm totally discombobulated by this. We saw the provider work with DD individually and then with DD in the group and it was magical! She was empathic ,empowering, creative and supportive of the kids' self-directed and cooperative play. She also translates their activity into their cognitive, social and emotional development and shows how they're progressing.

Then she has to go and do something bizarre and unacceptable. Then, to top it off, she has a need to meddle in DD's food. For whatever reason, DD has had a sitter and now 2care providers who simply have to foist food issues on my kid. The current teacher goes through my kid's lunch, and tells her what order to eat her food and what she has to wait to eat until she gets home. Since we are big on letting our kid follow her internal hunger cues, we just supply the types of food and opportunities; she decides what and how much she eats of it. Period, end of story.

My mama instinct is sounding the warning bells( crazy alert! Crazy alert!). then I think about how the other provider was so callous and dismissive that it became physically and emotionally dangerous for DD to be there. ( being told " stop cyring. You aren't supposed to cry at school. you can go homeand cry" Also DD fell, knocked a tooth out and nobody even noticed) At least this crazy lady likes and values a kid's experience and wouldn't let her get hurt and tell her to suck it up.

So I'm writing an email tonight outlining our expectations for caring for DD. Some of it seems a bit obvious to the rest of us, but I want to make sure we're on the same page. If there' sa repeat of the crazy stuff or food control, we're taking her out and telling a very interesting story to the licensing people.

But, unlike the previous teacher, an upfront conversation laying it all out seems to get through to her. I hope. The previous one was closed off, defensive and at times downright nasty if an issue was raised. She also never attempted to modify her behavior when the impact was pointed out.

I so wish I could stay home with DD until she's 5! So many options open up then. The places I like program- wise are either very very restricted hours or way too large.


Any tips?

zebra15 03-15-2011 03:15 PM

How about a regular inhome daycare provider?  "Normal" does exist, you just need to search for it.  This lady you are describing frightens ME and I;m 36 years old.  sheezez

One_Girl 03-15-2011 09:03 PM

I think you should outline what you hope to see and what is a dealbreaker as far as care goes for your dd and ask if she feels the care is a good fit based on what you are looking for.  If she needs the money you are paying she will probably make some changes.  If finding a child to replace your child's spot is not going to present much of a problem or if she can live without the money that spot brings she will most likely not make changes.  You may be reading her correctly and you might be right that she won't mind a letter with a tone that sets things out as demands, but if you are wrong you might find that you no longer have a spot for your child in the program.  It sounds like she is unsure about your family from what you said in your previous post and she may be looking for a reason to boot you, e-mailing her something that seems like you are demanding a total change to her teaching style may push her over the edge to a quick decision.  It is really hard to tell how somebody will react though.

JenX 03-20-2011 01:17 AM

Oh my, are you sooo correct!  I already knew she 's reactive and a wee bit unstable, but jeez, the roller coaster ride with her was exhausting.


Well, I wrote a very carefully crafted letter that praised her skills and proclaimed she had an intuitive gift with kids, that our child is dong well and that we're glad she has been there as an important person in DD's circle of influence. I then went on to ask her to hold off on introducing in circle-time sensitive topics that DD may not be developmentally ready to encounter. Given that one kid tried to saw off another kid's leg right after the story and caused the little boy to have a meltdown, we saw that even interventions with the best of intentions can have unforseen negative consequences. All I asked is that she give us some assurance that that type of intervention would not be made a part of the program.


The other part I brought up is that I asked her to not tell DD what she can or can;t eat out of her lunch. We would prefer she give us a list of acceptable foods and then let DD select whatever she wants to eat from her lunch in whatever portion. I explained that 3 different people (ironically NOT the parents) have been dictating her intake , and each person prioritizes a different food group as most important. Consequently, DD gets confused and eats much less when she can't free feed. She grew two inches and lost 10% of her already low weight due to illness and hasn't gained any back in the past month. I just asked that she give us a list of never-approved foods, but then let DD control her intake from the good choices available.


So the teacher read it and called a meeting.. She spent a lot of time trying to justify her methods, but spent zero time trying to  acknowledge our concerns. Finally, DH started chuckling. She stopped for a second and I told her he had his own take on the situation. Given he appears very easy-going and quiet, she was thinking he agreed with her. He stated " I find it it absurd that anyone would find it acceptable to act out the shooting, clubbing, sawing and eating of a deer to any child that isn't old enough to have a hunting license, much less 3-5 year olds".  She bristled but conceded that in retrospect it wasn't a really good idea. 


I piped up and tried to strike a deal. All I asked was this: If a child had themes in play that needed processing, by all means do so. But do it in the play situation, so my kid would be free to opt -in or opt-out of participating. I had a specific concern with processing of an individual kid's issues during circle time. Due to its collective and compulsory nature, kids may have a hard time opting out of something that they aren't ready for. I outlined how starting out with cute songs will set the stage for group participation, but it culminated in an act of violence and a ritualized sharing of a body part. How free was my child to say no thank you when a freshly sawed and roasted deer leg was handed to her?  I explained that although I was there, DD and all kids looked to the group leader first, and even I went with it despite my discomfort. If a woman over 40 over rode her own best judgment, certainly a 3-year-old  wouldn't step up and defy the teacher.


She balked at the term compulsory. I told her flat out that circle time was not voluntary if there were no other program options and the teacher was the sole leader who directs and controls the actions of the group.. I said that moving from cute songs into a scenario that no parent would let a kid watch on TV  was disturbing and resulted in a kid acting out aggressively. And I said that circle time is a team -building, conformity inducing experience.. To go from cute kid songs to killing a deer and making them eat it is closer to getting them to drink the grape Kool-Aid than I am comfortable with.


Well, she about had a spaz attack right there. She was very upset I would compare her to a cult leader who intentionally harmed people. I told her that I was giving her an extreme example so she could understand how it felt to my husband and most everyone else who heard about the deer killing-- that it was appalling and unbelievable.  And, by the way, Jim Jones felt he was doing a good thing, so there was no intentionality to harm there, either. 


So we had a parting agreement. My request was that she refrain from introducing in a circle time or compulsory-like activity any imagery or themes that would be clearly unacceptable TV viewing material for preschool kids. If a kid raised some issue that was clearly developmentally inappropriate or not ready for children's TV , that was fine for her to process and explore, as long as my kid could opt-out easily without censure. 


She stated that she had to think about it, that she didn't know  if she could assure us she could do that.  If she couldn't do that, she would let us know and we'd go elsewhere.  I told her that after 25 years experience and a master's degree in early childhood education, that she was certainly capable of  safeguarding my child's emotional development. I told her that she absolutely CAN do it; she just didn't know if she WANTED to do it. I told her I felt she was committed to her vision of her program and felt more UNWILLING rather than UNABLE to filter or curb her intuitive, freewheeling style. 


We are soooo out of there. She is a kook. We're finishing the month and hightailing it elsewhere.


At least this time my husband and I know what to ask and observe for. We're going to go separately and observe for critical moments such as child on child conflict resolution, how a crying child is worked with, how  food is dealt with, naps, and get a sense of the balance between teacher led versus child initiated activity. I'm also getting current parent references.


Any other suggestions for screening and evaluating new programs?



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