preschool dilemma--update at end of thread - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 02:04 AM - Thread Starter
 
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My DS, who turned three earlier this month, began a TTh a.m. preschool program last week. We both got off to a rocky start--largely due to a mistake on the part of the school--and I am trying to figure out where to go from here.

To make a long story short, DS was fine when I dropped him off, reportedly happy (though quiet) when I called the director to check on him mid-morning, but crying hard when I returned after lunch. His teacher told me he was "having trouble with transitions." Later she phoned to tell me that I needed to remind DS to stay with the group because he hadn't followed the other kids out of the bathroom. Well, it was only later that I figured out from what DS told me, that the teachers had actually left him behind by himself in an upstairs bathroom while they went downstairs!!! Fortunately, another teacher saw him come out of the bathroom a few minutes later and notified the director, who reunited him with his class en route to the playground. When I questioned her directly on Th, the director confirmed what DS had told me.

I hope you all will understand how very upset and angry I was that this had happened and that I had not been given the full story when I called to check on DS or when I picked him up. If my child were not so verbal, I still would not know the truth. Didn't his teachers realize that a three year old on his first day of school *ever, being asked to move from one strange place to another, might get a little confused about what was going on? There were six students with each teacher in the bathroom--can't they count to *six? And why say that DS was "having trouble with transitions?" I'm sorry, but if a child is left behind in a bathroom on the first day of school, it is the *teachers who are having trouble with transitions! No wonder he was anxious every time they moved somewhere else after that.

And to continue my rant, why did I have to hear about this from my three year old? How am I to trust the school with my child if they don't tell me what happens to him while in their care? The director, to her credit, did apologize to me and say she had made a mistake in not telling me. She also said, "That (hiding the truth) is not the way we do things here," and "I have never not been honest with a parent before." (Well, thank you for choosing me as your test case! )

Anyway, my dilemma is this: Do I pull DS out of the school or try to recover trust (his and mine both) and keep him there? DS cried when I dropped him off on Th, and I felt terrible leaving him. I only went down the hall to talk to the director, and I didn't leave till I was able to peek in the classroom window and see DS talking and laughing as he built a block tower. So he did recover, but his teacher told me he cried again during every transition, and also occasionally when he would think of me. She said he cried only "a few minutes," but I don't know if she is minimizing that the way she minimized the bathroom incident.

The director has given me several options, including withdrawing DS entirely, starting him again in a month or so when the other two new students have made their adjustment (right now I think their crying is reminding DS of his sadness and vice-versa), and going ahead but with fewer hours and working up to a full morning gradually. The school policy is not to allow parents to stay in the classroom, but I know the mother of one of the other tearful students did return to be with her daughter on Th. (Again, I learned this from DS. We ran into the family later in the store and the mother confirmed what he said.)

I am having a difficult time deciding what to do. In addition to talking about crying and being separated from the group, DS has said a lot of positive things about his school and has already mentioned several classmates by name. (The main reason I sent him to school was to be with other kids.) He has a few times been a little fearful of being separated from me at home, but is generally his normal, happy self. And he is obviously verbal enough to talk over with me what is bothering him and even to comfort himself when I'm not there. (When I asked him what he was thinking while he was crying at school, he said, "There was a quiet voice in my head saying, "Mama will pick me up." )

There are a lot of things I *do like about his school (NAEYC accredited, with a play-oriented program, and the option of coming only two a.m.s/wk at 3 and 4 both). *But I am having trouble trusting the teacher and even the director at this point. And I really, really, really, do not want to leave DS screaming and crying and reaching for me. It just feels wrong, even if he does adjust after I am gone. He has been with a babysitter in the past, but only after a long period of adjustment, with me there as long as he needed. My DS is so loving and friendly, and I am afraid of damaging his trust in me and in adults in general by leaving him too abruptly and too long in a situation he is finding difficult.

If anyone is still reading, what would you do? I am leaning towards trying again next week, but bringing DS to school later, so he'll have fewer transitions to deal with and a shorter day. But I don't know if I can leave again while he is screaming for me. This is so hard. I really need some perspective. I have been in such turmoil, and am coming down with a cold now, and am sensitive to begin with (in case you couldn't tell from this post ). I hope someone out there has some words of wisdom for me, or at least a
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#2 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 03:03 AM
 
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I would suggest having him go for an increasingly longer time for a few weeks or so. It seems like there might just be too many new transitions at once, so maybe go one hour the first day, 1.5 the next time he's there and so on.

I would also agree that having him go after the other children have transitioned might help -- I know that one crying child tends to set others off -- and teachers have to spend a lot of extra time with them.

Hope it goes well.
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#3 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 12:53 PM
 
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Dd started preschool 2 days a week, about 3 weeks ago. THe very first day, while they were transitioning from one activity to another (it was clean up time and one of the teachers told her she had to help clean up like the other kids).....she broke down crying for mommy, hysterically. THey let her call me on the phone, and I calmed her down...and she was then fine for the rest of the day. (I never stayed with her in the room, but would arrive early while the kids were playing outside and got her engaged in an activity with another dc....Long goodbyes never work well for us) Each day until last week, she would cry for a few minutes, usually during a transition. THey said this is quite common. They told me it usually takes about 3 weeks for kids to adjust, and thats exactly what it took. Last tuesday I dropped her off......and that was that. No tears. I praised her, told her how proud I was of her, etc. We have a phrase we use when she has an incident - when something happens to make her cry - we ask her if she can "turn it around" . So on the days she cried, and got thru the rest of the day at school....we would say "Great job turning it around!" Now the rest of the teachers know to use the phrase too.

I also got this book the second week. THE KISSING HAND. ITs a beautiful story about a little racoon who has to go to school for the first time, how he doesnt want to leave his mommy. So she kisses the palm of his left hand, which leads right to his heart, where she will always be. The book is at any library, but if you buy it new, it comes with stickers shaped like hearts to put on dc's hand. Well, it worked......Im still putting the stickers on her, I think it really helped her.

I would be upset about the incident too....but its a new begining for everyone......and if its a great school like you said, Id give it another chance and see how it goes. ANd you can always go and observe, help with the class.......after this adjustment period is over.

HTHs!
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#4 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 04:26 PM
 
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mogit,
I am less forgiving than the other posters. Personally, I think a teacher blaming a 3 yo for her (teacher's) lack of responsibility is a red flag. She also tried to hide the fact that she lost your child from you! I find it hard to believe that they have never not been honest with a parent before based upon this event. I would pull my ds.

I believe that a good school will give the new child special attention during their adjustment periods (this means not losing them at bathroom time among other things). I also believe in open door policies. Wouldn't it be easier for the child, teacher, and parent to allow the parent to help the child transition? Why is the school letting one parent stay and not another? Do they enforce all of their policies selectively?

I had problems with my ds' first preschool and went against my gut feeling and didn't pull him out when I should have. I wish I had followed my instincts. I don't know what your situation is, if you have to work or have other children to care for but if you have the flexibility, I would recommend stopping and looking carefully for another school. My ds is now in a beautiful preschool with a loving teacher I trust and he is happy there. We have had a good experience there from day 1. Parents are welcome to stay with their children in the mornings while they eat breakfast and visit with each other. We help out on fieldtrips or in the class.
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#5 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 07:16 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you all so much for your thoughtful replies. Now I have more to mull over.

Ynez, if I do decide to try again, I think I will probably drop DS off mid-morning. This would make a shorter morning, reduce the number of transitions (and eliminate the bathroom one), and spare him the sight of other children crying at drop-off. He seems to like the the second half of the morning more--outside play, lunch, and story. I may hold off a month, too, so I can calm down and consider other options.

rainsmom, I'm glad your dd has adjusted to her new school with your help. I really like the phrase "turning it around." I have talked to DS about his ability to calm himself down, feel better, etc., but it would be nice to have a simple catch phrase to use. I do know the story "The Kissing Hand." We don't have a copy, so I told DS about it before his second day in school. He liked the idea, and I'm sure he would like the actual book and stickers even more. I intend to get a copy tomorrow.

siddie, it's good to have my own feelings of anger and mistrust validated! I am still pretty upset. I do have some flexibility and could take the time to find a new school (if any still have openings). I recently joined a local API group and will ask for recommendations there. You *would think more schools (especially preschools) would realize it would be easier all around to allow parents to aid in the transition. I wish I had thought to ask more questions about that when I was researching schools a year ago. I am so glad you found a school with an open-door policy for your ds and that he is thriving there. I will keep your story in mind as I make my decision.
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#6 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 07:23 PM
 
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Forgot to add......Barnes and Noble had this book on sale, along with many other "first day at school" books.
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#7 of 14 Old 08-22-2004, 07:51 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogit
My DS, who turned three earlier this month, began a TTh a.m. preschool program last week. We both got off to a rocky start--largely due to a mistake on the part of the school--and I am trying to figure out where to go from here.
This is absolutely irresponsible of the school and what sets my teeth on edge a great deal is 1) the fact that they LIED to you about the situation, and 2) they put the blame on your son, and 3) the fact that you never would have found out the truth if it hadn't been for the fact that your DS is very verbal, and 4) if it hadn't been for the random chance of another teacher seeing your DS coming out of the bathroom, he could have injured himself on the stairs, gotten lost in the building, injured himself in the building, or wandered out. I would pull him out NOW. Just my opinion, and I wish you well.
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#8 of 14 Old 08-23-2004, 01:39 AM
 
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I'd pull him out too. They misrepresented the truth to you, the teacher was irresponsible and your child could have gotten hurt or lost, and on his first day of school *ever*! I think that is inexcusable, personally. The fact that they tried to blame a 3 year old on his first day of school, too! It shows very little respect for the child, IMO.

Are you going to be able to trust what this teacher says to you in the future? If the teacher lies about things in the future, your ds may realize that the teacher is not telling you the truth, and that would put him in an awful position of having to go against his teacher and tell you what really happened.

Is there another teacher whose class your ds can be in? If not, I'd pull him.
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#9 of 14 Old 08-23-2004, 02:25 AM
 
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my experence has been with stuff like this is that once you have lost trust with staff, it is really hard to rebuild

I agree that the first couple weeks are tough, especially for a 3 yr old and if this were me and I had my heart set on the school, i would have him attending one day a week for the first month till the other dc have settled into a routine then send him 2X a week
teacher sounds like she has too much on her plate right now
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#10 of 14 Old 08-23-2004, 02:48 AM
 
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How disturbing... enough to get me to come out of lurkdom and post! Sheesh, I'm very unforgiving, but I'd pull him. I'm shocked that they left him behind (omg!!!) and then to lie on top of it?? You've got to be kidding me.

I'd be looking for another school, and keeping him home in the meantime. Not an easy decision. Good luck.
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#11 of 14 Old 08-23-2004, 03:56 AM
 
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I meant to write more in my first post but had limited time. I wanted to say that my suggestions were for if you decided to keep your DS in the school -- I'm sure that there are lots of variables that you need to take into consideration -- it can be sooo difficult to find the right school. I think most important is your DS's feelings about the place (does he feel safe there?) and your trust in the care he's receiving there.

I do think that if you're having doubts it's better to pull him now before he gets really attached to classmates.
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#12 of 14 Old 08-25-2004, 12:08 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I did pull my ds out of the school. I realized I was never going to be able to trust the teacher and director with my child after what happened on his first day and how they handled it. I was having nightmares about something happening to him.

DS, fortunately, seems much less traumatized than I. His tears had more to do with going to school in general than with being left in the bathroom (although he continues to talk about that). Although I have told him his teachers made a mistake, I have made a real effort *not to let him know just how upset I was with his school and how concerned I was for his safety. Since his main concern at this point is being away from me, I have just told him that we are going to find a way that he can play with other kids and I can still be with him or at least nearby until he is comfortable.

I have begun to look into other preschool programs, but I don't really expect to find one with an opening right away. In the meantime, we will return to our old playgroup, try a new one, and maybe enroll in a music or gym class. DS is a very young 3, and I don't think he *needs to be in school, especially not one that isn't right for us.

I am feeling such relief now that I have withdrawn DS from that school. Thanks so much to all of you who posted to share your outrage and concern over what happened. You confirmed my own instincts when some (not all) IRL were urging me to stick with the school at least a while longer. I also appreciate those experienced moms who offered tips for easing the adjustment to school. That will help in the future.

What an ordeal this has been! Now I truly understand the saying, "Having a child is deciding to let your heart go walking around outside your body."
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#13 of 14 Old 08-25-2004, 03:37 PM
 
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I am glad you came to a decision that feels right for you.

While looking at various preschools for dd2, I passed on one mainly because of the physical layout of the school and the bathroom proximity (or lack thereof). The school was in a church (not affiliated - just rented space) and the bathroom the kids used was down the hall from the classroom. There were two different (at least, maybe more that I didn't see) unlocked entrances to the church (and therefore access to the school) - one near the church secretary but when I walked in with my (not silent) two year old, she didn't even look up. Other entrance was unmanned altogether. I saw what appeared to be a janitor walking in the hall, past the bathroom. Just didn't seem safe to me. Would they walk each child to the bathroom, stay and wait with them, and walk them back to the classroom? Every time every child had to go? Halfway through the year, would they get complacent and let them go alone? My gut just didn't like it.

Both preschools my dd1 and dd2 went to had bathrooms with doors opening directly onto the classroom - no issue with who had to go when and who would take them. It is just one aspect but nice not to have to worry about it. I also liked that because of the layout of both schools (only one class going on at a time, no hallway with different doors), you were seen and greeted immediately upon walking in - and that because of the small size of the schools, every parent was known and recognized so someone that didn't "belong" there was obvious and there was really no way to get lost in the space.

I really feel you have to have the good gut feeling about your children's schools and teachers. Because honestly, there is a transition each time there is a new school/teacher so you have to have that knowledge that the school/teacher is totally trustworthy so that when there is the initial worry, sadness, what have you during those first few weeks (months for some young kids), you don't worry that you've made a mistake putting your child there. When you have that good gut feeling, you know it is just the transition and trust that the teacher(s) will help your child and that he/she is safe, both physically and emotionally. When you find the right place, you just know it. I'm sure you'll find that place when you are ready to try again.
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#14 of 14 Old 08-27-2004, 01:46 AM
 
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They have demonstrated that they have no real respect for your son because they tried to pin this on him for having "trouble with transitions" when they were the ones who made the mistake. They not only tried to blame your son, but they lied!

You will find another, better school. It is good, in a way, that this outrageous behavior happened on the first day. I'm really impressed with you, as a mama, for taking your son's feelings seriously.
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