After I posted about my preschool jitters, many of you urged me — in public comments here and private commends off-blog — to look for other options. One mom told me, “I can’t think of a single thing to criticize about my preschool, it’s terrible that you can think of so many so easily,” but, see, I’m a professor, I’m trained to criticize absolutely everything.
So, first I talked to the school, which reassured me that the kids watched only one movie for only 20 minutes, and that they actually do engage in active learning beyond worksheets, and Sophie does actually know most peoples’ names. The scariest part of their reassuring, though, was that they told me: “Sophie is well-adjusted here, playing with lots of friends. I can’t believe you’re complaining. There are many other kids who are more lost, here, whose parents ought to be complaining before you.”
I waited for it to get better, but it’s still not great. This week, Sophie slipped off the swing, causing a bleeding gash on her elbow that NO ONE NOTICED. She’s such a sweet kid and the teachers are so burnt out that she isn’t getting the nurturing attention she needs. I know that kids get hurt, and I don’t want to over-react, but is it too much to expect for teachers to clean out Sophie’s bleeding gash? I don’t want to exaggerate, so I’m refraining from calling it a giant, bleeding, gash: but it was too big for the ordinary-size bandaid, and Sophie didn’t get a hug or a wound-cleaning until she got home.
Less concretely, but more seriously, my daughter who used to delight in identifying the letter S wherever she could find it (in the swirl of syrup on her oatmeal, in the opening credits to her favorite PBS show), now seems scared of letters. She shyly tells me: “I’m not very good at tracing my name.” My daughter, who used to love crawling on my lap & listening to stories, now thinks that story-time is time to distractedly play with other toys, because that’s what I see happening at school: no kid pays attention to the teacher who reads aloud, and no teacher knows how to get their attention back.
Sophie keeps telling me catty, competitive stories about who refused to play with whom and who will have the cooler halloween costume or the coolest lunch-box candy. Maybe that’s inevitable? When Sophie re-enacts circle-time in her home role-playing, she keeps performing the role of a teacher who does no teaching in a space with poor discipline. Sophie says, “Sit down, sit your legs criss-cross-apple-sauce, keep your hands to yourself. No poking. You tell me if someone pokes you. No, you can’t move. Sit down. Be quiet. Did someone poke you? Okay, say after me, “varoom.” No, you said it wrong. Raise your hand before you say it…” I know that her re-enactments aren’t accurate depictions of circle-time, but I also know that her re-enactments are capturing the flavor of what doesn’t seem to me to be a great place to learn.
It may just be me overworrying, but I’m afraid that Sophie is getting shyer, and more socially competitive, and slightly less joyful in her eagerness to explore the world. So I’ve been calling around, and most other schools are full, but this week we signed her up for the local Montessori School, starting in January. It will be more expensive and will mean adjusting our work-schedule, but I think it will be worth it. I hope. The peacefulness of the Montessori environment, and the richness of the self-directed learning that I saw there, and what I think was thorough care & respect for each other: I think that will be a better place for Sophie and for our whole family.
I’ll keep you all updated.