Fifteen minutes before we had to leave this morning, Sophie announced: “I want to go to my new school early!” It was only her second day there, and already she is happier than she ever was at her old preschool. When I drop her off, she almost forgets to kiss me good-bye before she runs off to play. It’s such a change from the octopus-like clinging dropoff at her old school, where what she had started saying to me was, “I just want you to hold me forever.” I didn’t know that I should have expected preschool drop-off to not be relentlessly heartbreaking.
I had expected a rough transition, but instead, I simply see how right I was to change schools. Sophie’s new school is not a fancy school, it has no grand philosophy, it’s actually in a minimall storefront: but it is filled with caring, wise teachers. It’s a loving place in a way her old school never was.
At her new school, the teachers all hug her, then introduce themselves to me. The parents all introduce themselves to me, too and actually chat. The room-mothers hand me their “welcome” letter and I realize that’s another seemingly simple thing that the old school was missing. It’s a pleasant surprise to me to see how much this school has a sense of community, compared to the last one. The “welcome” letter declares that this is the best preschool in North County San Diego — and I think they’re right.
At her new school, Sophie says, “There are no stars of the week. Everyone’s a star.” I love this lack of favoritism. Sophie also told me they did something nifty with glitter, water, and triangles. I have no idea what this actually means, but I like that she was excited, and that she’s telling me about concrete school activities that sound far more interesting to me than the worksheets at her old school. She usually couldn’t tell me what she had learned each day at her old school (other than catty gossip like “M has a Princess Tiana costume. Can I get one?”). With this new school, she already sang me a song she learned and attempted to tell me a story. Most of all, what Sophie kept repeating to me about her new school is what I saw myself: when Sophie arrived for her first day, the teachers held their arms wide and said, with sincere enthusiasm, “Sophie! We’ve been waiting for you.”
When Sophie and another girl both wanted to use the same doll-stroller, a teacher quickly intervened, inviting the other girl to show Sophie all the many dolls that this school has. “This place isn’t messy like my old school,” Sophie says. The teachers have told me to expect her to come home covered in paint or water or any thing else — it’s not literally mess-free (and I wouldn’t want it to be) — but I think what Sophie means is that it’s fundamentally organized and comfortable, safe, warm and inviting.
At her new school there’s no time-out procedure, only attentive teachers who redirect problem behavior. In extreme cases, kids are invited to sit & watch the lava-lamp to help themselves calm down.
All these little tiny things add up. Even Sophie’s evenings at home are calmer, after her days at a pleasant school. And it’s surprisingly easier for me to go to work each day, now that I know Sophie is in good hands.