Preschool Jitters

Soph’s preschool teacher is moody, Sophie says.

She’s grumpy, other adults I trust have confirmed. Soph herself seems to come home from school grumpy, but it’s hard to tell how much of this is due to school and how much is due to being four and a half, and a new big sister, and all.

The first thing I noticed about Soph’s teacher is that she is a terrible speller. She not only misspells every second sentence in every handout she sends home, she also consistently misspells Sophie’s name, which particularly irks me, because how hard is it to spell Sophie, and how important is it to a 4-year-old to have her name spelled right? In a class of 15 kids, you would think the teacher would be able to spell each kids’ name. But I am trying not to judge her on her spelling alone.

The problem is that I worry her curriculum is as stupid as her spelling. I have posted about this before. There’s a lot of emphasis on worksheets. Even more disturbingly, every kids’ art project almost always looks the same, because, it seems, conformity to directions is the highest value in her classroom.

Other parents tell me that she prepares kids fabulously for kindergarten by teaching them most of the kindergarten curriculum while they’re in her preschool class. I realize that this puts me in a minority, but I actually don’t see the advantage of learning kindergarten curriculum a year early. I suspect it will make Soph stressed in preschool, bored in kindergarten, and then frustrated in first grade. I realize that I should be happy that Sophie is truly mastering her letters and numbers, but what I would prefer to see is a deeper sense of creativity and joy in Soph’s preschool classroom.

I was worried I was being too picky. I tried volunteering in Sophie’s class, to spend more time and allay my fears: but while I was there, I saw this teacher sternly disciplining kids in a way that used public shaming. Too many of her students seemed more cowed than four-year-olds ought to be. And then this teacher had the gall to complain that, while volunteering, I breastfed Everett in front of her students. She didn’t even complain to me directly, but asked the preschool director to pass on the message to me in a way I found particularly irritating. The preschool kids keep asking when I’ll come back to teach again, because they loved my creative children’s theater activities — but I have  explained that I can’t return if I can’t breastfeed my baby.

I am trying to separate my personal dislike of this woman from what really matters. And what I end up focusing on is the art table.

The art table in her classroom has seats for 4-6 kids, but in October, this teacher declared that only 3 kids at a time could sit there, because it was getting too messy. In November, she decided only 2 kids at a time could sit there. Sophie spends a good portion of each day waiting in line for a chance to do art. This really doesn’t seem like a good preschool policy.

I talked to the school’s director, who seems to share my values, is not a fan of worksheets in preschool, and has now ordered this teacher to shift to a bigger art table so there will be no limits on the kids’ art time.

The problem is that I’m not at all sure this particular teacher shares my values. She will obey the director’s demands, but she doesn’t see what’s wrong with privileging cleanliness over art, and doesn’t seem to understand my suggestion that perhaps the kids can be taught to do art neatly.

When I talked to the director, I asked if Sophie could be shifted into the other four-year-old class in this school, where I think the teacher is more appreciative and nurturing. It doesn’t look likely. I can understand that the school doesn’t want to set a precedent of shifting kids between classes every time a parent complains. And I realize that I am being That Parent, the one who over-scrutinized everything.

All this means that, dear blog readers, I am wondering yet again: should I shift Sophie to a different school? There is space in Soph’s old school, a loving and wise space. It has horrible hours (9-2, as opposed to the flexible 8:30-4 of the current school), and is off all summer (as the current school isn’t). But it has teachers whom I love and appreciate, who teach things that matter.

Sophie herself doesn’t seem to mind her grumpy teacher as much as I do. Soph actually likes worksheets. She would like a shorter day and less competition for time at the art table, but maybe I can give her that by talking to the director, and also giving her plenty of art time at home, maybe.

If I do switch schools, January is the time to do it, so I need to decide soon.


One response to “Preschool Jitters

  1. Tracy

    Aw, Elaine. Sophie deserves the best. I think preschool matters a lot. I know the hours aren’t right for you but if you could somehow manage it I think you’ll be glad you sent her back to that nurturing preschool. I think that spark that is the love of learning is precious and must be protected. You know I wouldn’t have said so before I had kids but now I think preschool and elementary school are more important than high school and college. I feel like with a strong foundation, my kids will be successful anywhere when they are older.

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