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Talk with the Pre-School Director

Thank you all so, so much for all your supportive comments on the last post. It made me feel so much better to hear what you all had to say, and to hear everyone's emotional reactions were the same as mine. And all your advice and different points of view were simply priceless! Thanks again.

I would have written this follow-up post sooner, but Friday we got a call from the pre-school and my daughter had a high fever. Sure enough, she has the HFMD that her brother was finally getting over. With two sick kids, we had to cancel our drive down to the inlaws, where we were going to visit for the weekend. Instead, we've been taking care of the feverish girl and the drooling boy, while trying to continue the spring cleaning including trying to kill all the sick germs that are certainly EVERYWHERE.

But back to the follow up...

On Thursday after writing the post, in fact it around 5:00, the director of the pre-school called me and left a message. I got it just as I was shutting down my computer and heading out the door. I called her back on my way home. I asked if she had time to meet with me in the morning, and though she said yes, she wasn't going to be there until 10:30. So I then asked if she could meet with me that evening, I could be there at 6:00. She agreed.

So instead of going straight home, I drove to the school and met with the director. I did not want to be confrontational. I went in with the mindset that I needed to explain to her exactly what happened, and we would work together to figure out how to deal with it. I know that this woman is the director of the pre-school because she really, truly enjoys the kids. We picked the school because it was obvious to us that those at a high level (including the director of this location--there are three locations) have thought deeply and care greatly about the care the children receive at the school. So I went in assuming we were on the same team.

The director really was wonderful about the whole thing. After I expressed my sympathies about her mother, who is in the hospital, I told her the story. I told her exactly what I saw, heard and said, which adults I talked to, and the reactions of those I spoke with. As up-in-arms as I am about the whole thing, I'm also pretty understanding. I don't believe the front desk woman realized exactly what happened, nor did the teachers assistant. As I continued to talk with them and the Pumpkin's main teacher over Wednesday and Thursday, I believe they started to understand what happened and why it was so upsetting. But it's the director who has the most influence, which is why I was insistent on meeting with her.

She listen to everything I said with sympathy and understanding, taking notes here and there on what we call in my world "action items." I also told her about the incident that happened when the Pumpkin and I were visiting right before she started school there. I noted that it wasn't just striking out in anger that was the problem with these incidents. It was the aspect of more than one older kid (or simply kid) gaining up on one other child physically and verbally. It is the aspect of bullying, which is so in the news lately, that was the bigger issue. I said all those things, and then said to her that I know she does not want bullying to be an issue at her school, because I truly know she does not want even a single incident.

I asked her if bullying is in the curriculum, and she explained that it is for the older kids (they have before and after school programs for elementary-aged kids). For the pre-school kids, they don't want to give it the name "bullying" because that gives it more power. I absolutely agree with that, but I pointed out that they still should address "picking on" other kids. At that, she made another note, so I'm confident that they will address that.

We talked about keeping the older kids and younger kids from being on the playground at the same time, though I again expressed that this was only part of the issue. She said that she and the front desk lady would do more spot checks to add extra eyes to the playground and ensure the teachers were not just sitting around chatting with each other and missing important interactions on the playground.

I requested that she let the parents of the three kids know what happened. I told her that as a mother, I sure as heck would want to know if my kid was picking on someone else. And I know their policy is not to name the other kids involved in any incident, but I told her that she could let the parents know they could talk to me about the incident if they wanted. Because I don't blame the kids or the parents or even the school. This is they type of thing that happens, and it is up to all us adults to watch for incidents and guide the children involved onto the correct path of behavior.

We also talked about how they discipline at the school. Generally, they give one warning and then the child "takes a break" on the bench in the front office. She said there is some flexibility to that, depending on the context of the incident as well as the child and the child's temperament and previous behavior. I remember that when the Pumpkin hit another girl (because she was mad she took a toy from her), the teachers were so surprised that she had done something like that (it was a first for her) that I don't think they brought her to take a break but just talked to her about it.

Generally, I think they have a good approach to this. I think. I believe in giving second chances, but still enforcing the rules. However, in cases like gaining up on someone or intentionally picking on someone (i.e., bullying), I think the children involved should be immediately taken to have a break. The director didn't specifically say that was the case for such an incident, and I didn't push it because the incident would have had to been caught at the time anyway.

I did touch on the teacher turnover in the Pumpkin's class, but we had previously discussed it and there really wasn't more to say. She had previously told me that they were just trying to find the right team for the children. I know there is not the same rate of turnover in the other classes, so I'm hoping that it will all settle down soon. I also didn't bring up the long hours of the teacher's assistant, because I didn't know if she was telling me in confidence. (I had asked her to please please let me know if she was planning on leaving so we could be prepared for the Pumpkin, since the Pumpkin loves her so much. It's felt like the other teachers have just disappeared.) This could have been her way to warn me that she was looking at leaving. And if that is the case, then I'm taking my girl out for sure.

We are still looking at other places. We are almost surely going to put the Pookie into a daycare after he turns 1, so it would be ideal to take them to the same place. The Pumpkin's current school does not take kids under 2. But in addition, I'm still not sure about this school for my girl.

My sister's daughter went to the sister school in the next town over. My niece did great in the 2 year old room, but when she moved up to the 3 year old room she had difficulty. They found a really great place that she is now loving. My niece is a very different child than mine, but what my sister said stayed with me. She said it was like the difference between a public school and private school. I have been to both, and I have nothing against either. But in private schools, the teacher to student ratio is usually smaller, and the teachers are generally more able to work with each child's personality. This is something we really need to consider given the Pumpkin's spirited personality.

I think I'm rambling. I'm tired from dealing with sick kids, and the baby is now up from his nap and crying. I think I touched on everything, but if I remember anything else I will add it.

Unfortunately, I still can't get the image out of my head. I'm working to replace it with other images, but it's hard. And I still kind of want to kick those kids in the butt.


hush said…
(BTW, it's ok to still want to kick those bullies in the butt!) I'm glad you were able to speak with the director finally - again I am so impressed with how you handled yourself.
z said…
I meant to comment on the last post and chime in that yes you should go talk to the director and yes those children need a swift kick in the pants (not literally) but time escaped me. I am glad you talked to the director and were so rational about the discussion. I would have been a lot more emotional in such a situation so I am impressed with your consideration and focus.
I do think though it is important that you take a look at other schools in the area. I think you can find a place for pumpkin which has more of the supervision that they need because to me the lack of supervision when outside (more than once)+ high turnover are red flags. The director may be wonderful but her hands may be tied by budgets which may be what's impacting the staff.
Cloud said…
I'm sending you big hugs.

I think you'll feel better about everything once everyone is healthy. That is not to minimize the ugh factor of all that has happened (and I'm with @hush, I think you're handling it really well), but it is always easier to deal with things when you are well rested.
geeks in rome said…
Better student/teacher ratios are a godsend for everyone, the kids, the teachers and the parents.

Good on you for following through on this and talking with the director. but dang, that whole teacher-turnover situation sounds like a major problem and it must affect the teachers' morale and ability/desire to track the kids, get to know them, and even care.

Follow your gut instinct. If you get bad vibes from the place, GO! A shortstaffed, badly managed facility can break the spirit of even the best, well-intentioned employee and you don't need your children to be in the hands of people who are overwhelmed, overworked, and understaffed.

I so hope you find a decent situation for them. looking for and praying you have decent child care is probably the most traumatic thing about being a parent.

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