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Our First Parent-Teacher Conference

We had our first Parent-Teacher Conference the other day. This to me is a sign that the Montessori school is a real pre-school, not just a daycare pre-school, like the Pumpkin's earlier pre-schools were. No, this was a real appointment on a day she had off from school where we sat down with her teachers (in very little chairs) and discussed how she is doing.

And the first thing that her main teacher said was, and I quote, "She's not having as many meltdowns anymore."

Greeeeaaaaaaaat!!!! I believe that Londo and I both put our hands to our heads. We didn't know there were meltdowns at school. Certainly, there's been plenty at home, but you know kids. They don't really talk about what happens at school.

Apparently, she'll get upset about something (mostly minor things, it sounds like), start crying and saying that so-and-so "hurt her feelings." The teachers noted that they don't usually hear that verbalized from 3 year olds. I explained that we'd been working on it with her to combat some mean phrases she picked up at that first school, phrases like, "you're not my friend" and "you're a baby." I also explained that she'd always been verbally and physically advanced, but that she was emotionally very much still three and a half. They assured us that those mean phrases were not tolerated at this school, and that they were working with the Pumpkin to not get too upset over the little things.

But other than that, she's doing great. She likes to watch the teachers give lessons, especially to the older kids for the materials that she's not quite ready for. Then she wants to use those materials, but the teachers explain that she first needs to master the materials leading up to the older ones. That's the Montessori way. They said that she accepts that and moves on to other things.

The teachers and Londo and I talked a bit about how we can't force this child to do things, since that makes her just dig in her heels even more. Her main teacher said that she generally tells her that when she's ready, let her know, and the Pumpkin does. I've used that tactic before with success myself.

She likes the language materials, the puzzles, the steps and blocks, the life skills materials. She is interested and engaged. She is independant and able to roll out her mat and do her work on her own. She is picking up on a lot of the skills the first time she uses the material (SUPERGENIUS!) (You know I had to say it!). The teachers will be sure she moves along at a pace that will keep her interested without overwhelming her.

On a few occassions when I walked the Pumpkin down to her room before class started, I would go into the classroom and talk with the teacher a bit. When I did, I would watch as my daughter quickly went from clinging to me outside the classroom to hurrying off to a table or shelf where she immediately started doing or watching some activity. There was no looking back, no tears, no meltdowns, no running around and getting into trouble.

This is a good school for her. We like the teachers (mostly*), we love the Montessori method. We thought it would be a good fit for her, and we are glad to hear that it is so far.

*There is one that we aren't in synch with, but that's not one of the Pumpkin's main teachers.


Jac said…
I love hearing all about this. We started DS in a Montessori pre-school in September too. I think he is doing well and I am also loving the Montessori method. BUT I am really looking forward to our parent/teacher interviews in a few weeks because I am so used to receiving a daily play-by-play from the nanny that it's a little disconcerting to not really know what he's up to (I mean, I know how Montessori works, and the school sends out periodic emails to tell us what "themes" they are learning, and once in a blue moon DS tells me something about what they did at school - but it's just not the same).

The one thing we know DS is struggling with? HAVING to shake hands with the teacher when he goes in the classroom. He sounds like Pumpkin - he loves doing things when he thinks it is his idea, and on his schedule, but being told what to do and when is a struggle for him and this is the one area where it seems to come up over and over again.
Lisa F. said…
Yay! I'm so happy for you that it went well. what a relief after the last place. We had a rough 1st year of preschool at 3 (2 different schools, one where he was hit & the teacher didn't respond; the other was such a bad fit w/the teacher judging him harshly for his personality, implying he was autistic & being really condescending & judgemental to me. in hindsight I should have yanked him, but I was exhausted & didn't see any other options.) Last year we had a wonderful preschool, so I can imagine the big sigh of relief you must both feel.

and Jac, HAVING to shake the teachers hand? ugh. I hate that sort of thing.
nej said…
Aw. Reading this almost makes me wish that the Montessori school we'd interviewed had worked out.

I am so glad that you guys are having such appositive experience.

And I, too, hate the forced physical contact bs. It so wrong. As a teacher (and as a parent) I always gave options - a high five, a handshake, or a smile. But only what you and your body are comfortable with. I've read too much about the ill effects of forcing kid to touch or be touched in a way they're not comfy with. Not to mention my own personal experience. Too many times I had to kiss or hug someoe who sceeved me out to be polite. Bullshit.

Sorry, didn't realize what a touchy (ha!) subject that is for me.
Anonymous said…
Awww- being a Mom is so hard - isn't it??
nej said…
Intraweb ate my first comment, which was probably for the best.

What I should have said...

So happy that the Montessori method is working out for you guys. Stories like yours (almost) make me wish E was at the Montessori school we had planned on sending him to.

As for the having to shake hands bit, this is where I got a little out of control in the original post. Suffice to say, I am very, very much against forcing children to do anything like that, even if it is something as seemingly harmless as shaking hands. From a very young age, we should be teaching children to respect and own their own bodies, to listen to their gut and to do only what they are comfortable doing.

Anyway, yay! happy school experience. And while I know it's tough to parent a child who has a mind of his/her own (oh, believe me. I know!) I remind myself that it is a trait much admired in adults. One day, Pumpkin will be a happy and successful adult and she'll have you to thank for not squashing her tenacity. Only 15 more years to go! :)
Jac said…
@nej - wow, I hadn't even thought of the handshaking thing from that point of view, but that's really got me thinking and I will definitely be bringing it up. We've been so adamant that DS doesn't ever have to hug or kiss ANYONE if he doesn't want to and we don't permit people to bribe him for physical affection (I hate when people say, for example, here's a cookie - but first a hug - usually grandparents, and other family but UGH - absolutely not okay).

I don't know why the handshaking thing didn't ring the same bell for me (maybe cuz "all the other kids are doing it" - lame, I know) but you are absolutely right. Mandatory physical contact is not okay. Thanks for this.
caramama said…
@Jac - I had the same thoughts as nej, that forcing any touching isn't really fair to kids who don't like to be touched. It also doesn't following the teachings of physical boundries that I'm trying to instill. And I totally know what you mean about wanting to hear the daily things our children are actually doing. That was really great about the conference--finally hearing exactly what MY girl likes doing and is working on.

@Lisa F. - Thanks! It's tough to know when to pull the kid out of a place. You've got to balance another transition with how it is for the kid to stay. I was SO glad that we moved my girl for the summer, even though the Montessori school didn't start until the fall. I'm glad your last year went so well! How's this year going?

@nej - I got both comments! I totally agree about forcing physical contact on kids. And I'm so with you on the fact that these traits that are difficult to deal with in kids will be awesome when they are adults. We just have to get there alive!!!

@Wife to the Rockstar - Being a mom is hard! But so worth it, right? :-)

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