Preschool Letdown

by Heligirl on January 27, 2011

in Daily Ramblings

Today I took Sweetness to a new preschool. It was a disaster. At least in my mind.

I’ve been researching some different preschool options now that I’m unemployed and unable to afford childcare for one while I’m with the other in co-op preschool. It makes more sense to spend the money on the school. I also like the idea of a little more time to myself since I have to participate in co-op preschool twice a week now (two hours a day for each kid). If Sweetness moved into a different preschool two days a week, I’d be able to have a little time with Mr. Man and be able to offer her expanded experiences.

So I stopped by an open house of a local community preschool that gets high marks from a handful of friends. It has a heavy emphasis on independence, exploring and science. And it had a big outside area. Sweetness loves being outside. The director gushed about how she’d love to meet Sweetness, she’s the perfect age and how they have openings right away for the days I was considering. She scheduled us to visit the classroom today to get a feel for the class as they had an opening right away.

We arrived for our observation and the director met us, greeted us and took us to the classroom that had the opening on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The first thing I noticed is the director and the teacher in the classroom looked down at Sweetness to greet her. No one dropped down to her level. Also, no one gave either her or me any direction on what was to take place, basic classroom rules, or, quite frankly, anything.

After 10 minutes of “circle time” where the teacher sang songs and read a story, the kids were welcome to have free time in any of the areas around the room, including the outside play area. I loved how the place was decorated. Lots of ambiance and artfully displayed kids’ art, and lots of science focus. The large windows looked out at the play area, which was surrounded by a garden. Bird feeders hung in the windows and there were books on birds so the kids could learn about what they were seeing. A wall display that invited little fingers to explore included bottles and jars of all kinds of seeds, as well as nuts and pine cones.

Sweetness was rather tentative. She wanted me to stay close. Even thought the class was for 3 and 4 year olds, it sure felt the majority of the kids were 4 and 5. They ran about and did their thing, rarely giving Sweetness a glance. Except when they noticed she was doing something wrong. Two girls told her she had to wear her shoes or take off her socks. The teacher watched her take off her shoes and said nothing to us about the classroom rules. I could see Sweetness’ heart sink at an older kid reprimanding her. How was she to know?

I stayed close to my little girl at her request and watched how the teacher and her assistant interacted with the kids. I noticed a lot of what the teacher said to the kids was in form of reprimand – walking feet, we don’t run, this is the drawing table so take the toy animals over there to play, etc. She did sit down at a couple of the tables to talk to the older kids drawing, but I didn’t see her getting down on the kids’ level, making eye contact and interacting with each one. Her assistant impressed me even less. She just stood around and watched the kids like a babysitter.

I guess I’m a little spoiled by co-op preschool. The teachers and parents are so engaged with the kids. In co-op, we all take a part in helping the kids learn to get along. I watched one little girl come over and push Sweetness. Sweetness said no. The assistant stepped in and pulled the girl away. No teaching moment, just took over.

When it was time for snack, it was organized chaos. I wasn’t really told what was going on, so once I noticed kids sitting down to snack I encouraged Sweetness to take a seat. When I asked the teacher where I could get her a napkin and cup, the teacher said the kids are to get them each themselves, the school encourages independence. That’s fine, but neither I nor my daughter can do a freaking thing the way you want if you don’t make your expectations known.

As the kids finished snack the director came up to me, handed me an application and informed me that they were not interested in my daughter at this time. I was welcome to apply for September. My daughter is too clingy to me and that would be a problem for them.

I know Sweetness is of the temperament that she stands back and observes, thinks it through, then jumps in. She’s one of the oldest in her current class and she was the first to not look back when I dropped her off on the day I’m not in the classroom. She did participate and played with several of the things. However, she didn’t know anyone, no other kid tried to befriend her, and the only contact she had with the other kids is when they told her what she was doing wrong. She was in her shell. Not even the director or teachers took the time to talk to her, except when the teacher came by and told her she couldn’t put the rain stick on the xylophone.

I feel really bad for thinking about taking her out of co-op now. I realize that is really the best place for her. She is independent, loves the people, is treated with respect by her teachers and peers, and is encouraged. Why the hell would I pay some private school with attitude to beat her down for not fitting in from day one when they can’t even be bothered to get to know her?


Kris January 27, 2011 at 2:47 pm

That sounds awful – I’m sorry! Sounds like they are faking their way as to appear to have an “alternative” approach when really they are just lazy. Sadly, I’m sure you did not have the immediate ability to say “That’s okay – we are no longer interested either. Thank you for your time”
Kris recently posted: babies-r-us great trade-in event jan 28-feb 21

Twitter: Heligirl
January 30, 2011 at 11:20 am

Wish I’d thought to say that, but I was kind of in shock. The place had such an excellent word of mouth. I was floored.

Wenmei January 27, 2011 at 2:58 pm

Oh goodness, what a terrible experience! I don’t blame you for not wanting Sweetness to go to school there. However, not all preschools are like that — I’d definitely look around at some others! I won’t ask you to name which one you visited, but I’m happy to tell you a bit about where my Mr. Z goes if you’re interested! I can also give you the names of some other programs that my friends have recommended.

Twitter: Heligirl
January 30, 2011 at 11:23 am

Thanks. I’d love to know if you have any recommendations in West Seattle. I was really hoping to see something that made me feel good. The classrooms were really, really cool. There was so much potential for learning. I’ve had some folks suggest I go back and look at the other classrooms as this might have been more an incompatibility in one class. I’ll think on that. 🙂

Booyah's Momma January 27, 2011 at 10:39 pm

I know very few kids this age who *wouldn’t* be clingy when flung into a completely foreign situation like that. It’s hard to believe they wouldn’t acknowledge the fact that getting used to a new environment takes lots of time, especially for kids.

Sounds like maybe it was a mixed blessing that you found out so early it wasn’t right. You’ll find the right fit… just hang in there!
Booyah’s Momma recently posted: The odd man out

Twitter: Heligirl
January 30, 2011 at 11:25 am

That’s exactly what I was thinking. What left me completely speechless was a complete lack of recognition of this fact. I started to wonder if they have been doing this long enough that they feel they can make first impression decisions about kids and be done with it. I just don’t know.

Making It Work Mom January 28, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Oh my heavens!!!! I can’t believe you and most unfortunately Sweetness had to experience that. And then my jaw fell open when the Director told you they didn’t want Sweetness. SERIOUSLY!
So glad that you are not forced to change Sweetness’s school. It sounds like you have a good thing going for your children.

Twitter: Heligirl
January 30, 2011 at 11:28 am

Thanks. While the co-op is a lot more work on my part, I’m now feeling more motivated to stay involved in it. While at a preschool like this the kids will learn more academics earlier, I feel the focus on developing positive discipline and good, self-respecting social skills is far more important for kids this age. That is the focus of the co-op. This age is so important for teaching these valuable skills. They have the rest of their lives to learn the academics.

Susan January 29, 2011 at 2:24 pm

That preschool most definitely did not have what you were looking for. No introduction to what was going on, or getting down to Sweetness’s level (just plain good manners and common sense). Missed a great opportunity for a teaching moment (they need to be introduced to PD!!). And then telling you that Sweetness was too clingy?!? I think the universe was saving her from a place that isn’t the best for her. She can have much better and deserves it.

As for the kids’ ages, I am thinking that they were 3 and 4 back in September, and had birthdays??

In any case, listen to your gut. That’s not the right place. You’ll find it.
Susan recently posted: Pre-existing Terror

Twitter: Heligirl
January 30, 2011 at 11:33 am

Yes, I’m thinking the co-op is by far the best option for the kids right now. I guess I just needed to go out and see the other stuff to better appreciate it. And I was floored by the low level of PD influence. You would have had a hey day with that place. I sat down and read a book to one of the little girls that brought me a book, and three other kids came over to listen too. The kids wanted interaction. They were starving for it. But the school was so focused on making the kids independent they were missing valuable opportunities to build the kids’ self esteem with connection time. I believe you can do both.

Alana @ Domestically Challenged January 30, 2011 at 12:47 pm

First of all, I am so sorry that you had to go through that. That being said, I think it was good for you to see that the other option you had was really the best one for you guys. Do what works for you and forget everything else is my motto. I feel sad for the other kids there…

LCW January 31, 2011 at 11:30 am

I read this the other day and it’s been on my mind. I know you didn’t say anything and obviously are upset and vented to us about your experience. Like you, I’m very aware of educational settings (from my former job/education), but I also know that not *everyone* is aware of good settings and bad settings. I think you should call and let them know you were surprised by your visit, and in a kind way point out some of the issues you had with the facility. My guess is, other moms and dads not knowing as much as you do might think it’s a great place, and for them it may work out, but I think the school needs to know that telling you your daughter wasn’t ready and clingy, certainly was due to the fact that their tour was interaction was subpar.

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