Dear Preschool Teachers: An Honest Mom Plea
This week marks the end of an era. My boy’s Pre-K experience comes to a close on Wednesday. And while I am sad about many milestones my 5 year old has reached this year and
dreading thinking about Kindergarten on the horizon (let’s not talk about the “K” word…it instantly makes me cry), I have to say that I will NOT be sad about leaving Pre-K behind us.
SCREECH!! Did she just say NOT sad about leaving Pre-K? What kind of mom are you?
This was NOT an easy post for me to write. In fact, I think I stared at the screen for a few days, trying to find the words. A year of my frustration, parent-teacher conferences, discussions with other parents and my son’s memories have been flooding my heart and mind all year. And it’s been killing me.
Before you jump down my throat and call me a “school teacher basher”…let me just start this post by saying that this was NOT our first time at the rodeo. We actually had enrolled my son the year before in a preschool, and he LOVED it. He’s shy, timid and slow to change. But he’s brilliant. When you find that special connection, he just takes off. And these teachers saw that. They easily pulled out his best…in his work, in his play and even in the surprise of the season a full Christmas show with singing and dancing.
This year however….was a much different story.
Pre-Kindergarten started out with so much hope and promise. We met the teacher prior to school starting. Got a look at the schedule, met the other nervous parents, checked out the room. She seemed kind, warm and was in the same boat. It was her first year at our school too. This was exciting to me. “They’ll all learn together.”
My son had his cousin in the same class (Yes, he’ll have a friend) and a few kids from his preschool class the previous year. 18 kids + a teacher and her assistant. He already had a taste of the school atmosphere, reading, writing, schedule…we felt ahead of the curve. This was going to be a great year!
But as the first few days started to unfold…it seemed to spiral. A language barrier. A palpable dislike between assistant and teacher. A loud, boisterous assistant that was in this “gig” as the last step to retirement…with one foot OUT the door. A teacher’s frazzled look not one day…but everyday as she lost control of her class. No smile greeting every morning. No excitement or energetic vibe to be found. Chaos, disorganization…This is preschool, right?
For my son, it began with “Your son cries when we sing in class. He cries so loud, none of the kids can sing. Oh, and he’s been doing this for weeks.” Um…what?! Which led to my reply of “Well, what have you tried in class to get him to stop? What songs does he cry?….” After much discussion with both my son and the teacher…turns out that one of the songs was about a bear and it scared him. Ding-Ding-Ding!
Red Alert Flag goes off in my head. Wouldn’t you think that an in-tune teacher could have figured this out? I shake off the notion.
I could tell….there was a personality conflict. My son wouldn’t even say her name. Wouldn’t acknowledge her or what they did in school. It was like pulling teeth to drag out what they did in class everyday. And she didn’t “get” him. Didn’t understand why he would act out. Why he wouldn’t sing with the other kids.
“Your son is hugging his cousin in class. We don’t do that.” Trying to kiss girls. Getting in fights with his cousin….Ok, so maybe having the cousin in the same class wasn’t as hopeful as I first hoped.
Then the behavior sheets came back, not with “Green” marks but “Red.” Bad behavior marks after one warning instead of the custom three. And no rationale or encouragement to stop the behavior….so of course, it just kept reoccurring. Which meant I needed to decipher what happened and try to get him to stop…at home. But his scores were coming back high. Top of the class. Lots of great artwork, but his assignments in school seemed so easy. I brought up that his behavior may be due to boredom and that he may need to be challenged. “Oh! I should try that.”
I’m sorry…but shouldn’t she know this? Hasn’t she seen this before? Shouldn’t she be guiding me?
Then I heard those words that made my heart break.
“Mommy, please don’t make me go to school today.”
What 5 year old should EVER be saying those words? And it wasn’t just one time…it was a constant struggle for months.
And I’m trying to not be a “Debbie Downer” here. There certainly were great moments, especially at the end of the year preschool graduation and performance…where that infectious smile, singing and dancing just lit up the room. I couldn’t have been a prouder mommy. My son now says his teacher’s name…and not with disdain. The teacher has challenged my son and he’s now doing 1st grade math and Kindergarten writing. Behavior has overall been better. We had a blip at the end of the year as the teacher was reviewing old concepts…but we made it.
Pre-K. Done. And I’m not sad. I’m happy to be moving on to hopefully new adventures, a caring teacher and a boy that will hopefully find his love for school again. There’s a lot of what ifs. Maybe she’s at the end of her preschool career….or the start. Maybe there’s something happening at home. I certainly don’t know all of the factors. And you’re getting a one-sided story. But what’s the most important take-away from this personal post?
My Dear Preschool Teachers…
Thank You. I realize that being a Pre-Kindergarten teacher is NOT just a calling but a gift. It’s a gift of ENDLESS patience and understanding. A gift of loving a cherished group of children that may have never seen a scheduled school setting or dealt with peers. A gift for analyzing personalities, connecting in a way I never can and drawing out kids’ best attributes. But most importantly for Me…
Preschool Teachers, YOU set the road for learning. You are children’s FIRST impression to school. You set the tone for their attitudes, their excitement, their undeniable craving for knowledge, acceptance, and drive. Your teachings are carried from today through all of our children’s tomorrows. Memories that kids and parents can draw from. You are at the Heart of the Learning Road. So when tiring days and crazy kids and frustration sets in…please remember. What you do matters. It matters to me. It matters to my son. It matters to all of the future kids that are craving school.
Everyday, what you do matters. Please don’t forget this.