When Enough is Enough

Right now I’m pretty ripped.

My son goes to preschool twice per week. There’s a lot of things I like about his school. It has an actual curriculum, designed by the woman who started (and still owns) the school thirty years ago. The curriculum is good, so good that it has been purchased by many other schools around the country.

The teachers are good with the children. The head teacher in each class has a degree in Early Childhood Education. They care about the kids. They’re not afraid to deal with issues (potty training, defiance, tempers, etc.).

They’re just not great at administration. The owner semi-retired and moved to another state, leaving the school in the hands of a full-time director. The director, a former teacher at the school, is a lovely woman who cares very much about the kids.

She’s just a lousy administrator.

My son has gone to this school for fifteen months now. Since the beginning I’ve been aggravated by instance after instance of administrative blunders. Payments not being processed correctly. Phones going unanswered. My son being left in a class that he no longer belonged in because we hadn’t decided if we were going to attend the school the next year. Getting a statement of tuition paid for my taxes last year that wasn’t scribbled in pencil on a piece of paper and actually on some type of letterhead was a three-try challenge.

I’ve also always felt that there’s not enough communication between teachers and parents so that we could reinforce what’s being taught in school. No progress charts or any real feedback, unless there’s been an issue. True, they do display the letter of the week and the unit they’re working on (this week’s was Winter), but often when I come on Tuesday the board has yet to be updated. I’ve asked to get the lyrics to songs learned there so we can sing them at home. I’ve asked for an outline of the unit so I can talk to him about the things he’s learning, instead of waiting for something to randomly pop up in a three-year-old’s version of conversation, if it ever does. They look at me as if no one has ever asked for such a thing before. And I’m still waiting.

We were supposed to have parent-teacher conferences in November. They do a limited evaluation and meet with us to discuss where the child is on the basics. The teacher was sick on the scheduled day, so we were told they’d reschedule. Then Thanksgiving came, and Christmas, and no word on conferences. So I asked. Their answer: “Oh, okay. Well, we’re just doing them when the parent asks.”

Really? Isn’t it your responsibility to reschedule all of the conferences as you said you would? Why should we have to chase you?

Then, the next week, Dan started playing show-and-tell at home; pretending to show an item around an imaginary circle of friends. When I asked if they did show-and-tell in his class he said yes.

Really? Gee, I never knew that. No one’s mentioned it to me. I did wonder when they would start that, but assumed it was in the next class as no one had ever mentioned it. Ergo my mistake. Once again, I assumed they were administratively competent. His next school day I asked and was told that yes, they do show-and-tell. Every day, though each child can only participate once per week. Huh.

I walked out of the school really, really pissed because of the accumulation of issues. When they move a child from one class to the next why don’t give out an information sheet outlining what happens in the new class? Really, would that be so hard? I shouldn’t have to ask. I stopped in the parking lot and spoke to a few of the Moms I knew, venting my frustration about the conferences, the show-and-tell incident and other blunders. Their responses shocked me.

“Yeah, I forgot about the conference. It doesn’t really matter anyway. It’s just preschool.”

“Yeah, they’re not great with that stuff. But they’re good with the kids. So you have to make trade-offs.”

“At least they don’t call me for every little thing. Lots of schools just don’t want to deal with anything and will make you go pick up your kid.”

One mother actually got very snotty with me. When I mentioned my idea of a sheet to be handed out to students, she, a public schoolteacher, said it wasn’t the teacher’s (or the administrator’s) responsibility to keep me informed. And she said I should just let them do their jobs. Her attitude left no doubt that I shouldn’t be bothering the teachers or the administrator with such trifling issues.

Really?

Do I really need to make those trade-offs? Is it too much to expect people to be competent, to do what they say they’re going to do?

Are we that apathetic as a culture that we’ll continue to let people slide because it’s easier?

Will I really not be able to find a school for my son where the staff and faculty is effective and competent?

Do these mothers really not care, or are they embarrassed that they’re overlooking these things, too?

I understand that sometimes you have to make trade-offs in life. But sometimes you don’t. Just accepting the status quo serves no one. Including the school.

So, I’m going to start looking for another school. I just don’t think this is the best we can do. Even on our budget.

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15 Responses to “When Enough is Enough”

  1. Good Fountain Says:

    Yeah, I think I’d be irritated too. You absolutely have a right to know exactly how your son is doing in class, you have a right to know what the lessons are so you can reinforce them at home. If they have been going this curriculum for all these years, how hard would it be to put together monthly newsletter.

    For perspective, I receive a weekly newsletter from my daughter’s (public) preschool. It has what books they’ll be reading, what songs they’ll be singing, what activities they’ll be doing to support the various lessons. There’s a theme for the week or several weeks. She also shares what the daily snack will be and if there are any birthdays.

    IMO part of being a good preschool is being connected to the parents. I’ll be interested to know how your search goes.

  2. scienceesl Says:

    Yep, I would be peeved too. D’s old school wasn’t perfect with parent communication but at least they would put notes on the door to the school, or the classrooms letting us know what was happening.
    As for the teacher/parent, um in 99% of the schools I taught in that attitude would not fly. Parent communication is a biggie, and is something that is expected out of the teachers, by the administrators. Its something that as the girls have gotten older I have had to realize it is a part of them growing up to have them be able to communicate on their own to me what is going on and not be as dependent on the teachers. But until about 6th grade I expect that there will be some sort of communication home, at least weekly, if not daily (depends on the child).

  3. Funny about Money Says:

    Gosh, that’s terrible.

    I mean, it’s what you’d expect from a public school — that kind of thing (as evidenced by the schoolteacher’s response to your unhappiness) goes on all the time. But this is a school you’re paying for–not out of your taxes, which you can’t avoid, but extra, by choice. They should do you the courtesy of communicating with you about your child’s experiences and treating you professionally.

    Time to move to another preschool!

  4. learningwoman Says:

    I agree, this is frustrating stuff and you as a parent should be able to rely on communication from the school.
    How on earth can we help our kids if we don’t know what they’re doing? They’re too little to be reliable sources of information themselves.
    I hope you find a school you and your son are happy with.

  5. Emily Says:

    Very frustrating!

    I hope you find a place that is much more plugged into the parents and keeping them involved. I’d feel the same way you do!

  6. JHS Says:

    Having had 2 kids attend preschool, I assure you that your expectations are NOT too high. We had daily interaction with the school, progress reports, notes sent home about activities, etc. And we were always welcome to drop in and observe. If you aren’t welcome at any time, you are definitely patronizing the wrong school.

    Thanks for contributing this post to this week’s Carnival of Family Life, hosted at Modern Sage — Practical Living Blog. The Carnival will be live tomorrow, so please stop by and peruse all of the wonderful articles submitted this week!

  7. Modern Sage Online: New Traditions for Living Well - **Women’s Health and Wellness Online Community** » Welcome to the Carnival of Family Life Says:

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  8. Michelle Robinson Says:

    Well, I used to teach preschool, and I can tell you that your expectations are not too high. But, I can also tell you that you are right in looking for another school–complaining at your school will most likely do no good, unfortunately. Childcare centers do not make much money, so getting them to really care about the types of things you are talking about is like pulling teeth.

    Sure, it seems like you are paying an arm and a leg for your preschool, but the school itself isn’t really making that much money. So, they take care of the kids the best they can (and, hopefully, at least the care is good), but paperwork falls behind and so do things like doing bulletin boards, sending home newsletters, and other such things that would possibly require the teachers to work at home. Preschool teachers generally get paid by the hour, usually not much more than minimum wage (even if they do have a bachelor’s degree), unlike elementary teachers; therefore most are not willing to do work at home after school lets out.

    I’m not telling you this to depress you or anything; just to give you a little perspective on the matter. I wish you luck on your search for a better school–they are out there!

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