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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