Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Rule #1: Do NOT mess with a Momma Bear's cubs...

My 4 year old recently started pre-school, as I have mentioned.  We love the school, and it really seemed like a perfect fit for him.  When we received his teacher assignment, we found out he had the "bad" teacher.  Her reputation was not very warm or encouraging, but I still gave her the benefit of the doubt.  I like to form my own opinions, and he is a bright kid which I thought might help him in this situation.  I was told she favors kids who are ahead of their peers.  Right away I started to worry about how things were going in the classroom.  My son would be withdrawn when I'd pick him up.  He'd be quiet, and stare off.  This is not at all like him.  He couldn't tell me even one name of a classmate.  He told me they were never allowed to speak, and they couldn't even exchange names.  He told me the teacher was constantly "shushing" them.  I was disappointed, and asked a friend who works at the school if he was in a silent classroom.  Did I miss that about this place?  She told me they are not supposed to be silent.  (Remember, this is pre-school, and also an alternative school, not a formal grade school.)  Then my son fell very ill, just like most of his classmates.  He missed several days of class, had a febrile seizure, and when he was recovering from one illness and returned to school he picked up a second illness immediately.  So, he missed several days and several lessons.  The other children all had 12 more hours of school than he had.  I was worried he'd be a little lost and behind.  I was told he'd be caught up.

  Then I get reports from him that he is no longer eating snack.  He says the teacher tells him to keep working every time he tries to have snack.  (They help themselves to snack when they want it as long as they have completed one item of work before they head to the snack table.)  Also, there are only 4 seats at the table.  If they are full you can't have snack, you need to start another work and finish it... then you may try again.  Sound ridiculous for 3-5 year olds?  Yeah, thought so.  They are under no time limits, so the same 4 can sit there as long as they'd like.  Also, if they each take an average of a 10 minute break, they will take an hour to get through every child, and with the near hour of outside play and the circle time and the work they are doing, they really have less than an hour to get everyone in.  I had already mentioned my concern to the teacher that he was never eating and was very hungry when he got home.  It's known that children this young need a mid morning snack to be able to properly learn and function.  It also affects behavior if they are hungry. 

   Then my kiddo starts telling me another child called him stupid because he couldn't hear what the teacher said and made a mistake.  This teacher whispers so quietly when she speaks that my husband will not attend meetings with her because he cannot hear her at all.  AT ALL.  No exaggeration about that.  It's a passive-aggressive behavior that is to have control over people.  It makes people have to lean in, have to ignore everything around them to the point of straining to hear, and forces them to ask you to repeat yourself (which eventually gets embarrassing) or risk the added embarrassment of doing something wrong because they didn't hear the proper direction.  I have told my child several times to tell her when he cannot hear her and ask her to speak up.  When I speak to her now, I keep direct eye contact and the minute she becomes inaudible I firmly say "I cannot hear you.  You need to speak up."  She has learned to not pull that shit with me, and always speaks audibly to me now.  I guess I lack the capability to play along with passive-aggression, but I never have the patience to cater to these types of people.

   Then... oh yes there is more, much more... my kid is standing outside their gym, proudly holding open the door for his classmates to walk through at the end of the day, and a kid gets in his face and sticks his tongue out at him in a nasty (not silly) way.  Later, in the car, he tells me another kid was headbutting him and he had to just sit there and take it because he was not allowed to get up and walk away and he's afraid to ask the teacher for help and "make her mad".  He is also afraid to ask her to help him tie his shoes and "make her mad".  (She has said she does not tie shoes.  We have been trying to teach him, he just does not have it all figured out yet which is totally normal.  She's just insane.)  He is also afraid to ask for assistance, if he needs it, in the bathroom and "make her mad."  Why is he so afraid?  Why will everything "make her mad"? 

   I noticed that my son's withdrawn behavior had turned to acting out at home.  He was acting unusual and aggressive.  I felt like he was acting like he does when I'm ill and can't give him much attention and he acts out to get any attention.  Like maybe he was being ignored all day or not engaged in challenging enough material.  Well, the teacher started to walk over to my car in the pick up line on Monday.  Another teacher had put my son in the car.  So I rolled my window down, and greeted her with a cheerful "Hello!" hoping she wanted to tell me something fun my son did, but nope.  This is the exact conversation.  (Note, her tone was hostile as if I had done this myself or instructed my child to misbehave). 

Her: "Your son did not get to play at all today.  He was hurting children."
Me: What?!
Her: Yes!  He pushed 2 kids."

Then she stormed off.  I did not get a chance to say "boo" to her, let alone ask her about it.  I would have liked her to call me, so I could address my concerns about how he was being treated by the other kids and how he was acting so strange at home.  Maybe it was connected.  Maybe he was instigating the trouble with his peers.  Maybe he was defending himself.  I had no idea what was going on.  BUT  I did know I was not going to be ambushed in the pick up line and not given the opportunity to respond.  If my kid has a behavioral problem, I need to know.  I do not tolerate that kind of behavior in my home or anywhere else.  I did speak to him, reprimand him, and put him in time out.  He did tell me he was going to go down the slide, a child would not move out of his way, and was sitting at the bottom refusing to move.  He asked her to move, she didn't, so he went down the slide.  Not acceptable, but also not intending to hurt her... intending to go down the damn slide. Here is where I will skip ahead a bit... today she came to my car and said "You can expect a phone call from me.  He was pushing again."  So, I asked him what was going on again, and he said 3 kids were pushing him, trying to push him out of line, so he pushed one of them back.  So, now he's defending himself.  The child who did not move off the slide was breaking the "get off the slide when you're done and let someone else come down" rule, but did not get reprimanded.  Also, the 3 kids bullying him in line did not get in trouble, as only he was seen pushing by another teacher.  His actual teacher never saw him push anyone ever.  She said the one kid on the first day (not the girl on the slide, but someone else who also said he pushed them) may have been making it up because he fibs a lot.  So, she didn't see any of this happen, and only really believes one report but decided to make him sit alone for over 25 minutes.  He could have been out there for 23-45 mins.  They usually go out for 45 mins.  I was there early that day for pick up, and saw them outside at that time.  That is how I know it was at least 23 minutes.  That is ostracism.  I was ostracized by my peers as a child and that was bad enough, but having an adult sit you out and make you watch everyone have fun around you for so long when you are only 4?!  Time out should be one minute per year of their age!  My friend who works there witnessed this on several occasions with him.  She even spoke up about it and pointed out that he is not a bad child who ever hurts other children.  She doubted he had caused any trouble at all. 

Knowing he was mistreated on the playground like that by the teacher, I arrived at the school bright and early.  The head of the school was in a meeting, so I said

No problem.  I have cleared my schedule.  I have a babysitter for my baby.  I will wait.

As I walked to my car, my child's teacher noticed me and immediately looked down.  She knew why I was there.
I sat for an hour and a half (all the while my attitude totally improving) .  Then I was called in.  I went over everything I laid out here.  I said what I wanted out of the meeting was the following:

A.  I insisted on a face to face apology from my son's teacher for the mistreatment of my child, and a reassurance that it would never be repeated, or anything close to that.

B. I wanted an immediate observation of the classroom to see if I noticed anything I could reinforce at home, to see how I could help my child succeed.  So I could figure out how to make sure he got to that snack table.  So I could see what the problem might be.

C. I wanted phone calls, not parking lot ambushes, for any future concerns regarding my child.

D. I also made clear that if my meeting with the head of the school resulted in any poor treatment of my child that "I will be standing her before you even less happy than I am at this very moment, and we see how this is going."

E.  I also said I will not be bringing in snack on the day I am to bring it, as they can collect up all the snacks he should have gotten and hand them out to the kids.  Why should I feed everyone elses' child, when my kid never gets a chance to eat.

I was firm, but still pointed out how much we love the school, and do believe our child should be there.  We were disappointed at that time, but felt it could be worked through.  I thanked the head of the school for meeting with me, and for her attention to the matter.  She (btw, she had agreed with every issue I had and how inappropriate everything was and said they had spoken to that teacher in the past about the very same issues so it's not just me by any stretch of the imagination.) said that the teacher would be calling me to set up the observation.

I waited until the afternoon for the teacher's call.  When it came she apologized only for not calling me sooner.  She told me she had not observed my kid misbehaving, but trusted the one child who reported him, (which, mind you, my kid feels he cannot report when kids are bad to him but it's okay for them to do it?!), and one other teacher saw him push and she knew he was defending himself, but he can't push.  She also went over the snack rules I laid out above in this post.  I told her I understood what she was saying, but we had to figure out how to get him to the snack table in time.  Maybe his blood sugar dropping was adding to his behavior.  I also told her we withheld his cough medicine last night because we felt that was altering his behavior, and noticed that at home.  I did tell her we noticed his behavior changing way before that, too, and that clued us in to something being wrong at school.  Maybe he wasn't challenged enough.  Well she danced around and had excuses for everything. She stayed pleasant, and I did not get mean, but I stayed firm.  I mentioned to her the thing about I will not be bringing in snack (as I mentioned above).  Then I told her I was to schedule an observation with her.  She told me she could not schedule that, I had to call the school.  I thought it was weird that the head of the school gave me wrong info about that....

So I called the school right away.  They put the head of the school on the phone with me who was extremely shocked that the teacher had called me.  She said

I met with her.  Our meeting did not go well.  Um, can you tell me about your discussion with her?

So, I told her what I laid out for you above... then our conversation went like this:

H: I would like to set up the observation for you, if you still want one, but she won't be in tomorrow.  Or ever.  She told me she wouldn't be in tomorrow, or ever, that she was not returning.

Me: What?  I'm sorry it did not go well, I didn't want to make anyone leave.  I wanted to work together to be sure that he was treated right, and that I was doing my part to be sure he was properly participating in class and not misbehaving.  

H: No, I know that.  Don't worry.  I had only gotten to tell her that, again, kids are not to be singled out and sitting on the bench all of recess, but she told me he wasn't sitting on the bench.  

Me: She told me to my face he was.  *(side note, he was sitting on a tire, so she thought she'd get away with saying he wasn't sitting on the bench... niiiiiiiice)

H: I know, and she's done this before, and the other teachers saw it.  So I told her that is unacceptable and never to happen.  I also got to tell her that every child needs to get their snack if they want it. She said she could not adhere to those standards, and that is when she told me she was not returning and left my office.

Total shock. You can't NOT put kids on a bench or tire for 45 minutes and make them sit alone while they watch their friends have fun, and you cannot make sure they get snack if they want it, so you will quit your damn job over snack and recess?!  Apparently she did need to go, because that sounds like a psychological issue to me now.  Also, she called me AFTER she quit?!  Whhhaaaaat? 

I did not rejoice in this news, and at first I worried what would happen to his class... would they find another teacher, would this be too much on the kids, would the assistant treat my son bad (or would I even be treated like a problem parent?!).  I also worried about the teacher, who had been there a long time.  She is a human being, and was making a living.  I felt guilty for causing all this trouble, but then I realized I did not cause it at all.  I called it out, yes, but I didn't cause it.  She made the choice to do those things, and if she had given me nothing to report, then I wouldn't have had that meeting.  It's not acceptable to mistreat kids like that.  I even said I wanted to work with helping my child succeed, but I would not dismiss the fact that what she did on the playground was completely unacceptable.

My friend has assured me that no one was told I even came in for a meeting (though, I'm pretty sure that me and my "angry face" was seen by nearly everyone.  But, there were also a lot of other parents there that day, so maybe there is a chance I won't get a bad rep.  I volunteer there all the time, and I'm on good terms with everyone.  My neighbor says the few people who know do not view me as trouble, but more like Joan of Arc.  haha  I do not know about that, but if my meeting today keeps my son and the other kids from having to be treated poorly (and I have other stories from other parents I don't even have room to go into on here, just suffice it to know parents have pulled their kids out over this teacher before), and from the staff from dreading working with her and worrying about the kids and their mental health around her, then I guess I made the right choice to take care of it when I did.

So, I hope that answers some questions for my friends who knew kind of what was going on, but wanted to know what all went down.  The more you know....


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