January 11, 2011,
R.O. asks from Oak Lawn, IL on January 09, 2011
Preschool - Am I Expecting Too Much
Our one and only child, who has been home with mom or dad almost every day of his life, started pre-school three months ago (mid semester). He is adjusting very well and has very little separation anxiety. We choose this pre-school for three major reasons: small class (8 students), communication and teamwork between teacher and parents (as stated in the handbook), and healthy snacks. Since starting school, our son has come home with a red mustache and talking about cookies and cupcakes. I have not asked the teachers about the snacks because he has otherwise been happy and that is most important to me. He gets health snacks at home, so a treat twice a week is a small price to pay if he is happy. BUT, I feel as if we were over sold on the communication between teachers and parents. From day one, we have to ask for feedback every time we pick him up. We’ll ask, “how was he”, “does he participate”, “is he coming out of his shell or is he shy”? We usually get short, brief answers, “good”, “ok”, “yeah, he does”, and “oh, he’s not shy” in response. The last time I picked him up the teacher told me he was having a problem with touching the other kids during circle time and distracting the other kids and that we needed to work on personal space with him. She said she frequently tells him to keep his hands to himself. We knew this may be a potential issue for him and have started working on it at home, but wanted some advice on what more we could do. I asked if she had any ideas on things we could do and she shrugged her shoulders and said no but she would think about it. I want to make sure this is handled properly so we don’t squash his sweet caring nature. I was also disappointed that this was all said in front of my son and the teachers daughter who is also in his class. I want school to be a positive experience and it broke my heart to have my son hear his teacher telling mommy he needed work. We use a lot of positive reinforcement in our home and feel it was unnecessary for him to hear this. I was also upset that his classmate, her daughter, heard it. I don’t want it to become a source of teasing or taunting. The lack of communication goes deeper. It is difficult to get the monthly calendars, we didn’t know about the Christmas program until two weeks ahead, then never got a list of songs to work on at home (there were A LOT of songs), and other minor things that we have shrugged off.
I don’t want to come off as a mommy who refuses to see areas of improvement in her child. My husband and I have developed a solid plan on working on the issue in a positive way. But am I expecting too much for the teacher to communicate with us privately, for some positive feedback now and then. Is it customary to have to wait for the parent-teacher conference for any REAL communication? I feel like we were oversold and they are under performing or like we got the bait and switch routine. I have NO idea what my child is doing in school. I ask him, and get nothing (he is 3, I am not surprised). But why isn’t the school keeping us informed on what the kids are doing and how they are progressing. What has your experience been? Is this normal and I am just expecting too much? Do I need to lower my standards and hope he is progressing?
Thank you all in advance for your input. I know how busy life can be, so I really do appreciate any feedback!
WOW, so many responses so fast. In response to some of the questions/statements:
We get a calendar at the start of every month. It gives basic info, when tuition is due, special days, no school days, etc. but does not give lesson plans. We did get on the first day back after break a 1 paragraph description on what the focus will be this “term”. Example, they are discussing winter weather. That is it!!!! That is why I am so starved for information. If I knew they were working on colors or shapes, or days of the week I could incorporate that into daily life. I am also curious to know if he has any good behaviors that can be praised or bad that need work. I would be thrilled if I had a generic report even once a month. My desire for info is the reason I ask at pick up for a hint of information.
This is a half day program and we do know the general routine: welcome, circle time, free play, circle time, guided play, music or movement, then snack and leave. I guess I just want to know what they are discussing in circle time.
Again, the 5 page parent handbook that sold us on this school was centered around parent teacher communication. I just don’t feel like a paragraph on general topics being discussed once a semester and a generic calendar once a month is living up to the expectations I had.
Mostly the parents provide snacks, I do have the teachers e-mail. The teacher responds promptly, but I have gotten the feeling that asking for more information might be over stepping. I don’t want to be unreasonable, that’s why I wanted to know what the norm was. The handbook just talked about teamwork and communication but didn’t get into specifics as to what or how they were going to communicate with us. Wish I would have known when we were interviewing them to ask that question.
JUST TO CLARIFY ...
I don't expect individual attention on a daily basis. I only ask the questions on a daily or sometimes weekly basis because I have NOTHING TO GO ON. If I had these weekly or even monthly take homes that many of you are mentioning I would be happy!!!!!!!!
D.S. answers from New York on January 09, 2011
I own and operate a preschool and I would like to give you a little insight on how my program works and most programs that I know to maybe give you some inside perspective. First, after 12 months we do not give daily written reports to any children, however we do have an open communication policy. My policy is not to have parents approach teachers while they are busy with a class,at pick up time or drop off time, or daily for that matter. If a parent has concerns they can call during rest time and speak with teachers directly so they can have their undivided attention. Second, no child has a perfect day everyday, this is why I do not agree with daily reports. Your child is three, he is learning the rules, that is why he is in preschool correct. You said yourself he has been home with you and dad, so learning to get along with his peers is a process and it takes time for him to develop his social skills. So he is going to test the boundaries, make mistakes, and hopefully learn from them. As far as written communication. I do a weekly newsletter to parents. It keeps them updated on what our theme of the week is and any upcoming events. I provide a written menu with breakfast snack, how lunch, and afternoon snack so parents know in advance what I am serving. We also do written evaluations twice a year along with a personal conference if needed. I also have e-mails for my staff as well as my own to communicate with parents. I find it so much more effective then notes sent home. Half the parents do not read what I send home. Snacks, we do have cupcakes for parties, and cookies sometimes as well. If you want all healthy snacks for your child ask if you can provide you own daily. Third, why would it be necessary for you to have a list of songs for the Christmas show so you can practice at home? He is already practicing at school, and I am sure that is the last thing he wants when he gets home is to have to do it again. Also, the best part of watching preschoolers in any type of program is when you get the unexpected from them. Perfection at three is not necessary. As far as the teacher reporting to you in front of your child I find that to be the most effective, this way the child knows his behavior is going to be reported to mom, it's not just assumed. Children are visual they need to know that what you say is going to happen, however I would do it in private and in my office, as I said with time put aside. Pick up time and drop off time are not times for conferences, staff taking their eyes off children to talk to parents is not safe. My biggest question to you is how can a 3 year old underperform? They are supposed to be there to have fun, learn to share, learn the rules, and how to follow directions. I say let him be and when something serious needs to be addressed I am sure you will be told. If I looked each day for something a child did wrong I would certainly find one, so unless it is major (hitting, biting, using bad language etc.) normal misbehavior is all learning to me. I do think you just need to relax, love him, teach him to have your values, morals, etc as you sound like you are doing. As far as monitoring his experiences everyday it may cast a shadow on him and make him insecure in school. He needs to learn how to socialize his own way, and not be constantly monitored. There are days he isn't going to sit in circle like an angel, he may not share, he may push, leave it up to his teachers to address, and guide him. If you do not trust them with your child then I suggest you go with your gut and find a different school. Good luck!!
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M.P. answers from Pittsburgh on January 09, 2011
In a way I do think that you are expecting a little too much. At 3 in my boys preschool we did not get any type of report every day about anything that went on. In the 2 yo program we got a written communication but nothing after that...and to be honest I don't think that would have been necessary. I did have some seperation issues with my second and was always given the rundown on how he did when I picked him up...but short-just "he did fine after about 10 minutes". When there were some deeper issues they were always happy to talk with me for a couple of minutes after class. But that being said when teachers are letting out the kids there are a lot of parents waiting and it would be rude to them to hold up the dismissal by asking the teachers questions. This could possibly be why your teachers are so curt with you.
As for the Christmas show...you might just chalk that up to it is your first year there and you are learning the ropes of what goes on. It IS strange though that it is difficult to get a calender. We always got ours right before the new month. And as far as practicing the songs...it is preschool and nothing is expected to be perfect so therefore material for class shows is not sent home to practice. We never once received anything to practice at home with our sons.
And as for the discussion in front of the children: No offense but didn't you notice the two kids right there when you were asking your questions? In the future I would suggest that if that is something that bothers you you should look around and make sure nobody is there that you would not want to overhear.
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P.K. answers from New York on January 09, 2011
I think you are expecting too much. If you have concerns, make an appoint-
ment with the teacher. You cannot expect them to discuss your concerns
and every others parents concerns while picking up etc. When you discuss
your child, have him go into another room to play. However, at 3 if he hears
you talking, I doubt it would impact him very much.
He is 3 y.o. You are sending him to school to learn how to be social, how
to share etc. and have fun. He will learn the rules. Try to relax and enjoy
the experience. He will take his cues from you. If you are happy sending
him, he will be happy. If he picks up on your vibes, it will be a negative
experience. Good luck.
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L.C. answers from Washington DC on January 09, 2011
I can understand how you feel you've been duped. The snacks, the lack of communication, etc. I have a couple of questions: How is the school supposed to communicate with you? Did they tell you that they were going to send home notes or email at the end of the day or week? Do they expect the families to provide the snacks or does the school provide the snacks?
Our pre-school provided the snacks and if it was a special day for one of the kids, the family would send in cupcakes or cookies or something. All of that information was also listed on the take-home sheet. Speaking of the take-home sheet, we used to get a sheet of paper every day that had the daily schedule on it with short sentences about what went on. It told us how much they ate and what they ate. It told us if they went potty and how many times. It was often vague, but it gave us a clue into the kids' day.
As for the teacher speaking with you in your son's presence about not touching other kids - that's normal. She can't watch the kids left in the class at pickup and have a private conversation with each parent. If you are concerned, you might ask her to set up a conference time.
No kid or parent is perfect. You aren't doing your child any favors by not allowing him to hear that he might need to make some changes in his behavior. I think you took what the teacher said to mean that you aren't a good parent - you said it broke your heart? That is not what she said. She said that he needs to work on personal space. This is not a bad thing - it is what it is... Do you want the truth from your teachers or do you want them to tell you what you want to hear?
Basically, you need to meet with the teacher to clear up the communication concerns. You should do it sooner rather than later. As for the monthly calendar - who is supposed to generate that? The teacher or the administration? There is no reason not to have a monthly calendar sometime the last week of each month...
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S.C. answers from Fort Wayne on January 09, 2011
Sounds pretty normal to me. :)
Our kids are the focus of our lives. I think it's hard for us to realize that they probably aren't the focus of anyone else's lives. You're like me, you want to know exactly what happened and when. Sadly, once they start school, it's not like that. That teacher has 7 other kids to look out for. She most likely can't remember exactly everything. I look at it like this. If all 8 parents asked her for an in detail report each time their child was picked up, the pick up would take forever! As far as the teacher talking to you in front of her daughter, I wouldn't worry too much about it. You said that the teacher had spoken to him about personal space during circle time, which means that she probably spoke to him in front of the other children. I don't think he's going to run into much teasing for something like that in preschool, especially not at the age of 3. I would bet that some of the other kids are having the same problems. As far as the positive feedback...well, most of the times you're not going to hear anything unless it's negative. You'll most likely find the same thing happening through out his school career. I think you have to assume "no news is good news." 2 weeks is plenty of notice for a school Christmas program. If your son didn't get any song sheets sent home, then none of the other kids did either. He's in preschool, I very highly doubt that he was expected to practice all the songs at home until he had them down perfect.
Who brings the snacks? Is it parents or the teachers? My daughter's preschool sent home a hand book at the beginning of the year. It clearly states that each snack (provided by the parents) is to contain at least one item from one of the 4 food groups, and juice doesn't count as a fruit. More often than not, my daughter tells me they had cookies, cupcakes, Hawaiin Punch, or other junk food. I don't like it. When it's our turn to provide snack, we send healthy stuff. If she tells me she had junk at school, I make sure she eats a healthy lunch and a healthy snack. We just consider it her treat for the day.
I think you sort of have to pick your battles here. If your son likes the school, kids and teacher, if he seems to be progressing in social skills, following directions, etc; then I would consider it a success. He's only 3 and there isn't a whole lot more he's going to be learning at this age.
If you want a more detailed report (which I personally don't think is necessary), perhaps you could send an email to the teacher asking her for a monthly report. Or ask her if you could have a short conference once a month.
But, to me, it sounds like a pretty normal preschool experience. :)
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L.A. answers from Austin on January 09, 2011
Gosh is this an all day program or a half day program? A half day program would be hard to on a daily basis have info written down by the time you picked up you child, it could be there by the next day though.. , but a full day, the teacher could write down things at nap time..
We received a light monthly schedule that explained what to expect the kids to be working on.. . It was a total overview because the kids were at some different levels even though it was the "3 year old room"..
When our daughter was in preschool we had a weekly overview of her week.. Each day was on a clipboard next to her cubby, with notes of the day. On fridays they were sent home so we could review it.. It included any comments, Of course it was pretty much, "P had a good day, played dress up with Michael and Chase. Ate all of her lunch. had one potty accident, took a nap..
"Class learned about lady bugs." "Planted a bean in a pot. " Fell on the playground and bumped head, hugs and bandaides were applied.... "
If there was something serious, the teacher would speak directly with us and in front of our daughter.. I liked this, because she knew we were concerned and also she was not going to get away with anything..
I would ask them if they have the ability to do this or to email a daily overview..
Also any special programs, 2 weeks was about what we also received for day care.. I do not think they really expect the kids to know all of the songs or even sing it perfectly because again.. they are only 3.. and a child that has just turned 3 vs. the child that is almost 4 are totally at different stages of 3 years old..
Remember at 3 he should be playing most of the day.. Active play.. That is his job. He is learning how things work, how things do not work. So anything else on top of that is great.. and fantastic..
I do think they made it sound like you would have more info.. Maybe you could help them come up with these daily sheets? making the copies.. etc..
Ask if you could somehow volunteer to help with this..
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M.R. answers from Chicago on January 09, 2011
Wow - helicoptering!
She probably mentioned the not keeping his hands to himself because, even though he is a precious little angel, he needs to know that he will be held accountable for his actions. Saying he had problems with distraction is not akin to juvenile detention or telling him that he's completely out of control. It is totally NORMAL for her to tell you in front of him. Don't worry about his self-esteem getting crushed by this; he needs to know you know and that both at school and at home that proper behavior will be reinforced. The behavior is normal but does need to be addressed. He's not going to hate school because he's been called out one time...
Unless you plan on forking out thousands of dollars a month, you're not going to get a preschool program that has an automated curricular model. It's preschool. They're 3, 4, and 5. At that age kids learn by playing. They learn that when it is circle time they sit quietly with their hands to themselves - and if they do it, they will gently be redirected to not do that behavior again. When they get in elementary school, this sort of behavior should already be sorted out, so think of this as a learning experience for your child. A lot of what they do on a daily basis will be learning through play and not strict, regimented lessons.
If this school isn't living up to your expectations then you always have the opportunity to pull him and find another one that does.
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B.K. answers from Chicago on January 09, 2011
Please don't let it break your heart that your son heard he has some areas to work on. All kids do things that are wrong, and they need to hear it and change their behavior. As much as we want to believe our kids are precious, perfect angels, they aren't. I've raised two that have had their moments. If they needed to be called out on something, that's just life.
Someday he's going to be a pre-teen, and a teenager, and there probably will be issues and he needs to learn to hear from others what he needs to correct. It shouldn't be a big secret that only mom and dad get to tell him.
This is just pre-school. You have a long road ahead if you are this upset over what is basically structured playtime.
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