Suddenly between schools

What a difference a few minutes of careful observation can make.

We're withdrawing Kent from his school. I wrote a letter to the school's director last night and plan to drop it off this afternoon, pick up his things, and start researching other schools in town right away. Here's the middle part of my letter — the formal tone isn't one I'd normally take in my blog, but I wrote things out the way I wanted to and don't have the mental energy to reword it for the blogosphere. So this is from the voice of Business-Letter Erica, not Blogger Erica.


"We will be withdrawing Kent from your school, and I wanted you to understand our reasons. I have concerns about [Kent's teacher] and the way in which she interacts with the children in his class, and I no longer feel comfortable bringing Kent to school under her care.

"There have been several instances when [his teacher] has referred to him as "lazy," either because he will not stand up and come across the room to her when she calls him, or because he does not usually take initiative to feed himself at lunchtime. She has also scolded him on a few occasions for crying when I dropped him off in the mornings, something that I disagreed with but did not bring up to her. I tried to dismiss her language as mild frustration with what can be a difficult developmental age.

"However, I came to school early this afternoon to pick Kent up, and since I saw that [his teacher] was in the process of changing diapers after everyone's nap, I waited outside the room and watched through the window so I wouldn't disrupt what she was doing. While standing outside the closed door, I heard her ask Kent to stand up in his crib so that she could change his diaper, and when he didn't (after she waited only a few seconds), she said, "You're SO lazy!" grabbed his arms and pulled him very roughly to a standing position so that she could lift him out of the crib. In that period of only a few minutes, I also saw her slap the top of [one girl's] crib very sharply to get her to sit back down, and after she had changed [another girl's] diaper and she was sitting back up, [the teacher] pushed her head in what looked like it was intended to be playful, but [the girl] almost fell back over.

"I don't think that what I witnessed was abuse, but it did upset me enough to realize that between the physical behavior and the language I've heard her use in front of the children, I will not be bringing Kent back. No matter how old he is, I don't think it's ever appropriate to call a child lazy. That sort of language does not shape children's behavior in a positive way; it simply leads to their feeling bad about themselves. The Day School handbook assures parents that teachers will use a "positive approach to discipline" and that "derogatory remarks" will not be made in the presence of children about any individual child, and I feel that she has failed to deliver on both of these promises.

"These behaviors lead me to wonder what [his teacher] thinks is developmentally appropriate for one- to two-year-old children. They don't always understand why adults think they ought to do something in particular, and they are not naturally obedient; they like to please, but it is not always clear to one-year-olds why following directions is expected of them. They can be taught this over time, but I believe strongly that using negative language and rough physical behavior are detrimental to a child's maturing process, and that they deserve more compassion, patience, and understanding. Also, one-year-olds sometimes cry; it's the best way they have of expressing their emotions before they develop language, and scolding a child for expressing his sadness at having to say goodbye to his mother is, I feel, very inappropriate. I'm sure that educating teachers on these things is part of what you do each year, but I will not keep my child in an environment that I feel is hazardous to his social or emotional development."


I've had nagging concerns from the beginning, things that his teacher said that bothered me or differences we seemed to have about how to solve problems, but I kept excusing them, thinking that I would probably have issues with any teacher and that these things weren't a big deal. Yesterday afternoon, though, I suddenly realized that I couldn't take Kent back there. I felt all the rest of the day like I'd been punched in the gut, and every time I opened my mouth to talk about it to Jack or my mom, I couldn't keep myself from crying.

Since the school is attached to our church, we didn't feel the need back in the spring to do any research about other places. We both assumed that since we love our church and find it to be a supportive community of mostly like-minded people, the school would be a great place for Kent. I've learned more recently, however, that they're very separate entities with almost no crossover in administration or, seemingly, philosophy.

I feel heartsick about the whole thing. It's a difficult situation, even though the decision itself wasn't difficult at all. I keep feeling the need to replay events in my head in a sort of montage, I guess to convince myself that I have sound judgment, because it really is coming down to only my judgment. I didn't fall asleep until about midnight because I couldn't stop running over the whole thing again and again.

In the end, I know I've made the right decision and that we can do better for Kent. Still, it's an upheaval, so I'd appreciate any good thoughts you can send our way as we try to find a better fit for us and figure out what to do in the interim. I'm getting more of my diss work done in the evenings now, so that won't come to a crashing halt, but advisor meetings will be more difficult, and I'll be leaning on friends in town to take him for a few hours at a time every so often.

I just can't believe how quickly it became clear yesterday that I didn't want him there anymore. I'm so glad my advisor cancelled my meeting and that I hadn't checked my email, because that's why I was on campus with nothing much to do and why I ended up going early to pick him up. How Fate does bring things to light.

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Bless you. Do the research, interview the teachers, and check on them. And check again...you did the right thing.
Aww man. That's too bad. I promise not every school is like that. Does LA have a rating system? NC has one and it's based on a lot of things like ratios, certifications, etc. We love our current school because their priority is the kids. Our previous school was all about the bottom line. I could go on and on about our experiences. You should research, get references, visit at different times of day to watch drop offs, meals, etc.
I agree you did the right thing. Go with your gut and it's definitely all about what is best for you and your family. You can't worry about hurting the teachers' or directors' feeling.
Erica, I am so sorry to hear about this. I would be FURIOUS. I think you absolutely are making the right call on finding a new place-you have to trust your momma instinct--it is almost always right! I'm sorry we don't live closer--Kent could come and play with John, Gracie, and myself! I hope you have somewhere wonderful for him. Hugs to you and Kent for enduring what seems like a horrible situation. Good for you for taking action! Heather
Good for you. You know you are doing the right thing, and you are A GOOD MOTHER!! You listened to your heart and you know what is best for Kent. Best of luck to you on the search, we'll be thinking about you!
Aww, hugs. What a stressful position to be put in. Of course, your actions were exactly as they should have been. I know how easy it is too get stuck thinking of these things over and over... Try for a distraction that takes you out of yourself.
And more hugs!

How horrible. Trust the Instinct. You're right to do so. And best to you as you look for a better situation for your family. (Maybe someone in your LLL group or the AP playgroup can recommend something?)
I totally agree with you. That is terrible. I have worked at 3 different preschools/daycares since college and I have seen the huge difference that can exist between schools and also between teachers. One school I worked at had teachers that behaved as you described. The best school I was at (Myers Park Baptist) was excellent. However, the teachers behaviors varied from class to class. There was one teacher that was kind of harsh, yet the teacher I worked with was very caring. That's where I received training through NAECY. If you can find a school accredited by them, that is a good start. They have rigorous guidelines. Check out the organization online.

I would NEVER call a child lazy at any age. Totally inappropriate. I am sure you have all those images stuck in your brain, but I am sure that although the care was not stellar, Kent is probably not scarred for life, and you are doing your best as a mother.
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