Wednesday, October 22, 2008

I Think We Made a Bad Call

I've regaled you all before with my misgivings about HRH's kindergarten experience. I think we may have the nail in the coffin on St. Somewhere's. Here is an email (their preferred method of communication) I sent to his teacher two weeks ago. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent and not-so-innocent:

Dear Mrs. Smith:

If possible, I'd like to arrange a meeting between you and my husband, Andy and me rather than simply the TeacherEase update outlined in Mr. Madden's
Bugle email of 10/3.

Below are the topics I'd like to discuss:

- HRH's transition to kindergarten/St. Somewhere's
- Kindergarteners' daily schedule
- How the individual subjects are taught
- HRH's social development
- HRH's educational plan/goals
- In-class volunteering opportunities (for me)

I apologize if this comes across a little "rigid". I was a Project Manager in my previous life and tend to think in bullet points. Andy and I look forward to meeting with you. Ideally, a half hour prior to school would work best for us however, we will of course make ourselves available whenever works best for all.

Best regards and thank you,

Christine Manic

Here is her response:

Mrs. Manic

I am not offering conferences at this time unless there is an issue. HRH has adjusted nicely to Kindergarten and is doing well. I will contact you when conference times will be available.

Have a wonderful afternoon.
First Name Smith
I spoke at length to his last year's teacher, whom we love and whose opinion we highly value. She was very close to tears when I told her of HRH's "treatment" at the school and truly livid about the letter above. Andy is on board and he and I are making immediate efforts to remove my boy and right what was apparently a very bad call on our part.

How have you and your kids done with transitions?


~Denise said...

She won't schedule a meeting with you? WHAT? Oh my stinkin' heck.

Not acceptable.

I am glad you are pulling him out.


Jen said...

Uh oh. Would there be a certain kindergarten transitional program, at a certain school we all know and love, that HRH may be enrolling in??

Kate Coveny Hood said...

Oliver (3 yrs old) has a very hard time with transitions. He's been going to a special county funded preschool since he was two (he has delayed speech), so I've never had to deal with minimal communication.

I think that you are very smart and very brave to take action and change schools. So many parents defer to teachers (most of the time - that may be the way to go - but not in this instance). This teacher is not creating the right learning environment for your son, and your advocacy for him is at the very least commendable (if not flat out inspirational!)

Marla said...

Please make sure that, after HRH is settled in a new school, you write a letter to St. Somewhere's letting them know why they just lost a good family (as a former early childhood teacher, I have to wonder about teachers who don't take advantage of parents who want to volunteer) and their tuition!

Life As I Know It said...

Huh?!? The teacher won't set up a meeting with you until the regularly
scheduled conferences?!?
That's not right.
Sounds like you are making a good decision to leave.
Follow your gut and what is right for your child.

KC said...

-glad you are getting out
-I like bulleted lists too
-what a very UNCOOL teacher

LuckyMe said...

Sounds like HRH is doing well. Did I miss something?

Your Sister said...

I happen to know a certain other St. Somewhere that you just might love, close commute and cousins in the next classroom. Lots of volunteer opportunities. What could be better!

anymommy said...

We haven't hit this transition yet, but I am nervous about it and I would be livid if a teacher refused to meet with me about my child and their needs.

I hope the transition to the new school is much smoother!

Sue @ My Party of 6 said...

- Transition with first kid - TERRIBLE (we all ended up in therapy)

- Second kid, much better

- Third kid, awesome

- Upshot - the first ones get screwed up no matter how well we plan?

- That teacher sounds stinky. Hope they take your tuition $$ out of her salary!

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

Devil's advocate here. I think maybe if you had just asked for a conference (maybe even a phone call first) without listing your concerns you might have fared better.

"How individual subjects are taught" would definitely put a teacher on the defensive.

I'm not saying you're not 100% right--you may well be, I'm just giving you my view from having kids in school for the last 20 years.

If she were to have a half-hour conference with each parent of 25 kids at what is really the beginning of the school year she would have little time left for anything else--plus, she still has to do conference time.

Also, if she really feels like he's doing fine she might think the issue is entirely the anxiety of a parent whose oldest child has just started school.

I'm not agreeing with her--I'm just trying to give you some insight. I'd definitely want to observe him in the classroom before I decided to move him (maybe you have). That said--since this is a private school, why pay money if the program doesn't give you what you want.

Ellyn said...

Time for a word with the principal.

Good call pulling him out.

HeidiTri's said...

Wow! Most teachers would love to have parents who are so proactive and want to be involved!

I would certainly be speaking with the Prinicpal, especially if there is another class he can transfer into. If not, I'd speak to the principal after removing him from the school

Anonymous said...

Sorry ;( I kinda have to agree a bit with Jenn@juggling life. Don't jump ship yet. Transition to school is more difficult for parents than kids. If he's not having issues at school then the teacher really doesn't have to meet with you. Of course it would be nice if she did but she doesn't have to. I would tell her your concerns not bullet topics. Ask her when a good time for her to meet would be not that you are available at such and such a time. I know that is not what you want to hear from someone that is caring for your child but it's reality. You just put yourself on the bottom of the volunteer list. Oh and just so you know come middle school teachers prefer no parent involvement...teaching children responsibility and independence bla,bla,bla. Sometimes you just have to trust the teachers. And just because your paying really doesn't change the rules. sorry...

Anonymous said...

Hey there,

You may want to consider that the tone of your email did not convey a partnership mentality. Rather, the message was firmly, "You work for me not with me."

Catholic school teachers are among the most dedicated and underpaid teachers out there. They volunteer countless hours and dollars to the benefit of their students. The fact that your son's teacher did not jump at the opportunity to explain 'how she teaches individual subjects', or 'individual educational plans' for your perfectly typical and well adjusted child speaks more to her time management than a lack of attentiveness to your (not your son's) need for validation.

Count your blessings - your baby boy is doing just fine.

Limbic Resonance said...

Chris - I'm with the majority. My mother taught for 35 years private and public and NEVER would have brushed off a parent, no matter the supposed tone of the e-mail. Even if she was offended by the project manager style, she should have had the courtesy to offer a phone call, something. If she's a teacher worth her salt then she should be willing and able to help not only the students transition, but the parents as well. It's her &#^$ job. (says my mother sitting beside me). See if there is a montessori option up your way. That's how I got started and I LOVED learning that way. Sending a hug and even better, a glass of wine, your way.

Sue said...

I'd request a meeting once again. The teacher may have read the e-mail to mean that you were just looking for reassurance and that if she said that HRH was doing great, you would then feel that a conference was not necessary.

Let her know that you'd still like a meeting. If she says no, I'd definitely talk to the principal and/or pull HRC out of the school.

Jessica transitioned to pre-K and kindergarten beautifully, but had an awful time with the transition to first grade.

I worked very closely with the teacher (notes, telephone calls, in-house conferences) and things are much, much better now.

Hopefully you can work things out with HRH's teacher, but if not, I'm glad you have other options available (that other St. Elsewhere!) to you.

Good luck!!!

LuckyMe said...

I had to check back to see if anyone else read this post the way I did.

I have had kids in Catholic school for the last 16 years and I have been subbing for the last 7. My first job was one month in kindergarten in October. Spend a day there and you will find the teacher's job is overwhelming, the pace frantic, the children extremely needy.

If I got your email, I would think the parent was a bit neurotic (sorry!). It's the beginning of kindergarten. Your letter seems a bit frivolous (given there was no specific problem cited)and inconsiderate of the teacher's time. Once word of a conference gets out, everyone will be on her doorstep, thinking they should be doing the same thing. Believe me, you will be the first contact if your child is struggling.

Relax, Mom. Don't yank HRH and don't let HRH sense your anxiety.

I remember what a big decision it was to choose the school system for the first child. Try talking to a few people with older children. That should give you a good overview.

I just answered an email that was sent through our neighborhood newsletter. It came from a parent who was deciding on schools for her first.

Best wishes!

PS. emails are a great way to communicate with faculty!

Kim said...

Oh My! I'd be so upset at this dismissive response. Chin up. It couldn't get worse...could it?

Jennifer Suarez said...

That's crazy that she won't set up a meeting. She says she won't do it unless there is an issue? Well HELLO you gave her a LIST of "issues". What more does this woman need???

Thankfully my little one has been doing great with kindergarten thus far, and I know her teacher would be a heck of a lot easier than yours to deal with if there was a problem.

Andrea said...

Wow, you've gotten a lot of great feedback! Have you made your decision? FWIW, I think it was incredibly dismissive to deny your request for a meeting, regardless of how it was framed. You did not ask for advice about what to do but I can tell you as a parent of two who've nearly made it all the way through St. Otherplace (K-8), that stance is not unfamiliar. You are not likely to find an ally in the principal's office either.

Based on my own experience (which you are free to reject as irrelevant to HRH's situation), I think I'd wait until the officially sanctioned conferences, which should be coming up soon, and then try to reach some kind of common ground with the teacher. If HRH is happy and doing well, according to her, then it is unlikely to cause him any harm -- as his perception is everything.

In the scheme of things, kindergarten is but one part of a mosaic of your childrens' education, and is neither the barometer nor the predictor of their future success. It is, however, a big step from preschool. Keep your eye on HRH -- does he like it? What does he say? If you feel he's being demoralized or humiliated (according to him -- not how you would feel) then perhaps drastic action is called for. I would caution you to consider carefully any drastic moves. Even at this age, the friends they make carry through their entire school career, and if that is going well, you have won half the battle!

Don't mean to sound preachy, but I have had dire concerns about my children's individual teachers, and after eight years in the same school, I find that it all comes out in the wash (teacher-wise). And that the friends they make are the sustaining glue for them as they head into their teenage years.

Many times I've had to bite my tongue so as not to make things worse. Other times I've had to advocate for certain awareness about my children, but the operative phrase (as it is with childrearing in general) -- Pick your battles carefully!

And may I say that HRH is a delightful child and I would be heartbroken if he were actually suffering at the hands of a callous kindergarten teacher, since this is his introductory year to a world of learning.

Anonymous said...

Hi there Chris, it's Julie Cotton. Jen was telling me this story last night as I was driving home from class and I was HORRIFIED. The teacher in me nearly keeled over. I can't believe someone with so little understanding of child development would ever choose this profession. Stories like this make me want to send all the crappy teachers in this country somewhere where they will be properly humiliated, treated like idiots and constantly chastized. Maybe it's been too long since someone took the power away from them.

That might sound a bit harsh, but remember the field I'm in... I know EXACTLY who these women are and what courses they've taken. I know what they're supposed to know, and I won't make any excuses for them.

Best of luck at the new old school

♥ Julie


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