Today I'm going to rant a little bit about something that affects, I'm guessing, no one who reads this stuff. But I don't have anywhere else to go with this, and it's festering, and I can't stand the fester any longer. So I'm going to talk about preschool. Please feel free to skip right on by.
This is the third year I've had a child in this particular school, and the second year that child has been Sabrina. For Sammy, they had a program that we really needed, given his extremely late summer birthday, communication delays, and the lack of support for such kids through our school district. I was so happy to find a 5 year old pre-K that would allow him an extra year to mature and learn before jumping headlong into real school (and not to terrify you, parents of younger children, kindergarten, around here at least, is real school, but that's a discussion for another day). This was the place where we discovered that Sammy needed more than just speech therapy, and even though that was a grueling and frustrating journey to go through, I'm glad we went through it here instead of a bona fide general ed classroom. So, when Sabrina was 3, I didn't hesitate to enroll her at the same school.
And her 3 year old year was tremendous. She was constantly learning new things and amazing us with them, to the point where she stunned a random group of grocery stoppers with her knowledge of various varieties of apples. She loved her classmates (except for 1, and there's always 1, isn't there?) and her teachers were clearly meant for this role. 4 year old class was a no brainer.
At the end of the previous year, the longtime school director retired. You might see where I'm going with this.
The first thing that happened was our tight little class of 12 was broken up among 4 classes. Now, I wasn't really surprised by this because I get that classes are jumbled year to year, but I thought maybe with preschool, they might just bump the whole group up. No biggie - I just wish I'd known that I could have requested certain teachers or classmates and have those requests taken seriously because I sure would have (as apparently some parents did). But when the year started, I just didn't get a good vibe from the new teachers or the new director. I tried to brush my gut aside for the most part and just let Sabrina go. But now that we're 2 weeks away from the end of the line, and I don't have any more children waiting in the wings, I can say my gut was right and I am disappointed with how this year has gone.
Sabrina hasn't learned near as much as she did the year before, and this is the time in her life when she should be exposed to everything so she can soak it all up like the little sponge that she is. There has been no focus at all on learning to read beyond practicing letter sounds, and while it's not necessary for her to be able to read entering kindergarten, I can see that she's ready to learn, wants to learn, and many of her classmates are chomping at the bit, too. In response to this concern, the director said that they focus on learning through play (OK, fine), don't want to push the kids to learn a skill too early (hrm), and some kids aren't ready to learn to read yet. It's the last part that gets me. If kids are taught to the lowest common denominator, then classes would never learn. I'm sure they can see which kids are showing readiness or not, and work a little bit with those who are. Why not expose the kids to some early reading techniques, and if there are some who aren't into it, let them do something more their speed.
And there are other things. They've cut out some many parties and celebrations, which weren't that elaborate to being with - just a snack, a craft, and a story really - with the explanation that some parents can't come because of work and they don't want those kids to be stressed out because of that. I don't know where to start with that one. Teachers and parents aren't allowed to communicate through e-mail. No idea why (something about in the past some parents got too friendly with teachers, so let's blame an inanimate object for that). And gee, if you didn't look at that 1 memo with a tentative schedule for the year (seriously, lots of TBD there) and commit it to memory, then it's your fault if you miss something, because heaven forbid we be reminded nearer the actual date. Gah!
The pre-K program that was so helpful for Sammy, and lots of other summer birthday kids? Gone. Just doesn't exist anymore. If your kid turns 5 over the summer, you have the options of a) going back to the 4 year old class, or b) nothing. Mind you, for years this program had a waiting list.
I think it goes without saying that the Mother's Day teas I enjoyed with my kids in years past did not happen this year.
I wish I could say something to somebody somewhere that would help future parents and teachers and improve the situation in some way, but I can't. I don't want to come off as some complaining harpy or worse, and I don't think anything I have to say will be received in the constructive way I intend it (see response to reading readiness inquiry). I just want it to be better for the kids and I don't know how to make that happen. In the few halting conversations I've had with other parents, I know I'm not alone in my feelings, and that makes me sad.
My hope is that the school realizes some of these issues and takes steps to improve things in the coming years. If I can find an outlet to tell them, I will. It really has been an exceptional environment for my kids, and I want others to be able to experience that.
And now, rant over. Onward to (gulp) kindergarten!