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Everything I need to know I kindergarten orientation

Last night was the Big Kindergarten orientation. We walked in with misgivings and concerns. We expected/hoped to have them appeased. We wanted to leave feeling ridiculous in ourselves, in our worries. We wanted the school to show us how awesome it is. We walked out discussing home schooling and wondering whether any private schools would still take on a charity student.

Let me ask: what does orientation mean to YOU?

How about this: an introduction, as to guide one in adjusting to new surroundings, employment, activity, or the like.

Me too.

Here's what it means to our local elementary school: Keep parents waiting outside in heat and humidity until 6:00 on the dot at which point you throw open the doors, herd them through the entry hall like cattle and then...that's it. We were ushered into the school where it was every man for himself.

We stood at the end of the entry hall and noted with dismay that the main corridor split off into two directions. We had no idea where to go, who to see, or even who to ask. That would have been nice to know.

"Which way?" I dumbly asked my husband, as if he knew.

"I dunno, a lot of people are going left, let's try that."

"Okay," I said, thinking if this were a bridge...

We shepherded the two wee girlies to the left. And swam along with the hordes of people, big and small. Some of them stopped at a wall and gazed at some paper hung there. It was a mystery what it was and the purpose it served. That would have been nice to know.

"What's this?" I dumbly asked my husband, as if he knew.

"Looks like paper hung on the wall," he explained.

"Thanks," I said sarcastically, edging my way forward to see. "Oh, look, it's class lists." I jockeyed forward and leaned over a woman who was not gifted with a height much above five feet, as I was. Tall is always a blessing in these matters.

"Here!" I cried triumphantly after about ten minutes of searching, "Here's Patience's name!"

"Great," my husband called back over the crowd, "What's that mean?"

"I don't know, but I think she's in the canine class!"

"They don't name classes in elementary school, Jules," he called back.

Hmmm. Probably true. Oh I see, it is a ROOM number with grade designation. That would have been nice to know.

We swarmed a bit down a hall, and noted more small pieces of paper with teachers' names on it. Not ours. We swarmed down another hall and eventually found our teacher's classroom. Not easy. It's a jig, jag and jog from the main corridor. There were no maps, no directions, nothing. That would have been nice to know.

We walked in and I glanced around the room, overwhelmed, largely with confusion. There were a couple of families in there already. The kids rushed in to check out the centers. As I would have guessed, Persistence made herself right at home. Patience, as I would have guessed, stood in place a bit longer, slowly surveying the room. She decided to try the home center first, and went there to investigate. That's what Patience does: investigate. Other children madly, loudly, happily played, even interacting with one another. Patience would quickly scurry away if another child came up to her, or would turn her back or shoulder as a sort of shield between herself and the other child.

She ran back to me and hid at my legs after a person spoke to her. "Hey, honey," I encouraged, "It's okay to say hello. These are the children who will be in your class starting Monday. You don't have to become best friends right now, but you do need to use Manners and be Polite. When someone says hello, say hello back." She shook her head hard no. Realizing her ally had abandoned her, she gave me an evil eye and walked to the book center.

My husband and I exchanged aggrieved looks. To anyone else, her careful investigation of the room might pass for comfort in the space. It is curiosity, but we also knew she had shelled herself up. The more crowded the room got, the thicker her shell got. She rebuffed every child. I can't force her to be friendly; I can only guide her to ways she can at least be nice. I walked over to join her at the book center, and she happily displayed two of her favorite books, The Napping House and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.

"Patience," I said calmly, "It hurts feelings when you give mean looks and turn away when someone says hello. That's not okay. You don't have to be buddies, but you do have to be polite. When someone says hello, wave or say hello. Before leaving, wave again or say goodbye. These aren't Strangers, they are just people you don't know. But they are children who will be in your class and you need to be polite."

She gave me her usual defiant, inscrutable stare and I tried hard to tamp down on the aggravated impatience I get with her in this matter. I swallowed the words that wanted to tumble out, "For God's sake girl, get a grip! It's a CHILD and all she did was say HELLO very quietly and shyly...she could make a nice friend, stop being so RUDE, say HELLO. It's not an option, YOU SAY HELLO!!!!!"

At this point, my understanding is eroded. There is nothing wrong with her. She's old enough, it seems, to begin using manners and being aware of how she affects others. She need to be kind. I always tell her this. She nevertheless too frequently skips through life only self-aware, not aware of others. As her mother, I worry, and wish I were better skilled, I suppose, although I wonder if that asks that I be more of a sculptor than parent, re-molding her from what she is into what I know the world expects her to be.

I respect and value who she is, as she is. I try to make sure she knows this, and does the same for herself. But somewhere I have failed so far to communicate that she must do the same for others. She can't always expect the world to bend around her, accommodate her way.

I know all too well that it will not.

And I also know that begins now, in kindergarten.

I noticed that amazingly we do not know one single child in this class. I am simultaneously relieved and frightened. I know if there was one familiar face she'd settle down more easily. I also know she'd latch on to that friend to the exclusion of everyone else.

If you don't have one, it's hard to help you understand how painful it is to watch your child in a scene of children like this, knowing that yours is the one out of sync with the rest, and yours is the one who will have her heart hurt time and again because of it.

I wish I had words for how broken my heart is over this. I wish I could explain how difficult it is to know that it is my job to help guide her in life, to give her the tools she needs, but to find that I lack the tools I need to do this. I mentally and emotionally wring my hands time and again about this. I read, I ask, I try. I feel, too often, like a helpless spectator, watching a boat without paddles, rushing downstream. Do not mistake this for giving up, it's not. It just feels, sometimes, as if all my efforts are for naught.

In moments and situations such as this, I often second-guess myself, at least for a minute.

I gave Patience's back a little rub and walked over to my husband, where he still stood by the door. Other than parenting, we were still unsure about what we ought to be doing.

While we stood there uncertainly, some parents entered behind me. They stopped to talk to the woman standing by some cabinets. She had smiled at me when we walked in, but said and did no more than that so I assumed she was one of the moms.

The parents introduced themselves and their children, and I thought, "Dear God, I've already blown it...introductions. Damn. I hate that. Friendly, right, be friendly. Pretend you are not shell-shocked and make nice with people." As my husband and I swung to do the pretty with the other parents, I heard the woman say, "Hi Small Child, I'm Mrs. Kindergarten Teacher."

And my husband said, "Holy crap. Is that the teacher? My God. Should she have a chair? Is she...about to drop a baby, or more???"

"Don't assume things," I hissed. "After childbearing the belly is..." and then I got a good gander and well. Sometimes there is only one assumption to make after all.

My husband and I froze and stared at her clearly very pregnant belly in stupefied fascination and horror. Here we were already freaking out about how rough our daughter's transition will be into kindergarten (and our own, let's be honest), knowing how slow to warm she is, how difficult it is for her to build trust and relationships, the behavior we'll have to deal with until she settles down and so forth and...well, her teacher is clearly a short timer. We looked at each other, utterly distraught.

"Oh look, you're pregnant!" we heard a brave parent exclaim, "When are you due?"

"Beginning of October," we heard her reply.

One month in, max. She reassured the parent she was speaking to that she'd return but my husband and I sat and counted the number of transitions and months of pain this would mean for our family and felt sick.

I felt like a rapidly deflating balloon. All my reassurances to myself how FINE this would be and how FINE it would go and how FINE we'd all be...poof.

We hung out in the room for a bit, trying to digest and process everything. I am a person who plans. I expect plans. I like plans. I expect plans to be communicated. I want to know what I am supposed to be doing. I need to know. So it was shell-shocking to stand in that classroom with a teacher who stood to the side and waited for us to figure it all out, I guess.

I admit that yesterday was not one of my good days. I'd had to take a lot of medicine to try to compensate and was feeling like a sort of pale hologram of myself. However, I wasn't so badly off, and that doesn't explain my sharp husband feeling the same way: lost.

After a while, during which we sort of waited for It to Start, the teacher called out over the din, "There are papers outside, and I need parents to sign up on those sheets."

Another mom and I hurried out to the hall, both probably glad to have something to do. The teacher hustled behind us, suddenly invested in what we were doing.

"Here," she said, pointing to some markers, "Just fill out all the information with one of these, on that sheet."

I turned to see, with great dismay, that she was asking me to put down all of my daughter's private information on a gigantic sheet of paper, large enough for astronauts on the ISS to see, with a wicked bright marker that probably glowed in the dark. We already wrote most of this on a registration form, I thought, and at the last school hey every school we write this on paper they file for privacy.

Nevertheless, I dutifully wrote out the information. I hesitated at the "how your child will normally arrive and depart from school" block. Other parents had queued up behind me, creating a traffic jam in the hallway. I felt pressured. I carefully wrote, "Car or walk, with mom or friend," and felt worried. At preschool you carefully write in names of people who are allowed to pick up your child on an information form, and they have to go to the office, and show a photo ID, even if they've been there before. I like that. It's logical, organized, controlled, safe.

This feels...crazy. It hit me like a ton of bricks how difficult this was going to be, transitioning into public school. I'd suspected, remember, but had hoped to be proven silly. Everyone who had already traveled this path had told me I was silly, and it was no big deal. It's like childbirth, I thought, everyone forgets how hard it is.

After about twenty minutes or so, I started to regain my wits. I thought of a lot of questions, now. Probably the exact same ones the other parents who had clustered around the teacher thought of. A little presentation would not have been amiss, I thought.

My husband steered me to a low table covered in papers. "I think we're supposed to look at these, maybe take some." That would have been nice to know.

I saw some information sheets, and some sign-up sheets for snacks and parent helpers. I signed up for both. Took one of each of the others. Then I returned to the front of the room, to the teacher.

"Hi," I said, introducing myself, "I have a couple of questions?"

"Okay," the teacher said.

"I was wondering about..." I began, only to be cut off by two mothers who pushed their way into the room, grabbed the teacher and seized the conversation.

"How are you!" cried one to the teacher. "How are you feeling!" cried the other. Then they peppered her with questions about her pregnancy, life, family and so forth. Finally one said, "Are you having a shower?" And when the teacher nodded, she said, "Oh INVITE ME, I've been collecting stuff for you all summer."

I stood dumbly to the side. I would have moved off, but, well, in the crowded room there wasn't much "off" to move to, and anyway, I didn't want to lose my slot by the teacher, lose my chance to ask her the questions I hadn't yet had a chance to, when I finally regained her attention. So there I stood, trapped, to the side of a conversation whose participants utterly ignored my presence.

The teacher turned to me after a minute, "These are my room mothers from last year," she explained. I stared at the gushing women and I knew them. Well, their sort anyway. Hyperinvolved moms, the pushy bossy girls grown up to be inserting pushy adults. Competimommies, with a focus on popularity and being needed, not just themselves, but also their kids. I'd run across them before, but only one at a time, and rather infrequently.

I'm in a big pond now, I thought, and there will be tons of these. I know they thrive in this type of environment, so they'll be plentiful and visible. A tangible craving for the homey, safe confines of my boutique preschool washed over me. If I felt it this keenly, I can only imagine how the kids feel.

I hope the teacher likes the sort of mom who is more ploughhorse than thoroughbred. I don't snort and stamp and look real pretty, but I can cut through rocky soil.

By the time the women moved on---finished completely stamping on my conversation---and the teacher turned to me, I'd lost most of my questions. It felt a little pointless anyway.

We'll figure it out, either the easy way or the hard way, I thought, and anyway, we'll have about three weeks of this teacher, then another one, then this one back again.

We decided to leave.

On the way out we saw a few friends, including Patience's best little friend, who was sulking impressively in the hallway, "I wanted Patience in MY CLASS," she managed to choke out. Her mother said, "She's pretty upset, even though she's got other friends." I looked at the little girl. Poor thing, she's really upset, I realized, honestly doing her best to hold back tears. My heart broke for her. Patience paused to pat her on the shoulder. "We were just looking at the gym," the dad added.

My husband and I looked at one another, dismayed all over again. The rest of the school. We'd forgotten.

"This is a bizarre layout of the building, I don't know what crack those architects were smoking or why the school district would want something this convoluted," he said, professionally irked because this should have been his project and the competition got it. But I agreed; I've seen his schools and they are lovely. Very organized, logical traffic flow...tons of signage.

With minimal fumbling, we managed to find the art room, the music room, the cafeteria and the gym (with a carpeted floor, surprise to me but none to my husband who said this is common now). Then we found the playground and let the kids run crazy. My neighbor and I planned a walking group when the weather cooled. I saw some more friends. One mentioned the library and I mentally slapped myself again. Of all the rooms, how could I forget that one. Then I felt annoyed that I'd had to think of all of this on my own, with no guidance. Then I felt irritated with myself for being annoyed. Perhaps this is SOP. I hear public school is sink or swim. Maybe this is some sort of test, you know, how well can you manage in the Big School. No more hand holding, Dorothy, you aren't in Kansas any longer.

We concluded by walking quickly through the library and left. More disheartened than when we had walked in.

We had figured it out. We had gotten some feet under us. We knew we would continue to improve. We knew that we and Patience would settle in and do fine. Fine enough is another question for another day. But we also felt a lack of trust in the school, because this felt too chaotic and disorganized. We don't believe that the school will do all it can to make our settling in as painless as possible. We don't trust that the school will be there to offer a supporting or helping hand when needed. We don't feel a partnership with the school after this night. In fact, we feel it is an obstacle to overcome. We feel confident that we'll figure this out and do fine because we believe in ourselves, and this is the only source we believe we can depend on. So far.

I can't tell you how fish out of water we felt last night. I can't find words to express how out of our place, time and element we felt. Perhaps...we ought to pay attention to this and not pass it off as simply charting unfamiliar territory. I saw how things are, I think, last night, and I saw how we needed to be to succeed there and to be honest? I think it might be more than simply getting used to something. I'm not sure I ever want to get so used to something that I change into...well, something I'm not, and expect the same from my child.

I hope next week will run better, and it probably will. I'm sure this will all be a faded memory soon. I'm sure we'll be old hands at this before we know it.

I just wish I had certainty that this was so because the night had gone well, instead of simply having faith because I believe in our family's abilities.

I just wish I wasn't left wondering if we made a big, big mistake putting our trust in the public school as the best environment for our daughter, our precious daughter with her grand mind. I'm trusting this school to be the partner in parenting my child. Perhaps we ought to have courted one another a bit longer; that's a pretty heavy commitment. It's not all just me, and I know that. I want her fostered and built up, not crushed under the wheels of a public system.

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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HomeGrownLife said…
I'm certain that your "ploughhorse" character will be vital to this trying first year of public school. Perhaps your little one has inherited this trait as well and will be able to stand tall and strong as she enters this new phase.
Tere said…
Great post, Julie - I'm not there just yet, but I imagine I will have similar worries. I just hope I don't have the same experiences!
Anonymous said…
Ohh, Julie I feel ya. All the things you thought were missing, were. This is one of my biggest issues with schools. This is the same thing that happened at our 6th grade orientation. I was reassured by the Administration that they are working on the communication problem, but I plan on being the constant annoying buzz in their ear until communication is satisfactory. Outreach and communication is critical. And yes, they will still hold my hand even in middle school because I will insist on it. Give the school a chance to make it up. If they don't, take your concerns to the administration. Good schools want feedback. The great thing about public school is they can't kick you out! Parents can make a difference. The truly wonderful thing is that parents can create change through their persistance and not their check book.

Today at the elementary school I helped the staff host a Q&A for new parents at our elementary. It helps ease anxiety, answer questions, and get feedback from parents on their transition. Not all of us forget how hard it is. I've now sent three and it is just hard, but schools and other parents can help.

Patience will be fine. And so will you. I think I'm going to have to post a Kindergarten 101 because someone should benefit from all my mistakes.
Julie Pippert said…
I wish you would, Kim. I'm feeling so disappointed today. In more ways even that I posted, but all related to the school orientation and experience.

They have some sort of thing planned for the second week of school. They claim they'll "reveal all' then. I don't know why we are waiting until two weeks in!

I've thought about whether I ought to somehow turn this post into a letter of sorts or email a link to it to the school.

I just all of the sudden am completely fearful of politics. The school just seemed to reek of it last night, but I could be wrong.


And please, Kindergarten 101. Please. :)
Anonymous said…
This is NOT SOP. Even in a high school there would be more of a program, more assistance, more sensitivity. I do not blame you for your frustration.

The pregnancy thing is complicated. It is so hard on kids when a teacher leaves and comes back, but the way maternity leave works, the teacher has no choice but to start and then stop the year. Ideally, the district would give her the extra frickin' month of maternity leave for the sake of the kids, but the districts cannot afford it. That said, the kids usually deal with it MUCH better than you would expect. Even kids like Patience, who sounds a lot like Zachary. You just need to do a lot of talking about it.

I am sorry last night was so lousy. I sincerely hope it is not a harbinger of things to come.


BTW - Hump Day topic for next week? I wanna get crackin'
S said…
Julie, Julie. You've captured just how I felt on K Orientation night when it was Ben's year to start K. Preschool was so homey, and he had been there for so many years...

I won't pretend it's easy, because it's not, not on you, not on Patience, not on your husband. But give it time. I know more than one person who made the decision to pull his or her kid out of K without waiting...

It gets better. Promise. The one thing that really worries me in all you wrote is that this teacher will be off on maternity leave.

But, y'know, things happen. Ben's upcoming 4th-grade teacher is dealing with a chronically ill husband, and she may be in and out all year. It's not ideal, but it's also life.

I think she'll do better than you are imagining right now.

However. I do not like large elem. schools. Ours has 2 classroms of 18-20 per grade. But yours sounds significantly larger, though that may just have been how it felt to you.

Have patience. Reassess in December. That's my assvice.

Oh, and this?

was feeling like a sort of pale hologram of myself

Beautiful image.
S said…
By "she'll do better..." I meant Patience, not the teacher. Just to clarify.
Julie Pippert said…
Emily, it seemed wrong to me. My mother has taught in schools, mainly elementary (except these last half dozen years or so) since before I was born. So yeah about 40 years. She and my sister, also a teacher (although she worked up to Director) did a lot of school prep work with me. This is not the scenario they predicted.

I know she'll be fine (that word again LOL) I also know it will add stress and complication we don't prefer.

I hope it's not a harbinger, too.

For Hump about something about school...maybe how school affected and carries into today, or ...?
Julie Pippert said…

The pregnant teacher and feeling lost bit are the most worrisome to me. Patience will shut down if we're not careful, and when that happens she won't get the education she needs.

I know things are rarely (if ever) ideal. We can deal...but I also know that the teacher and situation can set the tone for the rest of school and how much she learns and so forth.

I already anticipate difficulty...I shudder at more complications.

Thanks for "getting" and understanding that it won't be easy but thanks also for the reassurance. I know you get this sort of kid from your stories so to hear the reassurance from you is helpful.

FWIW, I think there are 5 kindergarten classes and about 20 kids in each.

In first grade this month they had to add another class, and don't even have a teacher yet. One of the moms I talked to was SO less than thrilled about that. Second grade had a similar situation.

I think it's because this area is growing so rapidly, but the district waits until the school is wait past capacity before even beginning construction on a new school. Then it's a year or so before the new one opens.

This school is two years old. Already full.

I don't keeps us in diapers (funds my husband's job).
Julie Pippert said…
Homegrown, thanks, I hope so too. :)

Tere, thanks, I hope you have a better experience. :)
painted maypole said…
Oh, I hope that Patience finds her feet at public schools, and, if you're lucky, some wings as well. Last night was parent orientation at our Kindergartener's private school, and my husband and I agreed that it was terribly run, and there was tons of information we failed to get, and that it would have been nice to know. But when I read your experience, well, ours wasn't so bad. I think that sometimes these people are great with kids, but they just have NO CLUE how to deal with large groups of adults.
Kyla said…
Oh Julie. With BubTar, we are doing the private school thing. Its a pretty chunk of change, but something we had decided on long ago. For KayTar, though, with her level of therapeutic needs, we will have to put her in the system, I'm afraid. Private just does not offer the services she needs...and out first meeting with them is in October. She's only two! Ya know? I'm not ready to be diving in these waters. But enough about us...

I am so sorry. I was hoping you'd have some fears allayed last night, rather than collecting new ones. Your Patience is such a sweetheart, she just needs warmth, understanding, and the time to get comfortable. If I were you, I'd be worrying about the same things. The teacher leaving does not seem like a good plan for any is such a change for all of them. I am just so sorry. I hope, that somehow it turns out better than it looks from this angle. I hope Patience find her niche there and is able to thrive. I hope you ALL find your sea legs in these uncharted waters.
Aliki2006 said…
Great description of that experience, Julie--you gave me awful flashbacks.

Luckily, Liam's school, although public, is very small. But what hit home with me was your description of the competimoms--ugh. His school is very cliquey, and the room mother has self-appointed herself room mother 3 years in a row now.

I'm sorry it was such a jarring experience...
Lawyer Mama said…
Uh oh. I have one of those kids, so I know what you mean. That is exactly how my Hollis is now & I suspect will be for quite some time until he learns to hide his discomfort like the rest of us.

Frankly, your experience sounds horrifying to me but I've heard similar stories from friends with children starting school. It's one of the reasons we will probably go with private schools, despite my angsty feelings about that as well.

The pregnancy thing is hard. I do remember my kindergarten teacher having a baby. (My parents were forced to answer some uncomfortable questions....) I just went & asked my mom & she said she doesn't remember me having any particular problems with the substitute teacher, but that it was at the end of the school year.
Anonymous said…
I'm so sorry, Julie. What an awful experience. Our school has a new principal and we received an introductory letter from her that did nothing but alarm me; but that's a shadow of what your night was like. I do hope this is the bad start to a good year.
You are scaring me!

We've got another year yet, but I'm already worrying.

*nail-biting begins now*
Snoskred said…
All I can say is ouch, Julie.

I don't know. What I'm reading here sounds like your intuition telling you that you've made a choice you're not entirely happy with. Do you really feel uncomfortable, deep down inside? The wondering is one thing, we all do that, but the lack of trust could be a BIGGIE. At least, it would be for me. If you can't trust them to help you and partner with you, how can you trust them to look after your child?

I don't know.. it just sounds to me like you may more concerned than you're letting on here in this post and if that is the case.. I mean what you've said here is serious enough in my eyes to merit a possible rethink about the commitment. At least a moment to look at the other possibilities and see if they might suit better..

Is it possible to still look at a few others, or is it too late?

My own mother readily admits now that she knew should have moved me out of the school I was in when they bumped me from one class to another. She didn't because the school was within walking distance of home and it would have been inconvenient to move. I wish she had acted on how she felt, because from then on school was not real fun for me. It's a long story, I must blog about it one time.

Just remember you're the one driving and if you don't think this is a good fit, you have the power to change it. ;)

Christine said…
oh this kindergarten thing is so hard! and i am sorry this night was so weird and unorganized.

and this:"I hope the teacher likes the sort of mom who is more ploughhorse than thoroughbred. I don't snort and stamp and look real pretty, but I can cut through rocky soil."

Wonderful imagery! I am a plough horse that works my ass off for my kids. I know lots of people in my kids' schools but never squeal and acts rude and exclusionary.

glad we can be work horses together!
Gale said…
:Your post brought back so many memories of my daughter. You could have been describing her to a T.
She is thirty now and I still watch and worry. But that is what moms do.
Good luck with your public school with what I read in your blog, I don't think that there will be a problem.
Gwen said…
So much to say, Jules: first, I'm sorry that your experience was so off putting. While our elementary school is by no means perfect, I will reiterate that there are several houses for sale near me. Come on up! :)

It's hard for me to know, really, how to compare my experience because my sister's two older children were already in the school that my daughters now attend, so she could help me out with all the info I needed. That's one key to success, I think: having an ally, a friend, someone else who either knows the system or can help you navigate it.

And maybe, since that's the case, you shouldn't be so quick to write off the so called "competimommies." I mean, I know that women can be oh so irritating and not very welcoming, but maybe that's just them overcompensating for the same confusion and reluctance that you feel. Also, in a real sense, their behavior doesn't have to have any impact on your life. Or Patience's, more importantly. She needs one or two good friends. That's IT. And if she only sees those friends at recess, and at lunch, she will be okay. She really will. Just because society rewards certain kinds of extroverted behaviors doesn't mean that other sorts of people can't be happy, too.

In my experience, both as a teacher and as a parent of school age children, the way the parents feel about the school/classroom/educator has a HUGE impact on how the kids respond. I know parents who denigrate teachers and admin in front of their kids, who preach the superiority of the family, or who are open with sharing any misgivings around their children, and that makes success really hard. I feel like, as far as my children are concerned, their teacher is always right, and any other problems can be dealt with far from their ears and consciousness. Maybe that's old school of me, but seriously, we demand all this expertise from teachers and yet respect them so little. It's frackin' irritating.

Charlotte never gets the "most wanted" teacher, but we always tell her that her teacher is wonderful and great and will teach her tons and she ends up happy every time (also? guess what makes a teacher popular: she's young, with long blonde hair and she gives out candy. Yup. Very important educational qualities.)

You know, Patience may surprise you, once you and Jon and all the parents are out of the picture and she's in the classroom on her own. The situation you described sounds overwhelming even for grown ups, so I wouldn't beat yourself up too much that she shut down. And it doesn't have to be a certain harbinger of what's to come. What's that saying: expect the best, but prepare for the worst? Yeah, that.

Finally, I would figure out how to e-mail the teacher. Pronto. Set up a private meeting with her, without Patience. Explain your concerns and see what she has to offer in the way of help. If she can't help you or seems not satisfactorily invested, contact the school social worker. Our school has a wonderful social worker (a former professional football player, ironically enough). Maybe yours does, too.

Don't write off public school. It's sometimes scary and always imperfect, but so is life. As you well know.

Feel better!!
Sarcasta-Mom said…
I'm going through the orientation process for my daughter's K as well. She starts next week and I still have virtually NO information on the first day of school, etc. I'm glad to know I'm not the only mom out there freaking out about the apparent dissorganization of their school.... Good luck!
Unknown said…

I feel so behind in reading your last couple of posts. I'm always saying things were crazy, but this time, I have a better idea of what crazy really looks like! ;)

The part of this post that I connected with most was your description of Patience's manner with new people. Both my children can be that way. I can offer the hope that Colin, who refused ever--in any way--to listen to any pleas, protestations, admonitions, bribes has at least grown out of it enough that he if pretty much fine now. His phone manner leaves much to be desired and he will never be mistaken for the outgoing, socially proficient kid, but he'll do.

I don't know what to say about your reservations. For all that I had a complete emotional break down when Colin started school, things were more like you expected at his K orientation which was at a private school. Marley is at public school and I don't think they do much of an orientation. However, the district choice program she is in is heavy on the parent participation. In fact, this Monday there is a meeting for new parents followed by a meeting for all the parents in the class. We have a brown bag lunch meeting every month, etc.

In fact, that might be one suggestion I would make: look for alternative programs within your school district. They might have some magnet or co-op schools or alternative programs like Marley's multi-age. (You may have already done this.) With a special school program, you still get the free education but also get a little more say... say isn't the right word... There is usually just a different approach and expectations.

I know that you and your husband will do what is right for Patience. If you end up pulling her out, I know it will be the right thing for your family. Kindergarten is hard. Your child, in a way, becomes someone else's. The system, whatever you want to call it, has so much input into her life, her schedule, the expectations of what she can/should be able to do. It is stressful.

I hope, though, that everything smooths over quickly in a way that you guys feel will show that Patience can thrive in her environment and not just make do.

I'll be thinking of you this week.
Anonymous said…
Julie, OMG, you had the same experience we did, as you know in my post-partum haze last year, we put off the all day kindergarten in public school, we're paying for it now. She left a small, nuturing, yet non-academic setting of 7 girls and 1 boy. Now we're in the big league, she HATES it, burst into tears when we entered the room (after all the similar obstacles, bad design, HEAT) dragging the 2 smaller ones while DH was still out of town for work. While our teacher is not preg., she probably 22, when I asked her simple questions, she wasn't sure??? We finally got her school supplies handled and left. Hoping for more next week and I will think of you, we don't know a single person in her class, either, some familiar faces from church, at least you have that support. We may need to meet for coffee and exchange stories. You are in my thoughts... Kelly
thailandchani said…
It sounds absolutely terrible.. and definitely doesn't sound like a good bunch of people. I'd be asking the same questions, must admit!


Liv said…
Here's the thing: If it doesn't work, you will change to something that does. You will figure out pretty quickly whether or not this school is right for P, and if it's not, another solution will come your way. Although it's somewhat different, I have had to make changes and new solutions for D. It has been okay. It's been a hassle sometimes, but it's okay, and he's okay.
Magpie said…
Lord, that sounds dreadful - I'm so sorry. I hope things get better; I would think that they can't get worse.
Ally said…
Ugh. Our kindergarten orientation night is this week, and your experience at yours is exactly what I'm dreading, since up to this point, we've also felt, each step of the school selection/assignment way, like "well, THAT would have been nice to know..."

I hope things get better for you, and go well for Patience. And whether she showed it or not, I'm sure the teacher must appreciate the ploughhorses among us. Those thoroughbreds must get annoying at some point.
Magpie said…
Hey, and Julie? I think you should turn this into a letter to the school - but DON'T offer up the blog link - or you won't be able to gripe here in the future.
Scribbit said…
You deserve the Perfect Post award, definitely! Congratulations and a great post.
Mad said…
You wrote this while I was away and I didn't see it. Julie, we have the same daughters. We have the same fears.

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