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February 18, 2010 / allyo

The Graeter’s Incident

When we got into our current daycare in 2008 we were thrilled. It’s close to home and we had friends there. The room we chose was based in Reggio Emilia curriculum and it seemed like a perfect fit. It still is in a lot of ways but what we didn’t know when we signed up to start in September of that year was that the lead teacher was leaving and that this transition would be incredibly difficult and chaotic.

Fast forward to winter parent-teacher conferences and it was clear that the majority of the parents – us included – had voiced concerns about one of the teachers. She’s in her 40s and this is a second career for her. She has no kids of her own and in a lot of ways is a great teacher. But she loses control of the classroom easily and our room was about 90% boys. To add to the problem, she’s the late shift teacher which means she’s alone with the kids at the end of the day. Every day when we picked Jamie up we heard about how bad the day had been. How disruptive he had been at naptime. How there had been a little problem during group. Etc.

After the parent teacher conferences they moved her schedule around to give her a break from the late day madness and worked with her on disciplinary techniques and her communication skills. And the year went on without much further incident.

Fast forward to summer and another teacher – the one with the best disciplinarian skills (firm but kind) – goes on her honeymoon. In a few days time chaos begins to descend. It’s Jamie’s last full week in the room before their fall break and the transfer of the older preschoolers to the pre-K room. The majority of the kids have lost their Friday home toy by Tuesday. And there’s a trip scheduled to Graeter’s that Thursday. And upon picking Jamie up on Weds. I’ve found out that he – along with 2 or 3 other kids – has lost the privilege of eating ice cream at Graeter’s. I voice my displeasure at this punishment as it seems draconian. I ‘m told that the kids need to learn that if they can’t behave in the classroom then they lose the right to do special things outside the classroom. I tell the teacher (up until now my favorite of the three and the new lead teacher for the room) that as a parent I am fully aware of this concept (not in so many words) and we practice it at home and Jamie regularly loses outings because he can’t pull it together. But this was special, this was our last week with the room, and really, could they reconsider.

They didn’t so I talked to the director who said she agreed with me but told the teachers they needed to follow through and that they needed to revisit basic discipline techniques with them. This was all made even worse at pickup the next day when Ms. Negative, the first teacher, informed me of just how disruptive Jamie had been at naptime and I snapped that she only had him for three more days.

After his transition to the pre-K room I figured we all of this was behind us, even though my aunt had warned that these situations could prove tricky and perhaps I should have complained after Jamie had left the daycare. But then the morning teacher in the new room seemed to be perpetually cranky and non-chatty at drop off. And then we had our fall parent-teacher conference and she seemed rather defensive when talking about the few problems Jamie was having with this transition. Looking back I think we had gained a reputation for being “those” type of parents. The ones that think their kid is perfect and don’t want the teachers to use any discipline. But we’re not and we had a good conference and ever since then she’s been warm and chatty.

Something I told the director was that part of my disappointment with the old room was that this center is all about family and the whole child and gentle discipline, yet, that first year, when compared to our old daycare, a more traditional center with lots of worksheets and less qualified teachers, the old daycare came out on top in terms of discipline and communication. Things are just as we had expected this year and I’m still thrilled we got in. But I’m thinking about all of this as I fill out Jamie’s school choice forms for kindergarten next year. I think he’ll do fine wherever we end up and our neighborhood school is a good one, it’s just that we live most of our lives on the other side of the freeway and would go in knowing no one. The other point here is that no school is perfect and it’ll be up to MD and I to navigate any problems that come up on Jamie’s behalf. In other words, we’re the grownups. Which is another issue altogether. Heh.


One Comment

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  1. Kelly / Feb 19 2010 9:48 am

    Uggh. How Henry ever managed to keep his ice cream privilege is beyond my comprehension.

    The Graeters Incident surely ranks as one of the biggest daycare FAILS ever.

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