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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
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« Driving me nuts. | Main | Withdrawing »
Thursday
Oct272005

Let's get physical.

I’m beginning to think Henry’s preschool teacher doesn’t like him.

I know what you’re thinking. “Someone not like Henry? Impossible! I will hurry to her classroom and beat some sense into her!” And so I am glad I never told you which school he goes to, because I’m beginning to think you’re a little nuts. That said, I am also puzzled as to how someone could not like Henry. Yes, he can be… challenging. He knows what he wants, and he’s not easily swayed. Sometimes his motives are baffling; there’s a lot more going on in his head than he lets on. Also, he can be shy in group situations. I can imagine that when you’re faced with eleven children clamoring for your attention, the enigma in the corner might not be your favorite.

But my God, woman! Have you seen his cheeks? Have you ever looked into those blue eyes of his? Have you no soul?

He got through his transition into the World of Preschool with flying colors. But then, about a week later, whenever I arrived to pick him up, the teacher would greet me with this preschool-teacher frowny face that made me want to kick her. When I asked her what was wrong, I invariably got such comments as:

“Henry was a little sad today.”

“Henry was low-energy.”

“Henry didn’t want his snack.”

“Henry was low-energy, and sad.”

“Henry was a little…quiet today.” Frowny face. “I think he was tired. And he wouldn’t eat.”

You have to imagine all of this conveyed in this high, babyish, mock-sad voice. I’m not sure why she does that. Because oh, the urge to kick.

Anyway. So, okay. My child is apparently sad! And tired! That’s not her fault, is it? That doesn’t mean she hates him? Although when he gets home, he’s whirling about the apartment like they gave him crack! Except, whoops, that couldn’t have happened, because according to his teacher he’s a certified snack-hater.

I didn’t think too much of this the two teacher’s assistants came up to me after class, and told me what a delight he is. “He sings the Star Wars theme all day! He’s so cuddly and affectionate and funny!” “Yes, yes,” I panted, “Give me more.” They handed me a list of various things he had said throughout the day. Apparently he spent the day shouting, “Surrender, Earthlings!” They found this hilarious. Because they’re human.

Then the teacher walked by, and I said, “He had a good day, huh?”

Frowny face. “Well…” she sighed. “It was hot in the room. Everyone was a little low-energy. It wasn’t just him.”

After that I just avoided her at the end of the day. But I couldn’t help but notice, when I dropped him off, that her behavior toward him was a little… chilly. I wouldn’t say she was cold, but there was a definite nip in the air. One morning, he was unhappy, and I didn’t want to leave until I got him settled in. The teacher headed for him. I waited for her to join him, and instead she gave him a tight smile, and then turned and sat down with two other children, who were already playing with one of the assistants.

And at the last pick-up, she approached me. “Henry was very physical today. We had a physical day,” she said. Oh, I thought, she’s telling me there was a lot of running and jumping and playing? So I should put him down for a long nap?

“Yes,” she said, “there was a lot of pushing and shoving and bossing around the other kids.” “HENRY? WE’RE TALKING ABOUT HOW YOU HAD A PHYSICAL DAY, DIDN’T YOU? REMEMBER, WITH THE PUSHING AND THE SHOVING? AND WE DON’T DO THAT AT SCHOOL.”

On the way out, I said to him, “So you were pushing other kids?”

“I had to,” he said. “She told me not to yell.”

His logic is impeccable. What choice did the boy have?

Of course, on the one hand, I’m glad to know he was “physical,” and I don’t fault her for sharing a concern, blah blah blah, but on the other hand, would it kill her to once share something positive with me? One thing? Would the turning of the frown into the upside-down position cause her pain?

Reader Comments (103)

I could say a lot of cute/funny things here.God knows I am cute and funny.But the thing is, and I really want to use all caps, but I will restrain myself, what the teacher is doing is completely inappropriate.(from my point of view which is that of a cute/funny blogger who put three interesting boys through preschool). It is not appropriate to comment upon his behavior everyday after school where there are other adults and children present. It is not appropriate to "remind" him of his behavior in front of you. She needs to shut her freakin mouth and discuss his behavior, good or not, in some kind of parent/teacher meeting. In a few weeks.You do not and should not have a running commentary from her regarding his energy level or eating habits. NOT. DONE.I'm sorry.I'm not being nice.But you got me all riled up.This is just wrong and neither you nor Henry deserve to have your pre-school experience sullied by this frowny mcnasty pants.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterblackbird
Oh how this brings back very painful memories. I had a hard time reading this post.

My son Jacob had his first year of preschool last year. It was so hard for me to let him go but he wanted to so so badly. We selected a montessori school after going to an open house - i liked all but one of the teachers and was foolish enough to not ask more about her. turns out she was the main teacher.

suffice it to say my instincts about her were right. And she did not like my child. at all. here was a boy who had always been very very well behaved. almost freakishly so. people would marvel at how good he was. and yet this woman founf him troublesome and hard to deal with. why? because at three years of age and no school experience he had a hard time sitting still during curcle time and didn't like to put toys away when asked.

i have to tell you i went through a parenting crisis all of last year. i wish i had pulled him out of that place. she was never cruel to him but she was, as you described, chilly. she treated him very differently from the other kids. there were two ohter boys she also treated differently. when greeting them at the door she was col toward them.

he is now in a school we love and the teachers there fall into the 'normal' category. they love him just as he is and are happy to see him each day. it makes me so sad that Henry is having to deal with someone who is not warm and loving. she ought not be in this line of work, this teacher woman.

not surprisingly my son's behavior at the new school is better than at the last because when children are treated with kindness and respect they respond with the same. the old teacher ran her school like the military. oh if i could undo sending him there.

not that i am suggesting you should change schools for Henry. i'm just reliving my pain thru your comment section.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterhonestyrain
There are three teachers at my daughter's preschool...and two of them are just like Henry's teacher. I have YET to hear them have anything positive to say when I pick her up...even when they try to say something positve, it turns out NOT so positive.

At least there's one nice teacher...
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJill Camacho
All the above advice sounds good and is I'm sure well-taken, but I just want to say that I SOOO empathize with you Alice, even though my daughter's teacher often does have positive things to say about her. When the teacher is not enthusiastic, or is a bit negative ("W. had a hard day today"), I walk around the rest of the day with a sad and wounded feeling. If, on the other hand, she offers a cute story, or praises her in some way, I'm over the moon. I want my daughter's caretakers--heck, the world as a whole!--to see my wonderful child as I see her.

Anyway, I'm NOT trying to say suck it up at all; it sounds like you're dealing with a real issue here with H's teacher. But I just wanted to share my own feeling of empathy at what it feels like NOT to have your child adequately appreciated! [As if anything could be adequate...]

What's it going to be like when they hit 6th grade and in the throes of mean-teen life?
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermhh
When you kick her? Wear pointy shoes.

Then step on her toe with your kitten heel as you walk away . . .
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSusan
If you can't kick her, get Henry to kick her and then tell him in front of her, "Oh, Henry, I am so proud of you for expressing yourself without yelling!" Then sing-songy say to her, "We are just having a physical day today, but at least he doesn't have low energy!"
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJenn
Ergck! So THIS is what I have to look forward to. Oy Vey. Hm....how would I deal with this?

I would probably say something like:

"OH, weawy? *stupid pouty face* Weow, i can't hahdwee bwaim him becuz yoah stoopid sing-song voice and pouty face are zapping MY will to live, much less eat my snack!! AAHA HAHA I'M JUST JERKIN YOUR CHAIN!!! HA HA HA!!!! But seriously. I have to be honest with you. I find it a little off-putting that you never have anything positive to say about my son. Yet, all the aids report that he's doing great. Is he only behaving for them? I wonder why that is...." (*index finger on chin*)

*Scowl*

Then I'd take my kid out of there.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTurtlellini
This woman is just plain mean [frowny face.]
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHeidi
Yikes, someone that negative shouldn't be working with little kids. Especially darling little boys who sing Star Wars (our boys would get along well!)
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAngel
Many female teachers just can't relate to boys. They interpret physicality as inappropriate energy. "Low energy" is probably the only kind of male energy this teacher can handle. The teacher needs to learn to work with healthy boys. Blackbird's critique is dead on: this teacher's behavior is totally inappropriate. Here's some reading for the twit: The Minds of Boys: Saving Our Sons from Falling Behind in School and Life byMichael Gurian.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJen
It's probably all about her hating you, and she's decided you are a bad parent because of how you look. At a couple of Moomin's preschools I totally got the "omg i must communicate my extreme homophobia to you!" teachers who would do all the things you mention...

I can always spot them, because they act like that until they realize I have an actual Husband (tm) and then they get all overly-friendly for a while until they realize the freakitude runs so deep that even my certified "pimpin' for the patriarchy" status has not fixed it.

Can you say "projecting"!?

Also... "low energy" can mean "unwilling to knuckle under to peer pressure and participate in some annoying group activity".

heh heh... good luck!

October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterbadgerbag
Focus on the teacher assistants comments and ignore the teacher. They probably spend more quality time with him anyway.

His teacher sounds sad herself, so her perception is probably warped by her own feelings of being tired and sad.



October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjody
I agree with whoever said to chat up other parents and see if the weird comments are more common than you might think. Seems like a negative personality type to me.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentershannon
ACK. Henry has Debbie Downer for a preschool teacher.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBelinda
De-lurking.

We should take up a collection to buy you some fabulously pointy and tall Manolo Blahniks that you can swiftly kick her about the ass with.

Then we shall all pinch her tiny, ill-informed, glass-half-empty, should-really-get-laid-already head off.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterPammer
Your story makes me sad, reminds me of my son's kindergarten teacher. He was given a time out on the first day of school (for not raising his hand to speak). The school orientation was cancelled, so when we went to pick him up where we'd dropped him off he ran to greet us. She shrilled at him "Get back in line! Your parents need to learn to follow the rules!". With no orientation we'd not known that we were to wait in a different area. Each day she had another self pitying criticism to make. At the end of the first week I asked her if he'd had "an okay day" (no high hopes, you understand) and she said "He had some downs". I asked loudly if he'd had any "ups" and then announced that we were going directly to get some ice cream. I also elected to interact with her as little as possible, in fact requested that she not give me negative reports unless he actually did something wrong. I still regret not taking him out of that school.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLori
Others have said what I was going to about asking other moms what they thought.

I'd add: talk to the director. It seems odd that she's negative and cold when the assistants are so positive and warm. Bring it up with the director. Seriously.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterliz
Does your preschool have conferences? Ours are usually in November. I'd nose around about this woman between now and then, address the issue with her at the conference, and if I didn't see improvement -- like, immediately -- pull him from the school and find another one. He's only three. A bad experience here could color his attitude about school for some time ... unless you have strong reasons for needing to use THIS school, I would start looking around.

And kick her hard on your way out the door.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRuth
Umm... does she know he's three??? Even if she's bothered by his "low-energy sadness," she should be trying to either give you something concrete (could you work with Henry on not pushing others, please? It seems to be a problem) or tell you something positive he did (his vocabulary (ie surrender, earthlings) is excellent).Frowny needs an attitude adjustment or a new job, far away from minors.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterEuropean
Put me in the "kick her!" column.

My daughter's first grade teacher just UNLOADS on parents at pickup time. We have specifically stood there and demanded to know if our child did anything right that day, in front of the assembled parents. She's still a downer, but she's trying harder to not spew her frustration at our 'creative' child.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Put me in the "kick her!" column.

My daughter's first grade teacher just UNLOADS on parents at pickup time. We have specifically stood there and demanded to know if our child did anything right that day, in front of the assembled parents. She's still a downer, but she's trying harder to not spew her frustration at our 'creative' child.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJenny
Oh, crikey, can I relate to this. Tomorrow is my two and a half year old's last day at his nursery school. There were a bunch of things about the (traditional, Jewish, wealthy) school that didn't sit well with me (feminist, progressive, Arab-Jewish), but nothing I would have pulled him over. Then one day I picked him up and the teacher's assistant said "He didn't stop ALL day! He was running from one thing to the next! He kept asking me to change the CD-- what is he, a disc jockey??", all in a very ascerbic and obviously stressed out voice. Now, that wouldn't have been my favourite experience, but she did this with him in my arms and his little face... just... fell. I went home in tears and made other arrangements for November and onward. They are so unformed, these little humans, that all we can do is trust our gut instincts. My other concern about calling a conference, etc. (even though we really like the main teacher who is devastated that we've chosen to remove him) is that I know if we do that they'll be sweet as pie when we drop off and pick up, but my kid is too little to adequately tell me what goes on in the middle-- gave me the jeeblies. Sorry for the long rant and good luck with whatever you decide to do.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentermay
Eh. Preschool. Let the woundings begin. My son is lactose intolerant and I filled out paperwork that put the FAFSA to shame explaining lactose intolerance in general and how they were to give him one Lactaid tablet every day from the childproof jar with his name on it before snack, which would allow him to eat ANYTHING, regardless of lactose content. Three weeks into preschool, he got in the car crying about how "the teacher wouldn't give me any cheesy chips at snack" and "she said you told her I couldn't have any." I called the teacher at home that night and yes, for three weeks she had been denying my son buttered popcorn, cheese-flavored snacks, and cheese. NONE OF WHICH EVEN CONTAIN LACTOSE, AS MY METICULOUS NOTES EXPLAINED. Luckily, the Lactose Nazi is otherwise a very sweet and caring woman (I stalked Jack's class on the playground one day and saw her holding his hand at line-up time and ruffling his hair) who is just, sadly, a WEE BIT STUPID. And my husband wonders why I balk at calling them "teachers."
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRachelH
You should talk to Beth (Crazyus) about this. She had a lot of preschool/kindergarten drama last year.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLeah
I'm not sure what badgerbag's getting at... you look likeable to me.

I'm wondering if maybe Henry dislikes Phoney McFrowneyface as much as the rest of us do, and she can tell, so she's giving him a hard time because of it.

From Henry's reaction coming home each day, it seems like he's overjoyed to be free of her. I would be, too. She sounds a lot like my kindergarten teacher. That bitch.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterroo

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