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Let's Panic: The Book!

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How to Endure and Possibly Triumph Over the Adorable Tyrant
who Will Ruin Your Body, Destroy Your Life, Liquefy Your Brain,
and Finally Turn You
into a Worthwhile
Human Being.

Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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Sleep Is
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Chicago Review Press

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Let's Panic

The site that inspired the book!

At LET'S PANIC ABOUT BABIES, Eden Kennedy and I share our hard-won wisdom and tell you exactly what to think and feel and do, whether you're about to have a baby or already did and don't know what to do with it. → 

« Driving me nuts. | Main | Withdrawing »

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)

Toni is very wise. You can also try things like "How can I help you to deal with Henry more positively in these circumstances?" (only not quite so pompously). Make it all about HER and HER attitude towards him. Or " felt he was sad today...what kind of techniques do you use in that situation?" Make sure you DON'T apologize for his behaviour. It is all about getting the teacher (who's job it is) to deal with Henry in the best possible way. That is what you are paying her to do!

Our junior kindergarten teacher just did not LIKE my daughter. I tried these things and got no result from them, but they totally made ME feel better!! :) And this year's teacher loves her, so eventually it will go away.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterLB
My second son just started preschool and cries every time he goes. He is also very low energy and never eats his snack.

Thankfully, his teacher is very nice and understanding about it. I don't know what I'd do if she weren't. That would bother me tremendously. I think you should definitely bring it up somehow.

Good luck.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
I agree that the Internet is scary, but oh so full of advice! Henry is gorgeous and hilarious and delightful. I can not stand baby talking adults and I would have probably kicked her already. Perhaps Henry, with his "physical" nature, will kick her for you! Not a good idea?
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterkim
Clearly, badgerbag believes that I'm too sexy. She may be on to something.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Henry seems neutral on the teacher, but he CLEARLY has the hots for the assistant. (There's a second one, but she's not always there.) Today he ran back into the classroom to say goodbye to everyone (he craves closure), shouted "BYE" at the teacher and then "GOODBYE! I'LL SEE YOU TOMORROW! I LOVE YOU SO MUCH!" at the assistant, who promptly dropped to the floor.

October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
*takes a ton of notes, especially Jen's book suggestion*

I'm in my Bachelor of Education program right now, to become (first choice!) a kindergarten teacher, and I'm wondering how I am going to deal with boys, since most of my experience has been with girls. Now I have part of an answer...NOT LIKE THIS WOMAN. I start the first part of my practicum next Tuesday in either a K/1 or grade 1 class *glee!!* and I'll be thinking about Henry when I see those low energy or physical boys. :)

And that is so cute what he said...I crave to be the teacher that all the students love.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterKarin

I have worked in a daycare/preschool as a cook. I can tell you from watching teachers all day...

RUN NOW! Go to the director... Ask if you can observe without the teacher's knowledge.. Talk to the assistants without Frowny Face around and promise you won't tell her and then find out what is REALLY going on in that class... I can tell you that alot of times you are getting the BEST version of a teacher when you see them... If she is acting like this with you around??? I would be concerned.... TALK TO THE ASSISTANTS... Tell them your concerns.. I can almost guarantee that they will tell you stuff if prodded...

Go with your gut instincts... If you are having icky feelings there is a reason...

Good luck!
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Of the South
I'm so glad Henry likes the assistant!

My oldest son's preschool teacher was obsessed with the fact that he sucked his thumb. She never stopped mentioning it, even when he was three years gone and my second son was in her class. Yeah, the kid sucked his thumb when he was 4 but he was a farging genius, did you notice THAT? I guess not. It made me insane then but now it doesn't bother me one whit now (oh yeah? Then why are you mentioning it? HM? Still laying awake at night thinking about it, aren't you? AREN'T YOU?). Come to think of it, his kindergarten teacher didn't get him either - she liked the rough-and-tumble boys and he's more of a quiet (read: genius) thinker. She kept saying he was "so sweet" with obvious disdain. But she's long gone now too. And I realize she was pretty good compared to the about-to-retire-couldn't-give-a-stuff-give-me-my-paycheck kindergarten teacher my younger son has now. Better to learn early to deal with those who don't get you. There will be plenty.

I have done a lot of child care (and am doing it now) and taken a lot of classes and have a lot of sympathy for people who teach but I also see the parents' side. I was often struck in my early childhood education classes by how the parent was portrayed as the enemy and would speak up to make the caregivers see how they sounded to a parent (and most of them were parents, albeit with older kids). It's a lot harder than it looks to deal with so many kids and so many parents and make everyone happy and not let your biases show. It's much harder to love children who aren't yours. No one can know what it's like until they do it. And some are definitely better at it than others.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSisco
not wanting to play devil's advocate here, but i've worked in daycare before (for quite a while) and used to teach the 2's/3's class. some parents in my classroom only wanted to hear about the bad things that happened that day. my kid loved the hokey-pokey? big deal. she sang the little teapot song (complete with hand motions) all day long? so what? he made his dinosaur chicken nuggets savagely attack and eat each other? i don't care! just tell me whether or not he bit/pushed/screamed/talked back/pooped his pants!

so i agree with someone's comment above: always ask her about what fun and exciting thing henry did that day. if she can't think of anything, talk to the director. there is ALWAYS something fun and exciting that a three year old is doing.

good luck!
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentertracy
oh, and baby talk is for babies. even for them it drives me effing nuts.

if the teacher keeps talking to henry like he just popped out from between your legs (and if that cutesy-wootsey baby talk bugs you as much as it bugs me) say something to the effect of "henry understands when you talk to him like a normal person." ugh. i hate the squeaky voice.
October 27, 2005 | Unregistered Commentertracy
My kid fit in at preschool, but I didn't.

I didn't drive a minivan. I didn't wear holiday-themed sweatshirts. I talked about current events and politics (not for long, the effort was always met with vacant stares from the other moms). Then they would politely move away from me and immerse themselves in a discussion about how to use pipe cleaners and cotton balls to make the "cutest birtday party favors EVER!"

Every time I had to bake, I effed up the cookie shapes.

Hence, whenever there was a parent event, I was relegated to sit alone in my cowboy boots and black sweater and grin like a drunken idiot at my sparkling, wonderful daughter.

And she would look back at me like I was the most incredible she-hero of all time, effed up cookie shapes and all.

October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterErin O'Brien
My kid fit in at preschool, but I didn't.

I didn't drive a minivan. I didn't wear holiday-themed sweatshirts. I talked about current events and politics (not for long, the effort was always met with vacant stares from the other moms). Then they would politely move away from me and immerse themselves in a discussion about how to use pipe cleaners and cotton balls to make the "cutest birtday party favors EVER!"

Every time I had to bake, I effed up the cookie shapes.

Hence, whenever there was a parent event, I was relegated to sit alone in my cowboy boots and black sweater and grin like a drunken idiot at my sparkling, wonderful daughter.

And she would look back at me like I was the most incredible she-hero of all time, effed up cookie shapes and all.

October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterErin O'Brien
I feel so hostile towards this talentless hack of a teacher.

Our precious Henry is the star of the class, I am sure. She needs a nap. Or career in the food service industry.

October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTorrey
Is it possible that she is just a bitch? Is she like this with the other kids as well? If she is just a downer (not mean) and he is getting great feedback from two other people in the class, it might be a good opportunity to teach him about all of the assholes in the world and how to deal with them. It actually sounds like he has figured out how to deal with this one. See? Even though this one lady doesn't notice how brightly you shine, everyone else still does! Even though she would rather pout, you still rock! She has problems, you don't.

Otherwise, I love the idea someone had of asking her what his good moments were that day. I think it makes the point without being confrontational. Of course, if you like confrotation, then my favorite idea is a swift boot in the arse.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterEm
Sounds like she's anti-Henry. I'd switch him. I know you probably spent ten years on waiting lists and it's harder to find a decent preschool in NYC than KC, but eh, who needs the constant negativity? Unless, of course, you can just tell Henry to avoid the wench and hang out with the assistants.

One thing we've done with the little angel's class is to form a SECRET E-MAIL DISTRIBUTION LIST with the other parents. That way you can figure out if the teachers are treating your kids differently than they treat the others. Oh, and you can plan birthday parties for the nice ones. And stuff like that. Not that you'd ever single anyone out.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDorothy
Man, I remember from my childcare days when the little boys would get a crush on you; you knew it didn't mean anything, just puppy love, but it was so sweet! And it made you feel like the best teacher EVER. Hee. Plus little boys give the best compliments: "You're so beautiful! I love you! Marry me!"

Of course as a little girl I kept asking my teenage male cousin to marry me, too. In my defense, he was pretty darn cute.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteremjaybee
She clearly needs to find a new line of work. What a tool.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterNap Queen
oh, I been there done that with the preschool (in our case, kindergarten) teacher who for some twisted evil reason, hated my kid.

I say, do what you must to advocate for your kid. I won't go into the long sad story (that did finally have a happy ending) but these evil women can do damage.

You got some good advice in the previous postings as to how.

Hug Henry for me.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterrobin
Having worked in preschools for a couple of years, I can tell you that there are some preschool teachers who don't like boys, and also some preschool teachers who don't like kids who are obviously very smart.Perhaps one of these is the problem.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRachel
Get him out of there, or at least out of her class. I could go on at length with the story of my daughter's hell in 2nd-3rd grade with the evil nazi teacher, but suffice it to say that these things matter a lot and she can do real damage. Sure, he has to learn that life=pain at some point, but 2.5 is a bit young. I don't know why some people teach -- I actually think they like the sense of power. It is very bad.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Today Henry told me that he loves his teacher because she kisses and hugs him, so maybe I'm reading her wrong. Hmm.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
Sounds to me (a preschool teacher) like she just doesn't know him that well yet. And that she's concerned that he's not happy in the classroom. She's probably more concerned with the "larger picture" of the entire class, and not getting to spend as much time with Henry as the assistants are. His charms will invariably be revealed to her. Until then, by all means, talk to her about it.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterBrooklyn Mama
I was a pre school teacher for five years. My first thought when I started reading your email was that the teacher was depressed and projecting onto Henry her own low-energy moods. Then I read about the negative comments the teacher made about Henry shoving other kids. I think the first thing you want to do is what others have suggested, ask her each time you talk to her what he enjoyed doing that day. The director of the school should be doing this, but you may have to get her in the habit of giving you some positive info on your son each day. That's what we did in my school. The truth is, unless a kid is really sick, every kid does something amazing and/or amusing each day in preschool and if the teachers are doing their jobs, they will see it and the parents deserve to hear about it.

If the other teachers in the room are positive and he seems to like the class, I woudn't go to the director just yet, not that you said you would do that. Unless you discover that she is having a detrimental effect on Henry, I would try to work with this annoying teacher first, especially if he is telling you that he is enjoying himself in the classroom.

If she doesn't catch on in a couple of weeks that you want to hear postive things about him, then go to the director and tell her that you are concerned b/c one of the teachers only tells you negative things about him but he tells you he's having a good time and the other teachers tell you he is having fun.

Seeing how the director responds to your expression of concern for your son will give you a good idea of whether or not this is the right place for your son. Good luck. I feel for you, but am glad the boy is happy!
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterlulu
Not everyone likes everyone, it's true. There's that. Some little thing could be getting under her skin. It may not be that she dislikes kids, but that she just doesn't groove on his personality (how this could be, we don't know, she must be addle-pated). That said, it's her duty not to be so personal in the classroom. It's her duty to encourage Henry's self-esteem, even if she doesn't dig his style.

I really like what grudge girl suggested. Asking the teacher pointedly what he did do that was good should get her on her toes, in a very gentle and effective way. Of course, it may not, and if it doesn't, I think you should write her a note that says, "I get the sense that Henry rubs you the wrong way a little bit. Maybe I'm wrong, but I've gotten that impression. Maybe you could think about this a little bit and the way that you approach him during the day." A note won't put her on the spot and she can read in privacy and think about it and resolve to do what's right. It might embarrass the hell out of her, but I bet you'd see a change for the better.

I also agree with Lulu, that if Henry is enjoying himself and not picking up on this stuff, that would be the best news.

A lot of people are suggesting meeting with the director & teacher ... I don't know. I would call a co-conference with the principal only after all else has failed. Doing so before you communicate with the teacher directly and give her a chance to reevaluate her shitty attitude might backfire. Going over her head with no warning would be less of a constructive move toward solving this and more of a way to punish her. Even if she's being negative to your sweet son and deserves a kick in the rear, I don't think it will contribute to a healthy solution to shame her like that, unless she refuses to improve after the two of you have tried to work it out. I never like to go over someone's head w/o giving them a chance to vindicate themselves.

I know, you didn't mention anything like this -- I guess I'm responding at this point to other commenters, rather than your original post.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjulia
Ick, I always sound like such a pedantic bitch in comments, especially when I try to give (unsolicited) advice. Sorry about that.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterjulia

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