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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
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Written by Alice Bradley and Eden Kennedy

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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.

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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'm in love with Erin above. I was the exact same mom, down to the cowboy boots and effed up cookie shapes. The schools learned very quickly never ever to call me to bake anything (they knew to default me to the list of things to send, like paper plates... it's kinda hard to mess up paper plates). And the blank stares. Oh. My. Lor.

Anyway, what I meant to add to my earlier post was that I LOVE Henry. I have walked around all day saying, "Surrender, Earthlings," and cracking up. He's going to be one of those people who, (we should all be so lucky), colors outside the lines and comes up with creative solutions. And it's great that he doesn't seem to have a problem with the teacher, since she gives him hugs. I loved the "I love you" to his aid.

Sounds like his teacher just sucks at knowing how to communicate his good points, which is something she needs to learn to do. LB's suggestion above was wonderful -- when she said, "Make it all about HER and HER attitude towards him. Or "So...you felt he was sad today...what kind of techniques do you use in that situation?"

Mostly, I just love how Alice parents. Obviously, Alice, you're a great mom, and I hope this bundle of advice only comes across as those of us cheering you on and being inspired by you, and not being bossy as if you need us to tell you what to do.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered Commentertoni
You are no doubt fed up to the back teeth with advice by now (I think I'm the 77th commenter).

But for what it's worth, if you ask to meet with the teacher and director, (and I think that would be wise), make sure the kind and human assistants are present too. That way the director will get a more balanced view of Henry's days at preschool rather than just the psychopath woman's.

Or just pull him out. Surely there's another preschool in your district? That woman is bad for your son's mental health.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSuse
I, too, am the mom in cowboy boots, but with no makeup on and I couldn't care LESS!! But thank god I think we're in a pretty good preschool. All the other (perfect!) moms don't seem to mind. I think they think it's refreshing. I give them a break because they don't have to keep up with me! : )

Our preschool has a room of video monitors where you can go and observe your child (or teacher). I bet yours does too. Use it!!

Go and take a look. See what really happens when you're not around. And I think the best thing I've read so far is that you are your child's advocate. Hell yes!! Follow your instincts and do what you feel is necessary.

But the main aspect of this whole discussion is Henry. What is best for him. He sounds to me like he will be just fine. Yes, Just FINE.



October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCarol
she sounds like my son's kindergarten teacher who I continue to dislike 14 years later. some people should not go into the teaching profession.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJulia
Your story is heartbreaking and you've had a ton of other advice....but I live in nyc so i'll throw my hat in the arena. It is hard to find a school --and to find a school that has room for your kid -- but if Henry isn't bonded to the other kids yet, you should seriously think of taking him out of there. You WILL find a mid-year replacement school.

Our school start with a home visit, has all ready had a parents night, started classroom observations and parent meetings are in a week. The school has communicated well with us what their curriculum is and what they're doing with the kids and why. it's made for a smooth transition.

My daughter is very strong-willed and hasn't been the best in the class at following directions. The teachers mentioned it only in a positive way to tell me what they were doing, that it took numerous tries to get her to do what they asked of her and made clear they were telling me so i could reinforce the learning at home. in fact, they said she was strong and spirited and that those were fantastic traits in a person and that they weren't trying to break her spirit -- which they loved -- but helping her to become part of a community. And they gave me this potentially negative (though I didn't take it that way) feedback well away from her ears. She loves school and her teachers and had no idea that she was standing out. THIS is what you deserve from a school and if there is a teacher who so clearly isn't providing that, it's a school problem.

Pre-schools just aren't big enough for a director to not notice a problem teacher and if the director has noticed and not intervened, that's an enormous problem that is not going to be solved by a meeting. A meeting which will likely only serve to put the teacher on the defensive.

Sorry to be a negative-nelly (if you knew me you could make fun of me for years for using that phrase) but your child's first experience of autonomy should be a fully positive one.
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterGen
Oh Lord - I think I love your child and I hope he eats the teacher's brain! What's not to love in that perfect little face, right? For God's sake - he's THREE, not NINETY-FIVE!
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Uggghhh.. I just reread my comments from earlier.. I'm sorry. I was just so upset at the thought of Henry being in a bad place.. Anyway...

I had to say that I, too, am the mother of a high-spirited (read difficult to deal with sometimes) child of 3 1/2 years old. She is not easy to deal with until you get to know her and learn how to bribe her. Hell the child has a better vocabulary than I do already and is doing math. Not counting. DOING MATH, adding and subtracting and the like. I keep saying stuff like "BUT she is ONLY 3 1/2, Is this NORMAL???". I figure by the time she hits first grade she is gonna be way smarter than me and then what the hell am I gonna do??? But I digress...

Here is what I wanted to say... The Surrender Earthlings thing had me giggling all day and reminded me of my daughter. My husband has taught her to say the following: (Ask Henry or the Hubby if you need to know what they refer to...)

"Don't make me destroy you!""Surrender yourself to the dark side!"

See, husbands even infect little girls with Star Wars crap...
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth Of the South
Kick her!
October 28, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterMrs. Kennedy
My son, when he was two, would look out the window and yell, "Your powers are weak old man out dere!"
October 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterSisco
it's clear that henry has special powers that allow him to see into a person's soul.

And the teacher's soul isn't so good.

He knows it.

She knows it.

She knows he knows it.

That's why she doesn't like him.
October 29, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterk
I don't want to bum you out further, but these types of teachers are EVERYWHERE.And it will continue into "real" school. One year Henry will have a great teacher that you love (and someone else HATES) and the next year it will be the opposite. I do think it's telling that Henry says he likes her. My kids have usually liked the teachers I found lacking, and they've thrived. That said, it is pre-school and you do have a choice (not so much when your son goes to elementary school. Then you usually have to ride it out, and that is super stressful!) On my 2nd son's FIRST day at a pre-school I happened to run into the assistant after class, smiled and asked how her day went. She went off on my little 4 year old like he was an unbelievable asspain and made out like he was doomed. Did I mention it was the FIRST day? He eventually had a good year (despite her) and she moved on to another job. You're awesomely funny and I wish you well. Trust Henry! He seems quite bright and he won't take any shit!
October 29, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterHD
My daughter's teacher last year told me that Bean had organized playing house and that they made the bossiest girl in the class be the dog. On one hand, it was pretty funny, but on the other hand it gave me some insight as to why Bean didn't ever really like that teacher. She was only going one day a week, so we didn't do anything, but Bean likes preschool alot because her teacher is a bit more on the ball.
October 30, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterliz
impossible. not henry. you've just run out of things for your blog and you've taken to making shit up, haven't you?i still remember henry with his fantastic 18-month-old turns-of-phrase. i thought he was cooler than you until i ran into your blog! now you're almost even.oh, and, kick her.
October 30, 2005 | Unregistered Commentersara
What? She would rather he be the high-strung boy who never sits down, never listens? Oh wait, that's my kid. The grass is always greener. I don't know what her problem is. On our own front, our teacher seems overwhelmed, and says she has too many rowdy boys to deal with, and just plain seems tired all around. But at least it's not aimed more at my own kid than the rest. She says he's not an intigator, just easily "led astray." Whatever. Kids are kids and each is different and when will teachers realize and nurture this?!
October 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCandice
What? She would rather he be the high-strung boy who never sits down, never listens? Oh wait, that's my kid. The grass is always greener. I don't know what her problem is. On our own front, our teacher seems overwhelmed, and says she has too many rowdy boys to deal with, and just plain seems tired all around. But at least it's not aimed more at my own kid than the rest. She says he's not an intigator, just easily "led astray." Whatever. Kids are kids and each is different and when will teachers realize and nurture this?!
October 30, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCandice
My sister had a similar issue with my Older Nephew's first preschool experience. It's a tough balance! Unfortunately, in life there will always be someone that doesn't like your kid, but how early do you want to expose him to that particular tragedy of life? Please let us know what you decide.

Rest assured that we, your adoring public, know that the teacher is a freaking village idiot, OF COURSE.
October 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commentercagey
I had a similar experience in kindergarten in a religious school, where my parents sent me because it promised smaller classes and more attention (Ha!) from the teacher. The aides loved me, but the main teacher (an ex-romper room lady who used her "magic mirror" as a classroom prop) loathed me in an obvious way. My mom tried conferences; she and members of my extended family volunteered to help in the classroom; she talked to the principal; etc., and nothing seemed to work out. Then she spoke again to the teacher, who told her I was "clearly hellbound" (her exact words) unless I found Jesus, pronto. I started at the public school the next week. So, if the reasonable responses outlined above don't work, it's possible that Henry's teacher is indeed a nut job, and the alternative may be to find another classroom (or school) for him. I hope it doesn't go that far, though.
October 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterJ.
Don't have kids so really can't give you much advice except that my first grade teacher told me, when I was struggling with math, something that has stayed with me ever since then. This is a direct quote. "It's okay, Dana. Girls aren't supposed to be good with math."

Um, hello? You're a girl. What the hell are you telling me that for? And, oh, thanks for being responsible for the fact that I'm 38 years old and can't add or multiply to save my life.

Anyway, my point is, other than the fact that I still hate this woman, is that this stuff can stick with your kid forever. I wish my mom would have kicked her.
October 31, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterDM
My solitary memory of kindergarten was as follows:I forgot to bring my piece of foil-wrapped cardboard for a gingerbread house.My teacher sent me walking home--ALONE--as in BY MYSELF--to get my bloody foily cardboard.Enroute, I was kicked in the shins by an angst-riddled third grader.And when I got home, my mom wasn't even there. She was at work.Ms. Dislikes Corner Enigmas is probably the same teacher that sent me home for cardboard and was ultimately responsible for the undeserved kicking of my shins.So, regarding Ms. Dislikes Corner Enigmas...I say kick that bitch.And slash her tires.
October 31, 2005 | Unregistered Commenterginnderella
Whoa, now. Whooooa. It'll all be okay.
November 1, 2005 | Unregistered Commenteralice
My 5th Grade teacher hated my guts and made my life miserable for some reason. Hopefully, that is not what is going on here.

Not only is that kid adorable, he's funny so there is probably something wrong with her that she doesn't like him. I vote with Mrs. K.

Kick her.
November 1, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCranky
Why oh why do people talk that way? Don't they realize how ridiculous and fake and ridiculously fake they sound?

I recently told a woman at church about a friend of the family who'd lost her baby full-term. It was a gut-wrenching story, another woman standing there broke down in tears. I'm not overly-emotional. I wasn't asking for tears at all. What I got from *this* woman however was an exaggeratedly stuck out lower lip and "Ooooohhhww" in a baby voice. I SO wanted to kick her. Not because of her response in *that* specific situation, just because that response in ANY situation is kick-worthy. Anyway, I agree, kick her. Or at least teach poor Henry to.

November 2, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterTracy1cg
Don't you hate it when a teacher makes you feel like caca! I had my daughter's teacher come up to me and say Abby didn't eat any of her lunch today..(In a hushed voice)..She tells me that she has told you she doesn't like that kind of sandwich. Grrr. Well actually she fricking loved that sandwich and it was the only thing she would eat for two months, but really I was trying to poison her with expensive havarti cheese on white buns with just the right consistency of squishyness. Teachers can be BONERS.

Reba
November 2, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterRebecca
Yeah, we run into this often with a particular teacher as well. Finally, I thought Franklin was a psychopath and called her on the phone and grilled her about 3 year old behaviour and my obvious failure as a parent (what can I say, I'm paranoid). Funny enough, after this discussion she is very different. Perhaps she now sees that her reports were freaking me the hell out of I don't think she realized this before.

I'm such a dork.
November 2, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterAda
I think you cursed me. After reading and commenting on your own preschool problems, we have developed one of our own. Cheers.
November 4, 2005 | Unregistered CommenterCandice

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