Friday, March 25, 2016

Amazing Visit

We visited the potential new school yesterday, and it was. . .pretty close to perfect.  There was giant, beautiful playground space--creative, hand-built stuff that is SO MUCH FUN.  The kids play outside for a couple of hours a day.  There are two certified teachers in each classroom.   There are animals:  bunnies, dogs, birds.  They have a science lab.  It is bright, beautiful space.  They seem very nurturing and child-focused, and were so very focused on and concerned about our child's well-being.  And they were so very, very kind to us.  I can't tell you how much I valued their concern for our daughter, and for what she's experienced this year.

We haven't worked out all of the financial details (indeed, they sent me a contract for the full year's tuition, which I pray is NOT what they want me to pay!), but that's the only thing that remains.  I'm a bit worried about that part.  It wouldn't be rationale to ask me to pay the entire tuition with two months left in the school year, right?  I have irrational angst that somehow they are going to ask me to do that.  But this is the only thing we have to sort out, and I'm hopeful that we can make this work.

Honestly, I am allowing myself the tinniest glimmer of hope that we have found a solution that is going to let SB be herself, be happy, feel supported and cared for.  I slept well last night for the first time in many months.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

School Drama

Well, hello there!

Life in America continues to be incredibly busy.  More on that another time.  Today, I need to talk about school.  Specifically, SB's school situation.  As I wrote last time, she's had a tough year. We've been limping along, trying to make it to the end of the school year at her current school, because the PK-4 teacher is pretty great.  But increasingly, it became clear that we just. . .can't stay.

SB's teacher has been increasingly hostile to us.  We've tried to keep it super positive, asking her in parent teacher conferences to be our partner and to work with us.  It fell on deaf ears.  She would promise to work with us, and then the very next day, it was back to the same old stuff.  She insisted SB nap, for example, and the child hasn't needed to nap in more than a year.  If SB didn't nap, she received the message that she was "naughty."  The teacher claimed that there wasn't anything she was saying or doing to make SB think that, but the persistent, pervasive message came from somewhere.  SB is really starting to internalize that she is a "bad" kid.  Some of the lines she regurgitated at home also clearly came from things some adult at school told her, as it wasn't her vocabulary.  I've been astounded that a major American school system could have professionals who are so. . .unprofessional.

We made an appointment maybe six or eight weeks ago with a well-regarded behavioral pediatrician, to talk through some of the things that have been going on.  One of the things we've learned this year is that SB has more than ordinary difficulty with change.  She also has some self-regulation issues, in addition to being very high energy, and can be inflexible.  These things are just part of who our lovely, rambunctious, sweet girl is, and things we've been working with her on at home.  But the teacher has been so unwilling to work with us, and SB has been so unhappy about being at school that we felt like we needed professional advice to help us sort through whether it would be better to withdraw her from school now, or to let her ride out the school year, given her personality.  Or maybe put another way, to help us sort through what was the lesser evil.  And this, of course, is all setting aside whether we could even find a spot for her at this point in the year.

To be honest, I expected the doctor to tell us that given her personality, it was better not to change schools at this point in the year.  I mean, that's a major change with two months in the school year, and then she would have to make another major change for summer break.  But when we met with the doctor, he was taken aback by some of the things we told him.  I won't get into detail here, because some of the things that have happened are so specific as to be googleable, but he basically said that he'd never heard anything like one of the things that had happened, in particular.  He said he came into the meeting prepared to suggest that we consider hiring someone to come into the classroom to work with the classroom teacher on additional skills that might be useful to her (who knew that was even possible), but that what we were telling him was too far beyond that point.  He recommended we take her out of the school now.

That was a week or so ago.  He gave us a list of schools that he thought might be a good fit for SB.  Some of them we immediately ruled out, as they were half day programs (with two working parents, not doable), or otherwise didn't work, location-wise.  Some had no slots.  I toured one yesterday morning, and felt like it would be a poor fit.  Finally, mid-day yesterday, I connected with a school that I think would be a very good match.  It is insanely expensive, but at this point, that is almost an irrelevant consideration.  We can't put a price tag on SB's wellbeing.

As I was emailing the school director about a meeting time for today, my phone rang.  It was SB's school.  The woman calling was the acting principal.  She hemmed and hawed, and I literally had no idea what she was talking about.  I had to tell her several times that I didn't understand why she was calling, because she was being so vague and circular.  Finally, I got the story out of her, and it dawned on me that she was being very careful for liability reasons:  SB's teacher was seen hitting her, and they had initiated a police investigation.

Shockingly, they declined to remove the teacher from the classroom during the investigation.  They said that the police had talked to some witnesses, and no one could corroborate the hitting, and they had already spoken to SB, and she had denied that it had happened.  This call was at about 4pm.   T had already picked the kids up from school by the time the acting principal called me.  They didn't mention one word to him.  I cannot even imagine what they were thinking, on so many levels.  I get that teachers have rights, but their first job is to protect children.

The principal also asked me if SB had said anything at home, and I burst into tears.  A week or so ago, she told me that her teacher had hit her.  It was in passing, and I could get no more details out of her, so I just thought it was one of those things that kids randomly say.  She often complains about children who won't play with her, or another child hitting her, and I just. . .let it go.  I feel terrible.

I told the woman this, and I also told her that SB won't be returning to the school.  I told her that SB's teacher has no place teaching preschool (it's only her second year as a preschool teacher).  I told her that we have had issues all year, and we are done.  It's not the first time that I've expressed my dissatisfaction to the school administration.  They have seemed really ill-equipped to address substantive issues, unfortunately.  She seemed at a loss for words, and mumbled something about doing what they could to help us find another spot for her.

Hopefully, our appointment today at the private preschool will go well.  Hopefully, it will be a good match.  Hopefully, we can make a positive change for SB.

Honestly, I never imagined that moving back to America would involve this kind of drama.