Five for Friday

Christian started kindergarten this week. This new adventure came with some mixed emotions - none of which involved separation anxiety. Nor did we struggle with the sadness of letting our oldest child go of into the world of education.

Even before Christian's conception, Bekah wanted our kids to attend private schools. She was raised in a convoluted combination of home, public, and private education and she insists the quality of learning was best in private classrooms. I, on the other hand, am a fan of public schools. And so far, public schools have been good for us. Christian attended Fernan Elementary for preschool, and that class was a tremendous blessing.

I'm a product of government funded education and I turned out all right. As Christian prepared for his first day at his elementary school, I was quietly excited. The bizarre school supply list that focused on communal and sanitary supplies left me longing for the days when my parents were packing me off to kindergarten, but it failed to dampen my spirits. His downer of a teacher, however, did what budget cuts and over-crowding could not accomplish: she slaughtered my faith in public schools.

Here are the five reasons Bekah and I were not impressed with Christian's Kindergarten teacher.

1. Rude, snippish... possibly hostile. The school made a mistake and assigned Christian to the wrong class. That glitch was corrected the week before classes, but too late for the scheduled parent/teacher meet and greet. Bekah called as soon as we knew who would be teaching Christian's class and scheduled a meeting. On the Friday before the start of classes, Bekah brought Christian to the class so that he could see where it was and what it looked like while Bekah and the teacher talked. The entire time, the teacher expressed annoyance at the meeting, at my wife's concerns, and toward Christian's disability. When Bekah explained that he would need some adjustments because of Aspergers, the teacher asked how to prevent behaviors.* (note: if I knew how to prevent Aspergers behaviors, I would get rich selling my technique to child psychologists).

2. Oblivious to reality. Not only was she callous to Christian's needs, she initially didn't know anything about PDD-NOS (Christian's official diagnosis), Bekah had to explain it to her. Nor did she show any interest in learning how to work with Asperger children. But her lack of knowledge spanned beyond the realm of neurological disorders. She didn't even know what what on her students's supply lists. Not once, but twice during the parent orientation, she mentioned that she was unaware what was on those lists. The first is when a parent asked where to put the erasers (an item not on the list) and the second when another parent expressed disgust that the supplies were to be shared by all of the students rather than for his child alone. (Why his kid needs dry erase markers and a whole bottle of hand sanitizer, one could only guess.) On each occasion, the teacher specifically stated "I'm sorry, I don't know what is on those lists." Just a thought, but as a teacher, you should probably know what supplies the students in your class are supposed to bring with them on the first day of school.

3. "I'm sure, by the end of the year, I'll love each and every one of your children." Yes, she really said this. By the end of the year? Why so long? Is it because they're finally leaving? Why not by the end of the week, or even by the end of the month? And what if my kid is the one that it takes you a full year to love and appreciate? What will that teach my son? I mean, I know my kid can be challenging, and it might take some time to warm up to his quirkyness... but c'mon. If it takes you 9 months to figure out how to appreciate a child, you should not be teaching kindergarten.

4. Humiliation of parents. I get it. Some parents over-estimate the abilities of their kids. I probably think more highly of Christian than other adults in his life, but that's a part of being a parent. You're supposed to be proud of your kids. Your supposed to brag about them. And your supposed to remember all of the embarrassing things you kid does so that you can bust out the best stories when he brings home his first girlfriend. Thats the circle of life. We know that we exaggerate our kid's capabilities. Do teachers really need to point it out to us? Well, maybe. It might be good for a kindergarten teacher to tell us that kids might not accomplish all that we say they're capable of doing. But when telling us this tough news, there's no need to single out a specific parents with a highly detailed example. That's what Christian's kindergarten teacher did at the parent orientation. She told a story of a kid (whose parents were in the room) that went through the pre-entrance skills testing and could not pass the reading test to the difficulty that they expect students to pass at the end of kindergarten. What made this student special is that the parents told the teacher their kid was capable of reading at the 2nd grade level. "So," she told the group of parents, "just because you think your kids read at the 2nd grade level doesn't mean they can." Way to not only embarrass a student, but to publicly humiliate some parents.**

5. Inappropriate and condescending accusations. On Wednesday (the second day of school) the class colored pictures. The fate of those pictures are a mystery. Some of the kids might have taken them home, some pictures were in cubbies, and inevitably some ended up in the trash can. When Bekah picked Christian up, he wanted to show off his picture. Problem, he couldn't find it, and he was highly distressed. His teacher's reaction: (spoken in a accusatory tone) "Well, that's why I told you to put it in your cubbie." Implication, if you had of followed instruction, you wouldn't have lost your picture. But there's a dilemma. The cubbies were not labeled on the first day of class, and by the time they were labeled on the second day, the labels were printed in tiny fonts - virtually unreadable to 6 year old eyes. So even if he wanted to put the picture in his cubbie, didn't know where to find it. The teacher told Bekah that this was the reason that she didn't give the kids anything important for the first couple of weeks - they're prone to lose things. Unfortunately for that moment (thanks to Christian's Apsergers) any picture he colors is of the utmost importance. He cherishes all of his artistic creations. With a half-hearted search, the teacher picked up a random picture and asked Christian if it was his. No. "Well, Christian," she said with a hint of condemnation, "This is why I told you to write your name on the back." When the picture was found, it had his name on the back. He did write it there, as instructed.

Today was his last day in public kindergarten. He starts private school on Monday.***

* Her reasoning? "There's only one of me."
** The parents in her example were not us. Christian loves math and science. But he struggles at reading. We'd be happy if he recognized the word "the."
*** Ironically, the first kindness Bekah observed was after Bekah informed the teacher that we were pulling Christian out of the class. "Oh," she said, "that's too bad. He's so much fun to have in class, and he's really smart."

ps, Bekah wants me to convey that the teacher not a bad teacher. She's probably not a tyrant. But she probably shouldn't be teaching kindergarten. My guess, she'd be better suited for 5th or 6th grade. She seemed (to me) to be jaded. And kids shouldn't have teachers like that until they've been in school for a few years.


  1. I'm glad you decided against public school in the end. I'm sure you're right that the teacher isn't a "tyrant", but I really can't see the public school system trying to be helpful in your child's case. Actually I could see her acting the same way with another child that wasn't diagnosed with a condition. Just from the news I've read and the stories that I've heard of some of the public school teachers I understand that they can be rather uncaring.

    Though as a warning, there's no guarantee that private school is the best bet. I'm 18 and I left a private Christian school when I was in fourth grade to homeschool and that's about when private schools started going downhill. I've heard stories from others about the "horrors" of private school and experienced some of the lesser ones when I was in private school. I don't think it was as bad since it was a Christian school, but the school was slowly leaving it's principles.

    My advice: Homeschool. I understand some people can't, but if you can try it for a year to see how it works I highly suggest doing so. I'll never regret that decision my parents made since I'm now in college and I'm either level with or head and shoulders above the students in my classes. You can choose the curriculum you want, supplement with classes from homeschool groups or online programs, the sky's the limit. Your child's education is up to you and there's guesswork of what he's learning or not learning. You already know your child and how he responds and how he learns so you'll know what's best for him, and if you don't you'll learn too. And there's plenty of resources and a thriving community of homeschoolers that are more than willing to help (at least that's what my family had found). I hope that the private school works out, but homeschooling is always a great option.

  2. Anonymous12:23 PM

    Good for you! I'm also parent to a child with Asperger's (now 18 and attending NIC), and I experienced similar situations throughout his education. Private school is an excellent choice.

    Christian is blessed to have you as parents ... and advocates. He will never stop needing that from you ~ ever. So do it proudly and without apology ~ ever.

  3. Carmen - thank you for your advice. Our initial plan was to endure a year of kindergarten then start home school for first grade.

    The private school that we picked is the one my wife attended and many of her old teachers are still there. We met Christian's new teacher and she was delighted to meet Christian and learn more about working with Aspie kids.

    I have also heard horror stories from private schools (the one in my home town was atrocious). Christian's new teacher's attitude soothed my fears, so we're going this route for as long as it is good for our son.

    Anon - your kind words are appreciated.

  4. Anonymous5:06 PM

    You and I are living a very similar life, although I have no idea who you are or how I got to your blog. My son has asperger's and was at Fernan for preschool last year as well. We loved it there and the experience was great for our son... just out of curiosity, was your boy attending Kindergarten at Fernan also? B/c our's is and so far I've been pretty happy with it...

  5. No, he was at Fernan for preschool, but we're districted elsewhere for kindergarten. Fernan was phenomenal, and I'm a little saddened that we were not able to translate that fantastic experience into the new grade.