Friday, June 11, 2010

Still Laughing (it’s the only way to keep from getting supremely irritated)…

The assumption would be that people that work with children, either in an administrative capacity or an educator’s capacity, should have some knowledge about tact and political correctness. Um, and education. But I know (firsthand, now) that’s not always the case, unfortunately. Sorry this is a long one, but blogging helps to get it out of my head sometimes.

The upcoming 2010 – 2011 school year will be Samantha’s last in preschool. Her progress in the last year has been astounding, to say the least, but when I see what she’s going to be up against for Kindergarten in 2011, I know that she’s got a pretty long way to go. Academically, I feel like she’s either on-par with or a bit ahead of her typical peers, but socially and verbally (and physically, but I’m not as worried about that) she’s certainly well behind. I want so much to be able to give her every opportunity to be as ready as she can be for Kindergarten, and while we love the class, the teachers and the therapists she has in her special education preschool, we know she will need more. This year Sammi will be one of the oldest children in her class, a group of 2 through 5 year olds, many with speech delays. While she may be viewed as a peer model for the younger ones, this still leaves a huge piece missing – the piece that allows her to have a typical peer model to demonstrate social behavior and verbal skills of the typical child her age.

After much thought and discussion, Steve and I have decided that it would be best for Samantha to stay in her current class for 3 days a week, and supplement with 2 days in a typical Pre-K program at a private school. I think the structure that is aimed directly at preparing a child for Kindergarten will be an amazing experience for her. Samantha has no siblings. She doesn’t play with any typically-developing children, other than the ones with mild speech delays in her current class. To even be able to just spend time with these kids will be invaluable, not to mention having the structured Pre-K learning environment.

Today, after putting Samantha on the bus to school, Steve and I went to visit two local private preschools. They are both part of larger chains of schools. For the ease of understanding, let’s call one “M” and one “L.” (You local folks may know which ones I’m referring to…) “M” was first. Excellent pitch by the director who obviously felt very strongly about the organization (she’d been with the company for 17 years!) and was comfortable answering all of our questions in an informed, well-thought-out manner, along with a secure building, well-laid-out, self-contained classrooms, beautifully functional classroom organization, a structured lesson plan, happy, settled children, and a safe, fun outdoor play space. We addressed the fact that Samantha has Down syndrome, and the director (who I’d already told in an e-mail last week) didn’t bat an eyelash. Said they would want a copy of her IEP, and that they’ve had numerous children over the years with special needs. Oh, and on another note, we discovered that one of our friendly neighbors (I think all of our neighbors are friendly, I’m not singling her out because she’s a particularly friendly one over any that might not be friendly…) happens to work there.

“L” is located directly next door to “M.” Like freaking night and day. The director (who the director of “M” said was fairly new) just tried TOO hard. I hate that. It was annoying. If I want to hear someone pitch their organization/product/etc., I want them to be compelling. Informed. Pleasant to listen to. She was none of the aforementioned. The place was absolute chaos. Children were crying, running all over, waiting for breakfast to be served (apparently delayed by nearly an hour due to late staff arrivals – ummm, hellooooo, by the time they finish breakfast, it’ll be lunch time...). The preschoolers and the Pre-Ks all eat in a large open space together. The learning areas were an open floor plan, with too many opportunities for children to wander off. The director stated that they’re pretty loose with the lesson plan, and tend to stray, happily, off plan if the children don’t really want to do what’s on the plan. Okayyyy. How does that help to prepare a child for life in general? What? You don’t want to bathe/ make dinner for your children/put clothes on/go to work? Okay, no problem! No wonder the kids were all over the place. Samantha needs structure. Those other kids need structure.  This place was scary.

Then came the kicker. We had already both decided this place was not the right environment, but I thought I’d ask anyway. You know, the question. And yes, I had told this director about Sammi having Ds on the phone, too. But I asked if they had ever had other children with special needs.

Director of “L”: Well, we’ve never had other children with Downs (internally I cringed, but didn’t fault her, much), but we did have one child who had some sort of retardation (cringe, cringe, cringe…). But you couldn’t tell. You really couldn’t tell much. (whoa there, sister, seriously? You were actually capable of making this conversation worse?) And the child did really well! (and what’s that supposed to mean?)

I heard Steve’s brief intake of breath, as he was struggling with the notion of giving this woman her own teaching moment. But he stopped. I’m glad. I think it really wasn’t the time or place for it. I was at that point, too. I figure if she ever contacts me to find out why we didn’t choose “L,” I will let her know. In a carefully-crafted e-mail, where I won’t say something I regret.

Steve and I had an amusing conversation on the way home, recounting all the reasons why we would never send Samantha there. We then went to Samantha’s school for their annual preschool “recognition ceremony,” a party where the children sang songs for the parents and were just generally adorable. I’ll have to post pics of that later. It was a much-needed breath of fresh air.

I’m still laughing about it. Like I said, it’s the only way to keep from being supremely irritated…


Chromosomally Enhanced said...

that was a mouth droppper!! you cannot fix stupid! but it does sound like you found the perfect school for Sammi!! but I always think of the kiddos at the other school and they will someday be in the same school as my child..that is what is scary! have a great summer...smiles

Debbie @ Three Weddings said...

I'm so laughing with you. We do have to have a sense of humor in these things and although what she said was ridiculous, it was not mean spirited. Sad she doesn't know better, but you'd be surprised by some of the stuff Peanut's teacher told me of the college students she had who were going into special ed (or maybe they just had to take a class on special ed.)

We had put our oldest in one of those type of preschools. Odly enough it started with an L. Wonder if it was the same chain. Hindsiht, it was awful. The place is made or lost by the the director and ours, although a nice person, needed to find a different line of work!

Glad the other one worked out so well for you.

april narretto said...

Good decision not saying anything at that time, I may have said something I regreted later too.I am glad you have school "M" to go to. WIlliam went to a private preschool this past year tues and thurs for 3 hours both days and the things he learned was AMAZING, he was with all typical peers too. She will do great in that environment and the director sound like a good person to have on your side,the school sounds wonderful. Good luck

Renee said...

At least deciding between the schools is an easy decision! No wonder the second school was in such chaos. I sort of feel sorry for that director; she seems so clueless on so many levels.

The first school and director sounds wonderful.

Renee Brennan said...

You have such a good attitude about this, I would love to see the letter you write to them. Good luck with the school choice, it sounds like choice M will be wonderful! :)

Amber said...

Wow...finding it hard to think of anything else to say. Wow.

On the up side...super glad you had the positive experience first and that you even found one that works! That is awesome and what you are saying makes perfect sense.

#2 kinda reminds me of when we enrolled Grace last year. When the director got the pamphlet on Grace's chromosome deletion...she quickly said..."Hold on! We have another girl coming in her class who also has a rare chromosome which chromosome was hers on? No worries, this is nothing new to us." Really, because she's one of 50 known in the world...the only in our state. Oh, and p.s. lady...the actual chromosome the break is on...matters. ;0)

Good're right...laughter goes a looooong way. BTW really looking forward to Sammi's end of the year pics! :0)

Cindy said...

Sounds like it was a profitable day for you, finding out which school Sammi will attend and which school she won't!