Thursday, November 17, 2005


I get the impression that our son's kindergarten teacher thinks we are overanxious, competitive parents who need to lower our expectations. The schools here are very good. Our son is doing great, and it's just such a wonderful thing for him. I have no complaints. But still, I think the kindergarten teacher thinks we have some expectation adjustment to do.

She's an excellent teacher, by reputation and by our own observation. But I think she's so experienced, and so battle-scarred that she's playing defense against us. She fears that we might be a Type she's encountered before.

There are plenty of bright kids in this school, and plenty of educated, articulate parents like us. So that's not the issue. The teacher is similarly articulate, bright, and dedicated.

In our first meeting, when I said how thankful I was that our son was having this experience, and praised the school and the teacher, she either did not respond at all, or changed the subject. Same in the second meeting. No, she's not cold, imperious or arrogant. She's a sensitive, slightly hippie type with a nasal piercing. Mellow, loving, smart and concerned.

Which is why it's odd that my praise rolls off her like water off of a duck. I now think that the issue is that she sees praise as control. It asserts that the parents' opinion matters, that she is to be judged based on our expectations. I think, psychologically, she's made the policy that she's not going to accept praise because she's not going to accept the idea that she's subject to evaluation by parents.

Once again, she's not cold and arrogant. Quite the opposite. But I think she thinks she's trying to help us come down off of our hyper state. For example, she's said more than once, "It's only three hours and twenty minutes." She's also said that parents who want enrichment beyond the kindergarten program can provide it.

She thinks we're trying to push our son. I unknowingly made a mistake when I used the phrase "Let's challenge him" in response to his statements that he's not learning anything and it all seems like play to him. The kindergarten teacher hates that word. I agreed, and gave my speech about not being into pushing the child to be a winner with a sick plan that leads from preschool to Yale: "Swimming, then violin, then gymnastics -- Give the kid a chance to stare at the ceiling!" But I think my speech fell on deaf ears. I think she thinks I'm a competitive dad.

Still, he thinks he's not learning. In fact, he's learning a great deal, and learning is best if it seems like play. No, he's not bored, and no, it's not that the school lacks content. But he is starting to show signs of behavioral problems stemming from his perception that he's not being challenged. Apparently he gets into her teaching materials and starts reading ahead to the end. He's trying to suck it all up at once, which is disruptive because the class should go through the materials together, at the planned pace.

He had disruptive behaviors at preschool, and that's because he was bored. My saying that annoyed the teachers there.

Here, he's finally in an enriching environment, and he's getting what he needs. I just want the teacher to make some small gesture towards Making It Hard, to fulfill the expectation that he seems to have developed. But I feel that her whole communication with us is geared around talking us down from the ledge. It's weird to be stereotyped by someone who has your respect and from whom you wouldn't expect it.
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