Saturday, October 11, 2008

Little Pitchers Have Big Eyes

I've been trying to update all evening, but Declan has been sitting next to me on the couch and peering over my shoulder at every Web site I've surfed tonight. Eamonn is away riding the 24 Hours of Moab (24 hour mountain bike race--yes, he is mad) and the boys and I are hunkered down watching a movie and listening to sleet on the windows. Tonight is supposed to be our first snow at this elevation and we're under a winter storm advisory. The Denver news channels were calling for 4 - 8", but Weather.com, which is frankly way more accurate, is only estimating an inch or so. No big deal. Although I'm ready for some snow, it's probably good that it's not a major storm because I don't have my snow tires on yet.

We're sitting here watching Return to Witch Mountain, the very lame sequel to Escape to Witch Mountain. In this movie, Tony and Tia return to earth and Tony is captured by evil-doers who are trying to steal plutonium. The only improvement I see over the original is that Tony and Tia are no longer wearing those burgundy colored nylon windbreakers snapped all the way to their chins. I lobbyed for the original Escape to Witch Mountain, but was voted down.

So, I couldn't update with Declan peeping over my shoulder because I don't really want him to see my ranting about Finn and school. We had our meeting on Wednesday and it really confirmed our feelings and we are scheduled to meet with the principal on Tuesday about moving Finn. Finn's anxiety issues continue and this just can't go on. He's going to have a nervous breakdown before he turns 6 in 11 days. Nice.

As Eamonn and I were getting our ducks in a row for meeting with Finn's teacher, we talked about what our objectives would be. As Eamonn described it, we decided to "gather data." We didn't go to confront the teacher or get in his face, but we did want to hear from his mouth what was going on in the classroom. By his own admission, he is a 22-year-old man (even younger than I thought) who doesn't have a "warm fuzzy" personality. His words. He's not going to hug the kids or work to console them. They're pretty much left to their own devices.

Sadly, I had Finn's preschool friends here for our once-a-month playdate on Friday. One of the little girls from preschool is also in Finn's class and her mom told me she has been crying at school, too. So it's not just Finn, and it makes me sad that many of them in there are struggling.

Other comments by the teacher: he's struggling to have patience and not get angry, he's actually getting more cold (how can THAT be possible???) as time goes on because he feels like they should be "getting it" by now. Oh yes, heaven forbid we should give a 5-year old more time to "get it."

The teacher also spoke about how it drives him crazy because Finn and another girl keep coming up to him and talking to him constantly and don't seem to have the patience to wait to talk to him. It's always so nice to hear how your child is driving someone crazy. Sometimes he needs "space" from Finn. Or how about when your child was crying last week, instead of consoling him, the teacher told him to "dry it up." Nice.

We were unamused to hear about how the discipline methods have changed in the classroom. Originally there was some sticky note method where when they got a warning, they had to put a note on their number at the front of the class. Finn had said that he had to sit cross-legged facing the wall. We wondered if that was true. It was. And a little more. Not only do they sit like that facing the wall, they have to keep their backs straight--no slouching. If they slouch, they get in more trouble. Unfortunately, a symptom of many kids with sensory disorder is that they don't have much core strength. We're working on it so that he'll have the necessary muscles to sit at a desk and hold a pencil as required, but that will be slow to develop. Basically, sitting like the teacher was requiring was impossible for Finn which led to more discipline problems. I just love a good viscious circle.

I'm sure it's hard. I'm not a teacher because I know I couldn't handle being in a small room with 22 little people all vying for my attention or commiting various acts of chaos. And from the description, it is chaotic in there. He's a first year teacher who hasn't hit his stride yet and is still trying to find out what works. I get it. Totally. And your average kid might be OK in there, just sort of rolling along. But it's not working for Finn--nor will it ever work for Finn. Too much water under the bridge at this point. Finn is never (and yes, Mom, I'm going to do exactly what you said I should never do, I'm going to say NEVER!) going to forge the kind of bond he needs with the teacher to make it work. The only option left is to move him and see if that can salvage Finn's relationship with SCHOOL.

Nope, I'm not a teacher. In fact, when I took one of those future employment aptitude tests in high school, it said I should be a forest ranger. Totally serious. I wish I would have done it and then perhaps I would not be a writer who waxes poetic about the latest FASB pronouncements. Kidding. I like what I do, but I do think I would have been a good forest ranger. My point here is that I wonder what the teacher's aptitude test said? Prison warden? Or at the very least, 4th grade teacher.


MyriamC said...

My heart breaks, my heart cries. For Finn and his classmates, and for my own kid who just had to go thru this same misery.
Are you sure this teacher is from the 21st century? Putting sticky notes and having kids sit cross-legged facing the wall ... That reminds me of MY time at school (50 yrs ago). Sending a crying kid away instead of giving it a feeling of safety. This young man still has a lot of learning to do, especially in the emotional field but apparently he doesn't have 'it' in him. He might make for a good teacher in a higher grade but he's totally misplaced with young children.
I hope Tuesday will bring a solution.

Anonymous said...

I just can't believe this guy is a kindergarten teacher. They should be moving him on Tuesday-- up to the high school.

Natalie, you and Eamonn are wonderful parents. I am hoping everything is resolved Tuesday and by the end of next week Finn will be in a new class and excited about school. That is the way it is supposed to be!!

Good Luck. We are thinking about you.

Karen Czapla

Beth said...

I just found your blog thru Kristie's. And of course I don't know you, but I want to offer you encouragement that we faced similar issues with our daughter -- luckily with a much more understanding teacher -- in the first grade. And this was well before we understood her sensory issues...It was awful, heartbreaking, frustrating...but just to encourage you, it did get so much better with time. Now she's a fifth grader and doing so much much better. She even started a new school this year, and everyhing we've worked on with her is really coming to fruition. So I guess I'm just sayng, is that it WILL get better. I tend to think that kids that have these struggles end up becoming so much more self aware of their emotions and learn to articulate themselves at an earlier age. Hang in there and God bless. Sounds like you guys are great parents who will help your sweet son now and into the future.

peg said...

wow this is the first time i've read your blog but i have followed finns caringbridge page for a couple of years. this teacher should be fired! i have 5 kids and i can't stress enough how important their first years are in getting them to have a love to learn in school attitude and the teacher is everything.kindergarten should be fun, he's been through so much already in his young life
i feel so sad for him to be stressed out by this crabby man who shouldn't be a teacher.

Kristie said...

Natalie, I don't know whether I'm more dumbfounded by the behavior and attitude of this teacher, or by the fact he actually admitted it all to you as parents!!! Like you, I don't teach for a reason (mainly, that kids bug the crap out of me) but I certainly expect the people who have gone into that profession voluntarily to do a MUCH better job than I would do!!

If it makes you feel any better, Kendrie is not real happy with her teacher this year, either. (I've probably already gone on about this ... ) She's NINE, and I find myself getting upset that her teacher isn't any more warm and fuzzy. I can only imagine how my head would be exploding if she had encountered a "cooler" teacher at age five or six ... you keep up the advocating and I know you'll get Finn right where he needs to be.

1dreamr said...

I'm so glad to hear that you've decided to move Finn. I am honestly blown away by the things this teacher has said and done.

What baffles me the most is why on earth the young man would think he belongs in a classroom with young children. Middle school, perhaps (although I'd question his choice of teaching AT ALL based on what you've said).

Hugs to the four of you, and I know this will work itself out. xo

Kim said...

Frankly, I am so glad you are moving Finn. That teacher should not be teaching kindergarten and with the attitude he seems to have, by his own admission, I am not sure he should be teaching any grade. Good Grief! I hope, for future kids, the principal gets a clue and does not invite that teacher back to his school next year.

There is no excuse for ANY child to be treated the way he appears to be acting--special needs or not. What in the world made a 20 something young man pick kindergarten for his grade of choice???

Way to go to you guys as parents--it just goes to show how pro-active parents need to be in this day in age.

Blessings on you for Tuesday--hope all goes well.

in a world surrounded by men said...


I have nothing to say. I'm just pissed at that good for nothing teacher!

Haley said...

I found your blog via Kristie's and I'm heartbroken by your story of Finn's experience at school. I am a seventh grade teacher and a babysitter who spends countless hours each week with a six year old who thinks that on my wedding day I am going to adopt him. :) Even with these two experiences, I am at a TOTAL loss for words. I have twelve year olds that come up to me and talk on and on and on, and you know what? You just listen. I may not be entirely interested in what they have to say, and I may have a zillion other things to do, but this is what I signed up for, and it is what I want to do. I'm sure that you have already spoken with the principal, but he needs to observe this teacher and take action toward hopefully saving this whole class of kids from becoming entirely detached from learning.

Best of luck this week. And on a brighter note, I'm 100% jealous of your potential snowfall. It was 85 today in Chicago!

Haley said...

P.S. As a parting gift or maybe just some advice you should tell Finn's teacher to read Harry Wong's "The First Days of School" - it is a bible for new teachers. Maybe it will help shine some light teaching style.

Anonymous said...

I just had to comment. I am so glad you are moving Finn out of that classroom. Why this "man" decided teaching was his career choice I don't know. Especially Kindergarten. I use to teach Kindergarten. I'm sorry to say but these little ones are not in need of a drill seargant. They need nurturing. They need to have a good foundation and trust in the teachers, school, staff and at least love to learn. I could go on and on but you definetly know what I'm talking about. I've taught with people I wish would leave teaching. Hopefully this "man" will. He surely must see that if he wants to teach he should be in the HS or above.
I hope Finn is able to love school in time.
Good luck.

Bubba&SistersMom said...

I just found your blog and am so saddened by what you son is going through. My son is 10 and has sensory processing disorder/adhd and anxiety. He's doing so well now, with lots of OT, a (finally) understanding teacher, diet and medication. I'm been down this road, I was a teacher in my past life and would be happy to help if you need someone who's walking slightly ahead of you.