Thursday, 4 August 2011

Listen to your Gut!

I have always been a big believer in listening to your gut and so far it has never steered me wrong.  In a new place, with a new culture and new ways of doing things, my gut has served me well in looking out for my kids.

Because we did not have much information to go on, we chose the only school that had room for us. Apparently we moved to a very popular area and everyone wants to send their kids to preschool in this area (referred to as Kinder).  We put our name on a few different wait lists after going online and guessing which ones were good. We ended up at the only one with room, and later found out why.  On day one, I got the awful nagging in my gut, but I had no idea why.  The place was clean, the teachers were nice and it was in an easy to reach location.  As the days went on, my gut continued to nag at me and soon, Zoe and then Carson started telling me that they did not want to go to school. Each day they became more insistent about not going.  Still, I could not place my finger on why because the kids seemed happy once they got there and when I picked them up.  I thought that maybe they were just having trouble with the new, much earlier routine.

On the sixth day of daycare I got a call from another school that had just gotten two openings due to a family's move overseas.  By this time, the kids were starting to "seem" settled in but still begged each morning not to go.  Once they got there, they were OK.  I hesitated to shake up their world again, but decided to visit the other school.  It was like night and day.  I walked in during lunch time and the entire class of kids looked up and politely and sincerely said "hello" unprompted by their teachers. The teachers were warm, friendly and experienced.  I signed on the spot to move the kids to this school.  Our other school required a two week notice so I started to plan how I would tell the kids.

I gave them a hypothetical about going to a new school and asked them if they could change would they.  They nearly jumped to the ceiling with excitement and desperation and said "YES PLEASE!"  So much for telling them gently.  I let them know that they had a choice and that I would take them to a new school for a visit.  I told them that they could decide and then prayed that they would like it!   Both took to the school like fish who had been out of water and were just dropped back in.  Neither one cared where I was and when it was time to go, begged to stay longer.  On the way I asked them which school they wanted to attend.  The both yelled out, without ANY hesitation, the "NEW school."  And so the decision was made.  We all liked it better!

I put in notice that very day at their other school.  When asked why, I could not really articulate why as there really was no clear reason other than the kids were not happy.  I was reminded it had only been just over a week and that maybe I should give them one more week to settle in.  It seemed logical and things were starting to be more routine for us.  However, I stuck to my gut and signed the paperwork to leave after the two week notice period.  Over the next two weeks, I started to doubt my decision a bit.  The kids got more used to the routine.  The teachers seemed to be getting more organized and were actually doing some activities with the kids vs. letting them run around without direction.  But the kids did still tell me they did not want to go to school, which was unusual for them.

Only after I promised to move the kids did Carson tell me about what had been going on at school.  Apparently, he was being bullied regularly by two boys, language was being used on the playground directed at him, that was hurtful and innappropriate and the teacher's either did not notice or did not intervene when they should have.  I mentioned some of what had happened to his teacher.  She acknowledged that one of the boys was "acting up" in the classroom as well and that something must be going on at home.  She then told me that Carson should not take it personally.  The next day, Carson's glasses "mysteriously" broke according to the teachers.  I am no stranger to broken glasses with Carson.  He is a boy and he likes to play.  However, he had a big cut on his eye and it was obvious someone else had been involved.  I decided to let it go and believe that they just broke while he was playing.  During breakfast on his last day of school there, Carson randomly mentioned the incident and then told me that the same boy broke his glasses while hitting him in the face and then trying to cram sand in between his glasses and his eyes.  Apparently this boy and another had been picking on Carson far more than Carson had initially told me but Carson waited until his last day to tell me, probably to avoid getting them in trouble.  He next told me "they are not my friends and they are not welcome in my home" which actually made me proud.  Carson has a tendency to like everyone and usually gives people more slack than they deserve.  I guess it is just part of his Autism and is why Autistic kids are often targeted by bullies.  Carson how now developed the ability to know "friends" from "not friends" which is a HUGE developmental step for him.  So I guess that was the goodness that came from going to that school.

The moral of the story....listen to your gut and listen to your kids if they hate school.  The right teachers and the right environment can change their perspective almost immediately.  Most schools and most teachers are great.  And kids, at this age at least, model and learn their behavior from the adults they spend time with.  There is little that can be done about what goes on in the home.  However, a GOOD teacher in a good school will have clear expectations of how a child should behave at school, despite what is going on at home.

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