There is something unavoidably grown up about attending a parent/teacher meeting for your child. Benjamin has had a hard time adjusting to kindergarten — he’s gone through phases where he doesn’t want to go, cries when it’s time to get dressed in the morning and only talks about his day when we drag it out of him (although that last part is pretty common, as I understand it). I’m not there with him. I don’t know if it’s hard because he’s not used to going to school, he’s only now really making friends and he doesn’t speak the same language as 90% of the school — those are all reason enough — or is it more fundamental? Is he too little, not mature enough, too sensitive? Are the teachers looking out for him, are they too hard on him, are the kids nice to him — or is it just the wrong school?
So, I asked the teachers for a meeting. In the days leading up to it, I was surprised at my nerves. I wanted to ask my questions, and learn what I could about how he’s doing, what he’s experiencing and whether his progress is normal and reasonable, and I wanted to do it without offending the teachers, or making them feel like I don’t trust them to take care of my child. Best case scenario, the teachers are conscientious and watchful, caring and concerned, in which case my worries, voiced incorrectly, might affront them. Worst case, they don’t care about him and/or aren’t good at what they do, in which case I probably wouldn’t offend them anyway.
But honestly, it couldn’t have gone better. After really talking to B’s teachers for half an hour, I was shocked at how well they “get” him. They’re amazed at how bright he is, and how great of a communicator he is (I was worried that would get lost in translation, but apparently not). They’re particularly impressed that when he gets upset about something, he can explain how he feels and why he feels that way (I’m impressed, too — that’s hard to do). They think he’s very sweet and a little shy. They recognize that he does not handle change or transitions well, but they say that he’s starting to get used to the “normal” changes that happen at school (like transitions from inside playtime to garden time, or from free play to organized group activities; and also things like birthday parties that aren’t every day, but are relatively common). In the beginning, he refused to participate in group activities at all, and they didn’t force him. Now he loves to join the other kids in the circle, especially for singing time — they say that’s his favorite. They see that he gets easily frustrated, and when he is frustrated, he doesn’t even want to try — this happens less with intellectual things (where he’s more likely to push through, even if he’s struggling) and more often with physical things, like putting on his shoes, washing his hands or art projects. They also see that if they firmly encourage him to try these things on his own, he usually accomplishes them pretty easily and feels great when he does. (He is so much like me.)
I wouldn’t have described him any differently, to be honest.
I was so happy just to see that they understand him, and they really, genuinely like him. The only difference is that where I tend towards indulging his “I can’t do it” frustrations, they don’t. They know he can do those things, and they want to push him to do it — they rightly observed that he isn’t going to feel any better about not doing it himself than he is about trying and failing. I told them that we’re working on all the same things at home, and they said they could tell. They’re starting to work with him on short, concentrated, focused activities (like puzzles or card games) to work on cooperation, taking turns, sitting still and being focused. He’s doing great, and I’m all for it.
Anyway, it was great. I feel better about his school and his teachers than I have since his first day. I’m so glad to see that who he is isn’t lost because of the language barrier, and I’m excited to see how much they enjoy him. Over the last few weeks, he’s really started to enjoy school more, too. I’m really glad. I’m happy for him to be learning, but more than that, I want him to be happy. For now, I really think he’s in the right place.