When you leave your child with another person, especially daycare or preschool workers, sometimes you wonder if you’ve made the right choice. You think, what if they’re just smiling when I drop him off? What if they get mean and demanding the moment I’m out the door? Or what if they just sit around and let the kids watch TV? He seems happy, but how do I know for sure?
Today, the conversation I had with Beowulf’s teacher made me 100% certain I have put my trust in the right place.
My kid is what they call “spirited.” To many people, this translates to disobedient, unruly, and wild. Beo won’t, for example, join in with whatever a group of kids is doing. If you encourage him, he will only resist. Demand, and he’ll put up a fight.
Because I’m his mom, I know him well enough to understand that this is not intentional disobedience that must be punished or somehow expunged.
Beowulf is an observer: he can watch me do something once, like open a catch on a cabinet, and instantly be able to duplicate the action. With people, it’s more complicated. He needs time to hang back, observe, and process what’s going on. Drawing attention to his lack of participation makes him self-conscious and causes him to lock down completely.
Later in life, I know these traits will serve him well. He’ll be a planner, a keen observer of human nature, an analytical mind. He’ll be an independent thinker, never content to march along with a crowd… much like his mother, in fact!
In the meantime, however, I know that I’ll likely have to be his advocate when it comes to interacting with other adults, especially his teachers. Every September will no doubt herald the search for that one teacher who really gets him and is willing to go the extra mile.
This first time? I got lucky. I signed him up at the first daycare/preschool I visited, a small place around the corner from our house. It was small, convenient, and the teachers seemed nice enough. I also liked the flexibility of their schedule. Since he’s only two, I was not concerned with curriculum so much as just having a place I could feel secure leaving him while I took a much needed break. So the fact that they have a modified preschool program didn’t matter much at the time.
Now, it does.
What I first noticed was how much more chatty he is after his morning at “school.” He was pretty slow to talk and even now feels pretty comfortable subsisting on the bare minimum it takes to get his point across – no need to say “I want some water” when “WATER!” will do. But on school days, he literally comes home speaking in complete, coherent sentences. He’ll stick in that mode for a few hours or the rest of the day. Half the time he’s so stimulated I can’t get him to take a nap.
He also comes home with little art projects, but given how difficult it is to convince him to do any art himself (he’d rather Mommy or Daddy do it for him) I wondered how much of the stuff he was actually making.
Today when I picked him up, his teacher gave me this:
More importantly, she told me how he made it. Or, rather, how she convinced him to participate!
First, she told me how he’d been doing much better overall. They have a circle time each morning with stories and songs, but I knew when I first started dropping Beo off that he refused to sit. Today, his teacher told me they’d realized that it doesn’t work to tell him to do anything… so he was invited to the circle, but never forced.
Now – and this is several months later – he edges around to the outside of the circle, watches for a bit, and finally sits down. He’ll even scoot in close if he hears a story he likes. He still won’t sing – but he’ll move his mouth and pretend!
So she tried the same thing with his art. She got the other kids around and set them to work, then set out a piece of paper for Beo and told him it was available if he wanted. She then ignored him. Sure enough, he hung around for a few minutes and then came and sat down. So she showed him, once, how to rip the paper. When nobody was looking, he ripped. And then he ripped and ripped and ripped! Finally, she demonstrated how to glue the paper on – and left, pretending to make lunch in the kitchen. And pretty soon he’d produced what I think is a pretty good collage for a two year old!
So I left today with the assurance that, quite by accident, I’ve made the right choice. Beo has found a teacher with the patience and willingness to understand him and give him exactly the guidance - and space - he needs. Whether your child is two or twenty, I think most parents would agree a teacher like that is priceless.