When Parents, Teachers and Children are Not On the Same Page

Wednesday, March 25, 2009 7:00
Posted in category Parenting
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When Parents, Teachers and Children are Not On the Same Page

It may only be preschool but the drama is very real to us rookies when it comes to problem teachers.  I’m totally serious so please don’t laugh. What do you do when you find out that your children haven’t won the fantastic teacher lottery for that year?  We can’t change schools because we’re out in the country and our choices of schools are limited to one.  So, like it or not, our kids will be attending this elementary school for the next 8 years and I am the quintessential problem parent (yes we are the ones with, issues).  I’m going to summarize our displeasure with the teachers and you can either jeer or cheer.  I think it’s clear that we are NOT on the same page and I believe that most, if not all, things should be in the best interest of the child and in accordance with the parent’s wishes.

We have 4½ year old boy girl twins who have been in the same preschool class for 2 years.  They do have some issues, mainly not talking yet.  My daughter is just starting to talk and can now count clearly to 20 and we discovered this week she will sing her A,B,C’s  but won’t say them…hmm.  My son will only say about a dozen or so words yet other words he says very clearly for a day or two and then they disappear from his vocabulary.  We have had them to see four different speech therapists and two occupational therapists and I swear that we would walk on broken glass if we thought it would help them along.  They both understand everything we say and can carry out complex instructions.  In many things they are very focused and even ahead of the curve for their age.  The lack of language makes communication extremely difficult, at best.  Try potty training two toddlers when they can’t tell you they need to go. Try finding out what hurts or where the boo boo is without the benefit of verbal communication.  They are being assessed (again) currently but things are getting better.  With the exception of one teacher (who has gone to a different position in the school and not in our children’s room anymore) we’ve discovered that the reality of what is going on at school is quite different than our perception.  Once that picture began to take shape you can imagine how low our happy meter went.  Not only are we not on the same page but it would appear that she is reading from an entirely different book.

Our children’s primary teacher is young, just turned 30 and has been teaching maybe four or five years.  She is also carrying around an additional 200-250 lbs and as a retired addiction therapist of 17 years I think I can safely say that she just might have an eating disorder.  We’ve heard her say time after time, “I just love food!”  Hmmm, the extra family of three that you’re carrying around was a tiny hint.  Instead of learning typical preschool songs such as “Row, Row, Row Your Boat” or “Mary Had A Little Lamb” or even the “ABC song” they are learning “The Fast Food Song” which is a jingle comprised with a specialty item from all the popular fast food restaurants.  Combine that with a required “field trip” every year to one of the local fast food restaurants that serves a menu of saturated fat, sugar, starch and white flour with a hefty side order of MSG.  The reasoning for this trip was to aid in teaching our impressionable children to make healthy food choices. 

Our school requires that every child has breakfast in the cafeteria before beginning the school day.   I would think that a school which requires that each child eat before attending class would provide the proverbial “brain food” such as eggs or other high protein source, granola or equivalent whole grain item, fruit for natural complex carbs and milk.  The more balanced the breakfast, the more balanced the brain function, right?  Not here, folks.  The provided breakfast consists of Frosted Pop Tarts or a glazed sweet roll, chocolate milk, white milk or orange juice and a cheese stick.  Sorry, no brain food here.  Our kids are the only ones that drink plain milk and are sent to school having already eaten a nutritious breakfast.

Two hours later they have their lunch.   Again, the school provides a meal of empty carbs, sugar, white flour, over processed meats, cheese food products, more sugary and caffeine laden milk and lots of fat including saturated fats.  They get ½ hour to eat and then ½ hour to run it off during recess.  Then back to class for the allotted hour of nap time, though they have been known to let our son sleep for an extra half hour so he isn’t cranky because they woke him up.  Of course the day has to end on a sweet note, Snack Time!  Yes, they are eating again.  Each child is chosen in rotation to bring a snack for the entire class.  We were told that the snacks should be healthy and examples given were Gold Fish crackers, Pretzels, raisins, granola bars, etc. Raisins were the only healthy snack on the list.  Everything else was loaded with white flour, sugar, fat and empty carbs.  They are also given candy for all major holidays and cupcakes are usually provided by parents for birthdays.  And of course one can’t have a snack without something to wash it down with so they are given cups of Crystal Light, loaded with chemicals and artificial sweetener.  A lot of obstetricians recommend that pregnant and nursing mothers refrain from ingesting artificial sweeteners so why would we want to give it to our kids?  Our pediatrician even discourages giving our kids fruit juices since they are still loaded with calories and most of the vitamins and nutrition in fruit is contained in the peel and pulp which is eliminated from juice.  He instead recommends only giving them juice once a day and mixing it with half water and to just let our kids eat whole fruit and drink water and milk. 

I know that this makes us sound like sugar and junk food Nazi’s but we really aren’t, I promise.  We do give our children treats, but not every day.  They get ice cream and cookies, candy at Halloween, Christmas and Easter.  That’s part of being a kid and every child should be allowed to enjoy that.  BUT, we want our children to be healthy, to feel good and we want them to understand what foods will fuel their bodies and brains to make them function better.  Junk foods make you overweight, feel sluggish and create more junk food cravings.  Studies show that junk food, sugary drinks, and beer make up nearly one-third of the daily caloric intake for adult Americans.  By comparison, healthier foods, such as fruits and vegetables, make up only 10% of calories consumed. Because of poor eating habits, two thirds of Americans are overweight, obese and malnourished.

On the first day of school we informed all the teachers and assistants that our kids were not to have candy, soda, artificial sweeteners, chocolate milk or other junk food for any reason.  We feed our kids breakfast at home, pack their lunches and snacks and they have white milk and water.  On our snack day we bake a batch of healthy oatmeal raisin cookies sweetened with honey and homemade applesauce.  They are rarely any left so even the junk food junkies like them. 

To make a long story short we started getting clues this year that not only were our kids not behaving they were also starting to act out at home a bit after school.  On further investigation we realized that our kids were NOT partaking in any “learning activities” such as story time or other things because the teachers were just “letting them do their own thing off to the side” since they couldn’t control them.  Couldn’t control them?  Did you try the word NO?  Did you try to make them sit down and partake in class activities?  Did you try time out?   When put in time out my son just picked up the chair that he was in and took it with him wherever he wanted to go…while in time out.  The teachers just laughed about it and let him go.  The teacher said that if they didn’t want to go along with the current activity they just “let them go do their thing”. This has been going on for a year and a half at this point!  Our kids go to school twice a week and for the last few months nearly every school day we get questions from the teacher like, “Is it okay that your daughter HAD Crystal Light today?” (This is asked as we pick her up from school with a tell-tale colored mustache)  Or “Oh, they got into the Goldfish crackers and really like them.  They’re healthy, you know?  So they’re okay to eat Goldfish, right?”  I swear it was like talking to the kids, since we had to repeat ourselves over and over. 

The teacher called me yesterday while the kids were at school.  She asks if she can talk to my wife and avoids telling me the problem, just assuring me that the children are fine and that she needs my wife’s cell number.  Apparently my daughter managed to eat a whole plate of spaghetti instead of the healthy lunch that we packed for her.  Spaghetti is fine if made properly but not over processed pasta and sauce from a cafeteria can. It’s also a problem that the question was asked AFTER she ate it and that the spaghetti was on the teacher’s plate and she claimed my daughter just got into it. My daughter is the world’s slowest eater. Three adults present and not a single one stopped her from eating out of the teacher’s plate.  Yesterday, I showed up to get the kids a little early and discovered that they were giving the kids cups of Crystal Light with their snack!  To put this into perspective, this is not a huge class with hordes of kids.  It’s a small group with a maximum of 12 children supervised by three to four teachers and assistants.  Teaching my children her personal unhealthy eating behaviors while contradicting our wishes and not enforcing their group participation means that we are not on the same page.  We have at least one more year with this teacher and her lying, manipulating and other problems make me want to escalate this above the principal.  But we’re also worried that she may retaliate towards the children.  We did meet with the Principle since we wrote this and she assured us that no more food issues at our children’s expense would occur in school.  This remains to be seen and I suspect that between the cafetria, the school attitude and the altar of sugar that we might be confronting these issues again.  I remain doubtful that certain teachers will change the pages of their playbook without hitting a bottom, I really hope for our children’s sake I am wrong.  What do you think we should do?  Do you have any stories about problems that you worked through when you, your children’s teachers and your children’s best interest in school were not aligning?  Please feel free to share.

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