When Preschool Doesn’t Go as Planned…

I came home from Nashville to find we were taking Bailey out of his current preschool. We were contemplating it for a while but everything really took a turn while I was away. About one month ago, we took Bailey on a class playdate at the park. This was run by another parent, not the school. We were extremely disappointed that not a single classmate interacted with Bailey. Every time he tried to play with another student, they turned him down rudely or just walked away when he sat down. Our outgoing boy was suddenly acting very timid on the playground (which he never does) and afraid of even approaching these kids. The apples didn’t fall too far from the tree though – as Gwith and I tried to approach the parents, they turned into their circle and refused to even make eye contact with us to say hello. It was a very weird experience and we left concerned over Bailey not having any friends at school. That weekend, I responded to a letter from the school announcing we would be charged for next year’s registration by the beginning of March unless they were told otherwise. After witnessing Bailey’s lack of comfort, we had decided we would be switching him to another school in the fall. I messaged his current preschool to let them know we wouldn’t be continuing with them. When they messaged back mentioning that it’s best not to separate him from all of his friends, I felt I had to reply. I told them honestly about what happened and kindly said that if he made friends in the next few months, we’d reconsider.

The next week, we brought Bailey to school on Tuesday. In the back of my head, the pessimist in me wondered if the kids would suddenly all come running to him to play after I sent that message out (which I had never heard back from). They didn’t. Not on Tuesday. Thursday however, was a totally different story. Gwith and I brought him to school on Thursday and as we arrived at the playground, the kids all started yelling “Bailey! Bailey! Hi Bailey!” and running up to him as he hung his backpack up. He looked so confused as he wondered why all of these kids who never played with him were suddenly talking to him. The teacher then pointedly yelled out, “Bailey? Do you hear all of your friends saying hello to you?” It was obvious the teacher yelled this out for us, not for him, and even more obvious how much the school wanted our money for the next year. After the kids greeted him, they all dispersed back to playing without him. Needless to say, we both left completely disturbed. First of all, what on earth did the teachers tell a bunch of three year olds to get them to comply in running up and greeting Bailey? Did they sit them down on Tuesday afternoon after Bailey left and explain to them that they had to say hi to him on Thursday? Three year olds are not that trainable so I can only assume some kind of dessert or special playtime was involved. Since that day, Bailey has been referring to people at preschool as “friends”, which is clearly the teachers influence. He doesn’t mention them by name as he does his other real friends, he just calls them all friends. I’ve hated seeing him manipulated like this.

About two weeks later, when I picked up Bailey from school, I noticed the rash he had been fighting for weeks on his face was severely redder. The rash is just a harmless case of dermatitis as the doctor told us, it will go away on it’s own, however, because it’s by his mouth, certain foods can irritate it further. I asked him what he ate that day as I looked at the rash. The teacher then turned to me and said, “I think he’s allergic to strawberries. I’ve never seen the rash before until he ate them.” Again, he had this rash on his face for at least a month. I knew in that moment they weren’t paying close attention to him but I had no idea to what extent…

The week I was in Nashville, more events transpired, each more disturbing than the next. Gwith went on a field trip with Bailey and found out another kid was pushing him. This kid, Bailey knew the name of and told Gwith. Gwith then proceeded to ask the kid if he pushes Bailey, who as a three year old, honestly responded “Yes!”. What’s even worse though, is this kid who has been pushing Bailey, is the one the teachers are telling Bailey is his friend. That’s right. In the same breath Bailey tells us that his friend [name retracted] pushes him. I can’t even stomach how disturbing that is that he thinks a bully is his friend. And look, I understand that this other child is only three years old and doesn’t even realize the harm he’s causing, and I’ll even be the first to agree that maybe he does want to be his friend and is going about it wrong. However, that’s where its the job of the teachers to teach this child that pushing is wrong, it hurts, and that there are better ways to make friends. It’s clear though the teacher’s aren’t observing and teaching these kids how to interact in healthier ways.

The following day, Gwith dropped Bailey off at preschool, on the playground, and started to leave. As he was walking down the hallway in the building to exit, he heard Bailey suddenly open the door and run after him, crying. First of all, this is the same kid who ran off to play without a cuddle his very first day of school because he’s that independent. So that made it very strange that he suddenly doesn’t want to be at school. Even worse though, was after ten minutes of cuddling Bailey in the hall, it suddenly became clear that not a single teacher was looking for him. He had been missing from the playground for ten minutes and no one noticed. That was the final straw for us. If Gwith hadn’t been there…when would they have noticed he was gone?

I can’t even begin to fathom how a preschool gets by with this level of manipulation and lack of attention to the kids. I trusted these people with the care of my child and they completely betrayed that trust. Needless to say, we have signed Bailey up for the other preschool that originally didn’t have any availability when we were looking last year. He starts there about one month from now. I am so excited to start him there. The hardest part for me though is trusting that a scenario like this won’t happen again. Lets be honest, I have a lot of trouble trusting schools due to my own experiences growing up (Read: Confessions from a High School Drop-Out). I have to be optimistic though and believe that we will find a healthy environment for Bailey. I never want him to feel victimized or abandoned by his teachers. I know there are plenty of amazing schools and teachers out there (and I feel pretty confident about his new school). However, I think too many people stay quiet about the bad experiences because we’re lead to believe that teachers and schools know what’s best for our children. We often question if we’re being too protective. I should’ve seen the signs as Bailey shifted from excitedly getting ready for school in the morning to fighting me every step of the way. I’m thankful that it only took us a month to discover these problems and swiftly take him out. Speaking to other parents, I’ve found these issues are a lot more common with preschools than I ever realized. With that said, to any parents reading this blog, please pay close attention to what’s going on at your child’s preschool. What may seem great on paper, or even on first observation, may not be healthy in the end and with a toddler’s limited communication skills, it can be challenging to discover.

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