Published on September 3rd, 2014 | by Richard Black


New School, Old School, Looking for a Preschool in the Middle

UF_singing_children_090314 A few months ago my wife I decided to enroll our daughter in a preschool in our school district. Our hope was that by spending her last year in preschool closer to the kindergarten she would attend Darcy would find a few friends who would be in her class next year. We finally settled on a school in a church that met our limited set of criteria. It was cheap for starters and within a two minute drive from our home. The school also purported to have a five day a week program attended by other children Darcy’s age and an academic curriculum tied to that of the school district so our daughter would be prepared for the rigors of kindergarten.

Unfortunately we were…misinformed.  The school still remained within a short drive and hadn’t jacked up tuition but that was about it as far as things that hadn’t changed. I’d had some reservations about the place when we’d enrolled Darcy in a few months of camp during the summer but I chalked it up to my own paranoia and general discomfort with anything new or different. I didn’t particularly dislike the place it just seemed a bit…off.  The teachers seemed to be pleasant and dedicated if a bit dull. The facility was clean but something just felt off and then Laura and I attended a parent’s day orientation with the teachers.

The meeting was a little bit of a mess in the same was that Chernobyl was a minor accident. Shortly after we were all shepherded into a classroom and sat down in those teeny tiny little chairs one of the teacher’s announced that “This is not an academic curriculum.” I began to have some serious doubts about the place. Laura and I shared a quick glance and were just about ready to put the event behind us when the same woman whom I will refer to as Mrs. Fizzybottom, also said, and I quote, “Kids these age get into things, they get hurt and things happen. I just can’t bring myself to tattle on a six year old.”

There really isn’t enough time for me to adequately vent my stupefied displeasure upon hearing these two sentences but I’ll give it a shot. For starters this was a classroom full of four year old children and not the six years of age Mrs. Fizzybottom seemed to think her wards had somehow attained. Perhaps it’s a gross misunderstanding on my part but I’d always assumed a few basic things about any preschool course in which the children are headed to kindergarten the following year. The first being that the teacher would be aware of the age of her, or his, students.

My second assumption was that my daughter, on the brink of attending school full time, would receive the basic preparation necessary to attend kindergarten in our district the following year. I’m not certain what a non academic curriculum entails but I feel fairly certain that it won’t give my daughter a leg up when attending kindergarten next year.  Darcy has already spent two years in preschool to learn about how to share and play and use finger paint and transmit the common cold and it’s been great.  I’m not asking for my daughter to be able to solve quadratic equations or read Proust in French during the next year, I’d just like her to be able to learn her ABC’s, count to 10 and maybe spell her name. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.


If your child came home with one of these wouldn’t you want to know what had happened?

Finally I’ve always assumed that it is the duty of the adults in any situation, but particularly those who happen to be teachers, to explain to a parent how his or her child came to receive a black eye or knot on the forehead and what measures, if any, were taken to ensure that the action didn’t happen again. Sure “things” happen. Darcy still has a divot in her forehead from careening around our house like a drunken goat when she was two and slammed headfirst into the corner of a wall. It happened and if it happened when someone else was on guard say my wife, a babysitter or, Heaven forbid, a teacher I would have liked to have known how it happened.

Once I’d wrapped my brain around what was being said, I performed some deep breathing exercises to lower my heart rate and asked Laura to stop muttering “what the fuck” over and over again when Mrs. Fizzybottom detailed the school policy on nut allergies. It turns out there really wasn’t one because anaphylaxis, apparently, isn’t that big a deal.

“Rupert’s not still allergic to peanuts is he,” Mrs. Fizzybottom asked one of the mother’s in the room, “I mean he’s still allergic to them but kids could bring peanut butter to school right?”

The poor woman managed to nod her head and mumbled something about how her child would have to sit at another table at which point my wife stood up and pointed out that peanut butter sticks to kids hands and then to the toys that kids play with.

“Ohh the kids don’t play with toys after lunch,” Mrs. Fizzybottom reassured us, “we just have them watch movies!”

Well then, I thought to myself, problem solved and feeling completely reassured I wholeheartedly endorsed my daughter’s enrollment in the school. I’m kidding of course. Once Laura’s head stopped spinning around and the presentation came, mercifully, to an end we shepherded Darcy out the door and immediately began to call every single preschool within the county. We even found one with an opening, a school that happened to be the runner up to the school we were now actively fleeing when we were first began looking for schools.

It’s a nice little place in one of the wealthiest areas of town. It costs roughly twice as much as anywhere else and is a fifteen minute commute from our home which means that I’ll spend an hour in the car every day for my daughter to attend a school for three hours. Still it’s a small price to pay.

While my daughter’s future teacher never explicitly mentioned that the curriculum was of an academic nature I  felt remarkably relieved in the knowledge that she did not say that the curriculum was of a non-academic nature (a turn of phrase that I’m convinced is about as close to an oxymoron without, in fact, being an oxymoron).

My only other reservation is that Darcy’s new school is pretty much the whitest place anyone could find outside of the eastern seaboard.  It would be untrue of me to write that I was the only father in the room during the orientation but it wouldn’t be much of a stretch. It would be more correct to say that I was the only father in the room who wanted to be there and wasn’t  checking his phone every thirty seconds for a call from the office or a text from the nanny for a quikie.

I’m excited about the prospect of mixing it up with the upper echelon, madras wearing, boat shoe owning population of the public who hasn’t changed their look since it went out of fashion some 25 years ago. I’ve always wanted an opportunity to view the privileged class within their own environment. I’m not saying that I intend to cause problems but the scenario is ripe for confrontation. As always I’ll keep you informed.

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