Late October/ early November is typically the time here in Ontario where schools host open houses for interested families looking to place their kids. I went to several open houses in the past two weeks as we’re narrowing down our 2015 preschool options for Carlo. While Ines’s post focuses on how to chose the right school for your child. Based on my personal experiences from going on these school tours, I’m here to share with you how you can tell that a preschool might be the wrong one for your child.
1) The teachers you met looked exhausted.
I met one lady, the one who would be Carlo’s teacher if we picked this particular school for him. She reminded me of Aunt Ophelia from The Addams Family. She had eye bags the size of suitcases. She didn’t seem like she had bothered to comb her hair for days. And her blouse was buttoned up the wrong way. But the dead giveaway that she was beyond tired was how she yawned with every other word during her spiel and how she very aggressively recommended the school’s lunch program to me because “Who has time to bother with preparing their kid’s meals these days? Why bother cooking meals at all? That’s what fast food is for, right?”
My thought bubble: Aren’t you supposed to put your best foot forward at these open houses? Well, Mrs Ophelia Addams Look-Alike, you seem to have missed that memo.
2) Your at-home playroom has more learning materials than their classroom and their library.
I’m a big lover of books and reading. So on these tours/open houses, I always ask the teachers I meet about their reading program and I ask to see their library because I believe it’s important to have a good foundation in reading comprehension.
In one school I went to, I was sad to see that we had more books and learning resources at home than they did. Furthermore, their pencils for the kids were the little ones from Ikea!!!! I’m not kidding! I picked one up (because I thought they were cute) and it had the Ikea logo. Then I snuck a look to check if if they were ALL from Ikea. They were! (Ikea doesn’t sell those little pencils, by the way. So these were likely stolen!!!!)
They also said that even if my child could already read the books they taught at his level, he HAD to stay within the set curriculum. This particular school had strict policies about age levels and the learning pace for all students within that age group.
My thought bubble: Why are you stealing pencils from Ikea?!!! Good grief! Aaaand Carlo would be bored out of his mind in this school! Aaaaand geez, why should we pay the high tuition here when Carlo would learn more from me? As for social interaction, sports, etc? Well, if this is the only school option left for us, forget it. I’ll just enroll him in extra curricular activities and home school him.
3) The classroom your toddler will be in has life-sized, preserved scary animals right beside their desks/chairs.
In one preschool I went to, in the room Carlo would be in, there was a black grizzly bear, a snarling wolf, a moose, a cobra posed as if to strike, a beaver complete with a miniature dam, and an alligator. All these stuffed and once-upon-a-time-they-were-alive animals were “artfully” positioned around the children’s chairs, almost as if the animals were surrounding the kids. And you know that there’s something wrong when the teacher candidly tells you, “Yeah, the kids really don’t like sitting next to them. Especially the wolf, the snake, and the bear. They’re scared of them.”
My thought bubble: Um, if you know that these animals scare the kids, why are they still in the room??? I’d be creeped out too if I had a huge wolf with yellowish eyes four or five inches away from my face. Every. Single. Day.
4) The classroom your child will be in is in bad shape.
When I walked into this one particular classroom, it smelled like a dank and dusty basement! Though all the windows were open and there was a breeze that day, the room still reeked. And while I was in there, I kept sneezing the entire time the teacher was giving me her tour.
One area of the room had also been turned into an elevated reading nook. However, the stairs and the bannister for the kids to use, to get up into the alcove looked like a DIY project gone wrong. When I tested the bannister for its sturdiness, it shook with the slightest movement of my hand. As I was doing this, the teacher told me, with a panicked look on her face, “Ma’am, please don’t do that! You might break it! I really worked hard on making that staircase and railing.”
My thought bubble: This is a private school! The tuition you charge parents is high! Where is all that money going if you are DIY-ing a reading nook for the kids? And gosh, when was the last time this room has been cleaned? The school has been open since 1973, it’s now 2014. Don’t you think you ought to replace the icky, smelly carpeting after 41 years?!
5) The teachers you meet seem like they’ve been smoking or drinking something.
I met one teacher, who would be Carlo’s main science instructor. But she also is the French teacher. And the music teacher. And the art teacher. And the chorale/choir teacher. (Music class being different from chorale/choir). Aaaand she is also the gym teacher. For ALL grade levels from junior kindergarten to 8th grade.
Madame, then blithely told me during her tour, “To foster French learning I talk to the kids in all my classes in French. Only in French.” All of them. So I asked her, “What happens if they answer in English or if they don’t understand you?” “Oh dearie, we use sign language instead for those instances.” Then she asked me “Did you do baby sign language with your son when he was an infant? Oh! You did? Then, he’ll have no trouble at all.”
My thought bubble: Huh? What did you just say to me? Baby sign language!!! Speaking French in Music! In Art! In Chorale! In Gym!!! I’m surprised you’re even conducting this tour with me in English. And how can you possibly be teaching all these classes for all these grade levels? Where’s your doppelgänger? And what rabbit hole did I fall into?
Then after meeting Madame, I met the school’s principal and founder. I asked her what her reasons for opening the school were and what the school’s philosophy of education was. I got this reply, complete with broad, theatrical, and waving hand gestures, “I started the school and I took the best principles from Montessori, et cetera, et cetera and mishmashed them all together.” She actually said “et cetera, et cetera,” so I clarified, “Ma’am, aside from Montessori, whose principles do you follow?” “Oh mine, of course!” Riiiiight….
My thought bubble: How can I leave this school tour without being rude? Does she smell like she had been drinking? Nah. But gosh, there must be something in the water in this place. These ladies are craaaazy.
Bottom line: If the preschool looks like Pugsley or Wednesday Addams would fit right in, then maaaaaybe you ought to give this preschool a pass. Unless of course, you’re a long lost relative of the Addams Family. :-p