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Archive for the ‘education’ Category

Preschool Hell

Martin may go to preschool next year. I’m not sure yet. I’ve set up a few tours, though. There are 58 million preschools in my area, and they seem to fit into one of three categories: 1. church-run, 2. big-business-run, 3. college tuition-expensive ($10,000?!), but cool. Maybe this is just how preschool is–I went to one run by the town high school, and since this is my first foray into preschool-land since then, I am out of the loop. And not sure I want to be in it.

In a local magazine, area residents voted on their favorite preschools, so I decided to start there. One of them, after last week’s visit, will hereby be known as Preschool Hell.

I have, however, retained enough of my critical thinking skills, even after this visit, to realize that this place did seem like a safe, clean, fairly caring, and somewhat stimulating environment for children. A thirty minute tour and a meeting with someone who seemed to know how to push every one of my get-pissed-off-right-away buttons does not a fair and complete analysis of a preschool make. I have deliberately censored myself in casual conversations with people while discussing this place–but I don’t have to here. (And if they ask my honest opinion, they will get it.)

Fine. So why is it Preschool Hell?

Highlights of the tour by the owner-manager-corporate-hack-whatever-she-was:

1. She said “corporate” more times than should ever be said in a preschool. Corporate lesson plans, corporate standardized testing, corporate oversight, corporate offices, corporate menus, corporate brain implanted into her head . .

2. The bragging about some kind of crazy standardized testing that they do so that I can compare my child to all of their other students nationwide. Standardized testing, implemented how it is in the schools that I have taught at, makes me ill. I don’t intend to start with it in pre-kindergarten–especially when she pretended it was for me, but my husband suspects that it is for them.

3. The same ol’ “boys are such trouble” thing. “And you have these two boys–and we know how boys are.” Oh, no, she didn’t. “They have so much trouble staying focused and just want to run all day, so we counter that with lots of structure.” And have princess tiaras and Bratz doll requirements for the girls?

4. A constant refrain of educational buzzwords, with an air of trying to impress? intimidate? I didn’t say: “Look, baby, if you want to get into educational theory and educational jargon and standardized testing with me, I’ll make you wish you didn’t get out of bed this morning.” Oh, that’s right–I coulda been the snottiest, snobbiest edu-bully that that preschool fraud had ever seen at 9 am. And toting two tots as I did it. But, really, my opponent was not worthy. She was a preschool-hell robot, and had been programmed by the corporate offices. I think that those corporate-made lesson plans probably printed right out of her stomach somewhere. It was somewhat fascinating to watch.

Ugh. That’s enough. There’s more–like the claim of ten kids per teacher, but not seeing it in most of the rooms, the price for what seemed mostly to be babysitting (with extra fees everywhere I looked), and the impression that there were no actual teachers in the place, but I would rather think and write about sewage and mayonnaise than pre-school these days. I need a break.

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My high school English teacher–the one who told me feminists could wear white robes–had a bulletin board in her classroom devoted to advertising. Not only did she display the ads, but she led close-reading/seeing discussions on the sexist and racist images and symbols in advertising–and once she clued us in to what we were seeing, we saw it everywhere. What could have been a better lesson for the girls and boys in her classroom than how to read their world along with their literature? Particularly when they learned to read the messages they didn’t even know were there.

We found and collected those images, picked them apart and vanquished them with our discussions, then relegated them to the corner of the room where they belonged.

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This ad is on NOW’s Love Your Body page–go there to see it along with a dizzying array of other awful ads.

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This was advice from my dentist. I said, “I would be a lot more bored being a dentist.” OK, fine, I didn’t say it aloud. If he said it now, almost four years later, I would retort out loud. And probably, loudLY. Then, though, I just kind of shrugged. I was still pregnant, and I hadn’t really decided what to do. Maybe I would be bored. I sure thought I was going back to work after my maternity leave.

Fast-foward to the hospital room with the newborn baby in my arms. OK, now try to rip it from me. Impossible. Even doting grandparents had a hard time holding that baby. I’m not advocating these feelings as the healthiest or most desirable–evidenced by my first time out without the baby as I exclaimed to my sister, “Hey, look at us! Two girls out at night going to CVS! This is so awesome!”

Actually, I did get bored sometimes, especially when it was just me and nursing or sleeping baby hour after hour, but that’s not the kind of bored he meant. The message was loud and clear–that I was too smart, too capable, too into other things, to possibly give everything up to raise children full-time. I was too good for that.

And really, damn him and everyone else who think I live a soap-opera-and-sweatpants kind of life. But while I talk tough, I have to still admit that the stereotyping of mothers who are staying with their children gets to me. I got a publication from an academic honor society the other day, and at the back were car stickers, pendants, and key chains with their symbol. I have barely perused this magazine in the past; it’s from a long-ago college thing. I couldn’t care less about stuff like that. (I only remember the banquet because I was staring at my watch until the minute I could escape, then sprinting down the hall to make a Sarah McLachlan concert on time.) But now, I actually considered ordering some kind of key chain. With a sinking feeling, I realized that it would only be to say, “Hey, look, I’m smarter than you probably think I am! I could actually go back to doing smart and important things if I wanted to instead of being at this playground!” So even though I have not regretted giving up a paying career to stay home, and even though I am disgusted by insinuations that a parent taking care of children full-time is something to look down on, I guess I still let it get to me. Yuck.

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