Saturday, September 29, 2012

PreK update--aka navigating NYC public schools

I know, blog posts have been few and far between lately, but I wanted to post this so that we don't forget (and hopefully so that we will be able to look back in a few months and see that we've made progress with B's teachers).

B started preK in a NYC public school.  The preK program has gotten lots of great reviews, especially for one teacher.  We requested said teacher.  We were told that he would likely be in her class as they would "do everything they could".  We did not get said teacher:-(  In retrospect, we should have just raised a rukus then, had be switched into her class, and had a great year....but we didn't and now it would be a HUGE deal to have him switch classes and I doubt they'd even do it, plus he's just starting to get comfortable in his class...

Anyway, B's current teacher is fine, not great, not awful, just average, but she seems very stressed all the time and doesn't listen when we talk to her.  She "wants parents to be involved and to advocate for their child's education" but then doesn't hear you at all when you talk to her.

(There are two teachers and a student teacher for 18 kids, and the classroom is well equipped with supplies, etc. So although I am sure that her job can be challenging, it's certainly not an awful classroom situation.)

Case in point, she has a book that she writes "observations" of the children in everyday.  Ababa and I call it "the book of badness" b/c she only writes negative things in the book like "johnny wasn't listening...emily spilled her juice...jabari is scared of the slide...etc."  I was reading through the book Friday morning and noticed that she had writted that "b doesn't know his name...b doesn't understand english enough to know when we ask him to put his cup in the sink". 

WHAT?!?!?!?!?  B learned his new name 3 weeks into us knowing him and although we had planned to call him "new name-ethiopian name" all the time, he was adamant that he wanted to be called "new name" with "ethiopian name" as his middle name, and that's what it has been ever since.  Now he introduces himself to strangers with "first name, middle name, last name" and sometimes our address (kind of scary, I know!)

Also, this is a kid who sometimes gets sytax and pronunciation twisted, but has a vocabulary that includes "dental moldings, cornices, imagination ("avenation" as he says), san francisco ("fransancisco"), underpass, every type of construction vehicle known to man (including fellerbuncher!), ferris wheel...etc.", puts together 10 words sentences, can recognize and explain differences between the brooklyn bridge, george washington brige, london bridge, and fransancisco bridge...and says things like "well basically mommy, your throat is underneath your mouth and above your tummy and your food is digested in the tummy and then comes out your bottom as poop". 

Um yeah...he doesn't understand english yet enough to know his name or to put food in the sink?!?!??!?!?!...even if he's shy when we are not there, 5 minutes of observation when we are still in the classroom would easily have demonstrated these things.

Mornings are rushed in the classroom and I didn't want to try and have a big conversation when she was already stressed, plus I had talked to her the week before when she asked me "how long has B been speaking english" and I told her 15 months, and although his syntax may not be 100% at age level, he understands everything you say and has an amazing vocabulary.  We had a long conversation, she would never tell me exactly what the issue was, and I thought she had just noticed that B's syntax can be a little off (but completely adorable:-) sometimes.  I also told her that his way of coping with scary situations is to withdraw/shut down and that he might not be talking much yet and that's a fear thing, not a language skills thing.  Also, on the first day of school she had all the parents fill in a 4 page questionaire about their child which I thoroughly and thoughtfully completed regarding all these potential challenges (but I am pretty sure she has never read).

Friday morning I told Ababa about the book of badness report and he was really upset, b/c it turns out the previous week, he had sat her down and talked through all these things again and demonstrated how B can follow complex directions and definitely knows him name and how to put a cup in the sink.  He doesn't have high hopes that anything sunk in though b/c interspersed in the conversation were gems like:

teacher: we made popcorn today at school for cooking. B, you should have your daddy make popcorn at home.
ababa: we do make popcorn at home, it's mommy's favorite snack
teacher: well do you make it on the stove or in the microwave?
ababa: we make it on the stove, that's mommy's favorite way
teacher: oh, well we make it on the stove, you should try it that way sometime


it's pretty much like that everytime we talk to her.

trying to figure out the best way to navigate this. 

We're comtemplating starting our own book of badness to capture our "observations" about her as well...but know that we really do need to think of something more constructive to improve this situation.