Best Laid Plans
My three-year-old son hates school. The larger issues facing higher education can wait. The problems and challenges of education are happening to me, right now, and it’s all I can think about.
This week, classes began again anew. The start of the new semester seems to have taken more out of me than I anticipated (or remembered it taking out of me in August). I also have a lot more balls up in the air right now; worried about being ready for this summer’s Digital Humanities Summer Institute, wondering if I should apply to one of the NEH’s DH Summer Programs, revising papers, mentoring, and parenting.
I meant to write a couple of posts this week about the new book, Debates in the Digital Humanities, which I was supposed to be finished by now. I wanted to comment on how committed we really are in higher education to openness. I thought about writing about my first week of teaching. And, there is also the long-promised (to myself at least) post on resources for those interested in advocating for adjuncts/those off the tenure-track, in particular in preparation for next weekend’s New Faculty Majority’s conference (which I will be attending and live-tweeting #newfac12).
Instead, I’m sitting at my kitchen table completely at a loss as to how to get my newly 3-year-old son to like preschool again.
We often talk abstractly about differentiated education (or, at least I did). When my daughter first started attending the preschool, it was much smaller and there was more flexibility as to where a child was placed; it was based more on skill/maturity level than age. When my daughter figured out how to write her name on her own over the summer just after she turned three, she was placed in the highest level class where she continued to learn and flourish. This year she is four and repeating some of the material, but because the kids in the class are older, there is a group of them who are doing different, more advanced material.
My son started at the preschool a year ago just after he turned two. He was a typical two-year-old, albeit one who had never been to daycare before. While it had been easy to get my daughter excited about going to preschool (“I’ll get to LEARN THINGS?!?”), I was a little more worried about my son, who was less social and less open to change. He loved it. “New” toys, new friends, and opportunities to run around and play with kids of all ages. This year, however, the school got bigger and my son, rather than being in mixed-age company was in a class of his age peers. At first, this was not a problem. And then, the older kids (and teachers, unfortunately) started calling his classroom “the baby room.”
My son had to sit at the table and listen to his sister talk about how her friends got in trouble and were threatened to be sent to the baby room as punishment because of their behavior. Thinking back on it now, it was around the time that these stories came up that my son got down to the business of potty training. His teacher observed to me that he was beginning to sit and listen in class more as well as share more regularly and participate more readily. He’s beginning to sight recognize words, do math with his sister, and over the holidays, he began to draw things that look like things.
And, he began to really, really resent being called a baby, little, or any other term that didn’t indicate that he was now a big boy, which means that he absolutely hates that he is still in “the baby room.”
He’s beginning to act out. This morning I had to leave him as he was having a massive screaming fit because he didn’t want to be left in his classroom. He has a good teacher, but her classroom is full of barely two-year-olds, almost three-year-olds, and already-three-year olds. I’ve tried to have him moved up to the next class, but I was told it wouldn’t be fair to the other three-year-olds. I’m not sure how it’s fair to his teacher right now who is dealing with his outbursts and newly-obstinate behavior, but I’m at wit’s end trying to figure out how to do right by my son without becoming one of those parents.
I’m thinking about asking if he can be given more “big boy” tasks in class to make him feel less like “a baby” or if perhaps he could take on a “big brother” role to those who are younger to try and get him back to being excited about school. I also know that he has lost interest in a lot of the activities they do in class (because he’s bored? Because he thinks they’re beneath him?), so I also am willing to provide other/more challenging activities that he can do. I don’t see how any of these options are “more fair” than moving him up into a more appropriate class, but I’m at a loss as to what to do.
I loved school as a child and so does my daughter now. But I’ve been a teacher long enough now to know that the feeling isn’t universal. I don’t want my son to conflate a dislike of school to a dislike of learning, or a resentment of school to calcify into a distrust of education. I knew there would be a day where one or both of my kids would complain about school. I just didn’t think it would happen so soon. Because of where we live, there aren’t any other choices of where we could send him. I’m at a loss.
The larger issues facing higher education can wait. The problems and challenges of education are happening to me, right now, and it’s all I can think about. But it also makes me take a hard look at my own attitudes towards education and how to teach in my classes. We assume because of age or grade level or standardized test scores that the students sitting in front of us are “equal.” Or maybe we intellectually know that it’s not true, but we push forward in our teaching like it is, to be “fair.” And then I think of my son.
What would you, dear readers, more experienced parents and educators, do?
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