How to address a host of issues with our son's preschool teacher?
September 27, 2016 1:46 AM   Subscribe

There are multiple issues cropping up at our son's preschool since he started this September. What is the best way to go about this in order to yield the best results for all involved?

Our two-and-a-half year old just started going to school at the start of September. We got him some books about it; he was super excited and couldn’t wait to go. The first couple of days were great, and then he started saying he doesn’t want to go, then crying at drop off and during class time. He is totally potty trained at home (nap and night time included; we do direct him to the potty now and then), but has accidents every other day at school. He goes to school half days, every day.

We are in Belgium. He goes to a (state funded, thus free) Dalton school for which we get nothing but excellent references, including those of close friends whose (older) kids also attend. I am Portuguese, speak little Dutch, and get on with the staff in English, who 50% of the time reply in Dutch, which I can mostly follow. I did Montessory in pre and basic school in Portugal. My husband is Belgian and did Freinet in basic school in Belgium. We also have a one year old who stays with me all day, just as his brother did before starting school this September.
In this school kids stay with the same teacher for two school years before transitioning to the next class, which means some of his class mates are almost two years older than him. Observationally I cannot say this is an issue for him. Right now there are 15 kids in his class, which over the year will grow to 24. Right now his teacher is the only one there, with another teacher coming in a half day per week. As more kids join the class (there are 7 moments when more kids come in, according to their birthdays as they must be two and a half in order to start), this second teacher will come more and more until she is there full time. We have met her briefly and liked her. The primary teacher is in her mid-thirties and has a one and a half year old girl herself.

I am not sure where to start. I was so happy for him to be starting school, I cannot believe we are actually contemplating pulling him one month later. We need to know how to proceed, which we know means meeting with the staff, but we don’t even know if we should be meeting with his teacher only, or with both teacher and Principal. And we don’t know what to say. Or how. We need help.

From my observations during drop off and pickup (I have never spent time there, as I feel this will likely not tell me much), these are our concerns:

- His teacher is rather regimental, always giving orders in a harsh tone. I have heard her scold a child for crying. She is also a bit distant with the kids, no hugging and kissing, and I’ve never seen her playing around with them. She seems way too focused on keeping things under her control. In all honesty, I think this is the main issue. I think my son, who is super warm, cuddly and kissy, as well as high energy and generally nutty is just not getting on with her style and thus not attaching (which, at 2 and a half, I think is a requirement). But this is also a personal and subjective finding coming from his Mother. How do we address this in a meeting?

- She usually gives me a little report of his day, and it’s always negative: cried for x amount of time, took away a toy someone else was playing with, does not follow (completely new and difficult to understand) rules, was defiant. Now, to my mind these are all normal behaviours in a two and a half year old. Sure, they need to be helped out of them, but if you really expect a child this age to not do them because you tell them once or, what’s worst, scold them for it, I just don’t know what to say. Or rather, I do. I’d say it’s unacceptable and if you don’t know that you shouldn’t be alone with toddlers. But maybe that’s not what we should say. What should we say?

- The toilet and potty area. The room has a toilet area with two mini-toilets and one potty. Except for very early in the morning, I have never seen this room clean. The potty always has pee in it, and not just a little. Yesterday when I arrived my son had peed his pants all the way to his socks so I went to change him, again telling her she should not tssc-tssc him about not making it to the toilet, or make “ooh, you’ve gone and done it again!” comments because they will not help and may actually worsen the matter. That room was a mess. I emptied the potty, which for sure had not been touched since morning. I flushed yellow, papered toilets. I was fuming, but that is not the time to be getting into it. The time is at a meeting. But what do we say? I really feel that telling her the obvious is not likely to change much because for sure she knows this is unhygienic already. I also think kids need to be taught to be independent and use the toilet properly and by themselves, but until they don’t, they must be helped. And at 2,5 to 4, they just don’t. When I was changing my son, a little girl came in, sat on the toilet. Teacher asks from outside, “are you going potty?”, “Yes, miss”, “OK, then!” Little girl obviously gets up without cleaning herself or her hands and off she goes. This is not teaching, it’s the opposite of. In the first couple of weeks my son was wetting his clothes every day while on the potty because it is a bit small and his penis hangs out. It had to be me to tell her to help him use the mini toilet, in that case.

- His face after lunch (and those of his other younger mates) are filthy. I go pick him up with a pack of wet wipes because he is always delivered to me with a face that mirrors his lunch. And it’s a sandwich!

- I have started packing a stuffed animal he likes (but not attached to absolutely, he does not have that), and on the day I forgot about it, she complained and said he cried and cried. I then asked if she’d offered him one of the many in the classroom, and her answer was “No, but he could have taken one!”. Yeah, except he’s two and unless you show him that’s an option, he won’t think of it himself. We have had this type of interaction about other things before, too. ARGH. It frustrates me so, I don’t know how to respond.

- The teacher has asked me if our son speaks Dutch. I have told her that yes, Dutch is his L1, and I am the only one he speaks Portuguese with (we do One Person One Language). He speaks totally within the normal range in either language, but is more proficient in Dutch. She says he does not speak in class, which she attributes, along with the crying and peeing, to not having acclimated yet. To her mind, it takes sometimes “months and months” for kids to get into the routine and that many kids “are totally different at home than they are at school”. I just cannot agree, if they display such different behavior it must be because they are having trouble adjusting and we can’t just let it go until it falls into place after weeks of issues. There seems to be no plan.

- Our son does not speak of school. To the questions we ask, he replies with a “yes”, whether it is a yes-or-no question or not. Generally he just says he does not want to go. He does use words at home he learned at school, and other kids’ names pop up from time to time.

We love this school. We love the Dalton method. We don’t want to take him away because of this one teacher, but we feel we might have to. My son asks not to go to school every day (though when I come get him he seems fine and happy, if he’s not made a mess of himself), and he has been tantruming a lot at home, and looking rather unhinged, which I realize is age appropriate, but was not present before starting school. At home he goes to the potty just fine, and is dry during nap and night time. We are really not sure what to think or how to proceed. There is another class of his age group with a teacher we found very impressive at a general meeting, but we have no idea if changing him to that class is even an option. Today we have decided that until we have a formal meeting, we are going to shorten his day there to 3 hours a day, so he has lunch at home. We also think he needs school, and to spend time with other kids, which he truly enjoys. Please help us achieve some clarity here. What is normal? What is not? What can we expect from a meeting? What can we request and what can we demand? What is the best way to go about this in order to yield the best results for all involved?

Thank you all for all your answers.
posted by neblina_matinal to Education (35 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Is the school inspected by the state? Are inspection reports available to the public? It would be useful to review these before the meeting, as some of what you are talking about are basic hygiene problems and really should not be happening.

As someone who has had a child in three different pre-school settings, the attitude of this teacher is not acceptable or normal. If it cannot be changed, I would be seeking an alternative.
posted by Grinder at 2:42 AM on September 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

I think this teacher has too many kids in her class and does not have the capacity to meet your child's needs. I don't think any human being bar except Mary Poppins could look after FIFTEEN kids between 2.5 and 4.5 for hours at a time and keep them clean and fed let alone nurtured and cared for and educated. While I do agree that her attitude and approach are problematic, I think the primary problem is her capacity. In my state, the maximum ratio of adults to kids in pre-school services like montessori etc for the 2.5 to 6 age group is 1:11. For daycares, for 2-3 year olds it is 1:6 and 3-6 year olds 1:8. Is this class size usual where you are?
posted by bimbam at 2:59 AM on September 27, 2016 [56 favorites]

That's too many children for one teacher, surely. I did prac in a preschool and I think we had 12-15 kids and a teacher plus a teacher's aide. With me as a third pair of hands and I had plenty to do.

Maybe she has some positive attributes but frankly from your post I think the teacher sounds horrible and it makes me surprised you like the school when she is such a key part for your child. 2.5 year olds are babies and need kindness, she's not dealing with smart arse teenagers. Even if she's not comfortable with being demonstrably affectionate, if your preschool / kindergarten teacher isn't sweet and kind, what hope is there for the world? It's those supportive early years that bolster us up for the tougher times in higher grades. I think asking about the other class is a good idea. Otherwise I'd consider taking him out until next year and looking for other opportunities for socialising.
posted by kitten magic at 3:16 AM on September 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

We love this school.

Really? Because a grumpy teacher and filthy toilets both sound rubbish. I would take this up with the manager/head teacher and if they can't resolve it move schools. If your kids starts hating school at this age it will be a struggle later on.

Our son does not speak of school. To the questions we ask, he replies with a “yes”, whether it is a yes-or-no question or not.

This is pretty normal to be honest, my kid (now 4) has almost always answered "I don't know" or "I can't remember" to 90% of questions about school, and he's always loved it.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:21 AM on September 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

I'm sorry this is happening. I would pull my child immediately and switch to a place with age-appropriate expectations and a teacher who isn't burned out. This wouldn't be appropriate for a day care, much less preschool.

It doesn't matter what their method is if they can't treat your child with basic respect and compassion.
posted by snickerdoodle at 3:25 AM on September 27, 2016 [18 favorites]

Right now his teacher is the only one there,

FWIW, my kid at age two had a class size of around 15 2-y/os and there were at least 3 staff around at all times (this is at a decent-quality nursery in the UK). I can't believe you can effectively teach/supervise 15 2-4-year olds with one staff member. It may well be the teacher is incredibly overworked and stressed.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:27 AM on September 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

Seconding that 2.5 is definitely too young for being in the company of kids almost two years older, unless it is a purely nurture and play environment and also has a higher ratio of staff to children than you describe. And of course the little ones are taken to the toilet properly.

One thing you can positively do while you sort this out and await your meeting is to try to minimise how much of all this worry and stress is picked up by your child - almost impossible I know, but for example, having harsh words with the teacher in front of him (or even the tiniest frostiness - kids pick it all up) will only make it harder for him when you leave him behind a few minutes later. You have to do all big fake smiles when you take him in, and remind yourself that kids themselves don't care about food all over their faces or a messy potty room if they're having a good time.
posted by Coda Tronca at 3:32 AM on September 27, 2016

So let me recap:
  • Your son clearly is having a horrible time.
  • The staff ratio is 1:15, when the *minimum* staff ratio for 2 year olds where I live (the UK) is 1:4 , with 3-4 years being 1:8.
  • They only have one staff member half the time, which would be illegal here in UK - you *must* have 2 staff members for each class at this age.
  • The toilets are filthy and the children have no idea how to use them or keep themselves clean because there is no one there to check up on them as the teacher can’t leave the rest of the children for the 20s it would take to do that.
  • They’ve brushed off your concerns when you’ve raised them with the staff.
This nursery is *unsafe*. Your child & the other children there are being put at risk because there are not enough staff to look after them properly.

Please find your child alternative childcare. No “method” is worth putting your child at risk.
posted by pharm at 3:32 AM on September 27, 2016 [68 favorites]

The problem is always the same. You may love this or that overarching school philosophy, but at that age specifically, when kids transition from private place to public place for the first time in their lives, it is solely the personality (and skill level) of the teacher that's responsible for whether the school is a success or not (anecdata: we put our daughter into a [dutch] Montessori school that we loved when she was two, and she stayed there exactly one morning and still talks about the experience at 27).

Now, I've supervised quite a few pre-school teacher students and I will say that some, while being able to assemble the required amount of study points, just don't get pedagogy. They do eventually get some of the jobs and that's the problem. A pre-school pedagogue who yells at the kids for crying or having problems learning the potty part is simply blatantly incompetent and should be doing something altogether else than messing around with the next generation's minds. The teacher you describe sounds like the Nemesis of anyone's childhood, and you should be out of there faster than you can get a coat onto your son. Find another school. And be prepared that maybe your son needs a little time to re-set, perhaps also he's simply not quite ready yet.

And last but not least: the minimum you can expect is that people at a school that teaches your bilingual kid have an open attitude toward bilingual training, and it very strongly feels from your story like this teacher has no clue.
posted by Namlit at 3:40 AM on September 27, 2016 [11 favorites]

Granted, standards can vary greatly in the US (and I realize you are not in the US), but where I am, a preschool room for 2.9 - 4 year olds have a 1:4 or 2:5-9, meaning that there is 1 teacher for 4 kids if there is only one teacher or two teachers if there are 5 - 9 kids.

My son's kindergarten here in the states with 5 and 6 year olds had one teacher, two paraprofessionals, and 17 kids!

You're teacher likely needs help, but that's not your concern except to tell the director that you think there are too many kids for the teacher to properly handle. I don't know what the process in Belgium would be, but surely there is a way for you to have these addressed by someone who can do something about it?

But if this were my child, I would take my kid out of that school, find one more appropriately sized with appropriate teacher:student ratios, and I'd write a letter to the former school's leader about why I removed my child from that school in hopes they'll make it better for the other children who are still there.
posted by zizzle at 3:45 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Cannot favourite pharm's comment enough.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 3:48 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

If you want a reference point, MeMail me and I'll send you one of the daily newsletters our daycare sends out - we have 2yr old who just transitioned into the toddler group.

I'd pull my kid out of a school like that - what's supposed to be so great about it? Our daycare has no reputation particularly, but it's the opposite of what you're describing. It's clean, relaxed, low kid-teacher ratio, everyone's affectionate and really positive , kids always returned clean and changed...
posted by jrobin276 at 3:49 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I found the place where you can look up your school and see the last inspection reports.
posted by ouke at 4:19 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Just as point of information because I don't want to treadsit, I'll say the ratio is normal here. All schools work like this. Either they have a class of 12 to 1 teacher, or 24 to 2, which will happen gradually in this case. We did visit the school before and spoke to a lot of staff, as well as friends whose kids go there. The report ouke links to also states this is a good school, with a good project, that is both effective and kind. Our son's teacher was not present when we visited because she was on maternity leave last year. I agree with you that it sounds like crazyness, this ratio, but so it was for me as well at the same age, and here I am. So while in many places it is illegal, it is not in many others. Also, there is no alternative. It's how it works here.

Unfortunately, though, today when I went to pick up my son the teacher flat out told me, when requested, that she could not meet with me and my husband, that we would have to wait until the Parent Teacher Conference in late October. I told her this sounded most unusual and persisted. She persisted as well. This was in the middle of class, with kids flying around so I did not want to drag it out there and just said that ok, then. She became concerned, asked what this meeting would be about, and then went on to say that I looked "mad" (I think she meant "upset", but this is just why we need meetings in Dutch, although I do frequently thank her and all the staff for accommodating me in English). She insisted there was nothing to discuss, that all was normal. That she can't meet with parents because she does not have the time. But, she said at the end, she will talk to the Principal and see what she can do.

I came home and read the School regulation, which rather obviously states that parents are more than welcome to ask for appointments, and that they should NOT be having these types of conversations in class, due to their disruptive nature. So, obviously, she lied to me. In a rather purposeful manner. We shall now have to go above her head, and I really hate that I already feel the "Bear Mom" tag getting pinned on me. I truly tried so hard to have it not be this way. I feel horrible.

This was also the first day my son told me he like school. Oh, and the toilets were clean (which I know because he was in there when I came to fetch him).
posted by neblina_matinal at 5:28 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

One thing I like about homeschooling, and which tends to leave me at loose ends for what to tell parents with kids in crappy schools, is that we can pick and choose our instructors for anything not taught at home. We did some sessions with a co-op where all instructors were carefully vetted and observed; only once was one not up to scratch, and she was let go by the end of the first day. My kid is right now in two out-of-home classes and enrolled in these, and wildly enthusiastic about these, because they have first-rate teachers. People who are gentle, kind, and empathetic with children, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about their subjects, and skilled at teaching.

If I came across anything less I'd yank my kid immediately (and have done so) -- what would be the point?

The 'I must send my child to school' (at 2.5, a silly idea) view of things invariably leaves parents tolerating nonsense. She scolds kids for crying...?!

The woman sounds more like a prison warden than like a person with any sort of gift for working with children. Don't indulge this dump and don't torture your son. Send a sternly-worded letter about the conditions there to anywhere relevant, and stop sending your kid.

As for the good reviews: statistically, parents wildly overrate the quality of care their children receive. Everywhere is above average. Because who wants to admit that they send their child to a crummy place?

The benefits of pre-school are generally (1) very short-lived, (2) only evident in children whose home lives are so poor and so devoid of attention and enrichment that any time out of the house is advantageous. This all sounds so simple: just pull him. He doesn't like it, his teacher is a wretch, and you sound like you are struggling with the idea that you think you are supposed to like it despite having a laundry list of problems with it.

It looks like 'Dalton' is like 'Montessori' in that any school can use the name no matter how tangential their association with the original theory. Looking at the characteristics on Wikipedia, this just sounds like any low-rent preschool and not a place devoted to, well, 'tailoring each student's program to his or her needs, interests and abilities.' Scolding toddlers for toileting accidents is not...that.
posted by kmennie at 5:29 AM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

It would be a red-flag for me that your son’s teacher is unwilling to meet with you. Was she teaching when the last inspection occurred, or was she on maternity leave then?

You’re clearly going to have to go up the management chain in order to make any difference, which in turn may make things worse if the teacher takes it badly. Regardless, write everything down & take your concerns to management because it’s the right thing to do. At the same time, start looking for another pre-school.

What else is there to say?
posted by pharm at 5:58 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

My reaction to this is being heavily influenced by recent news stories here about the assault trial of a daycare owner in Quebec. If I were in your situation, I'd freak and pull my kid out immediately. Others have laid out the reasons much better than me, but there are so many red flags.
posted by heatherlogan at 6:01 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

She insisted there was nothing to discuss, that all was normal

As a former chairman of our local school's parent's organization with a bunch of years of experience of conflicts and mis-communication-by-policy, I can tell you that this kind of "nothing wrong, business as usual" declaration is totally normal, coming from a problem teacher. Sure, everything is normal from her perspective, because she yells at crying or pant-peeing kids every day.

The GOOD teachers would be the ones who directly ask "is there something I can do right now" and make sure they can communicate properly with the parents.
Teachers who for one or another reason are not good at handling real or potential conflict, on the other hand, will attach any old 'booh! parents' tag only too happily to the parent who wants to talk stuff through, because it's a quick and cheap way out. To this belongs the "you seem to be upset, why are you upset" card, too. These are all tactic moves towards something that, here in Sweden, has gotten an official name: stupid-declaring. Stay rational, don't let yourself be bullied around or declared stupid. You have a right to have your kids well taken care of, in Belgium or anywhere else.

Well, still - I would totally try to get my kid out of there pronto. If you don't feel for that, wait a few days and see if she actually did talk to the principal. If not, why don't you get in touch with the principal directly and ask for a talk? Again, do not fall for cheap tactics.
posted by Namlit at 6:54 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

There is nothing to discuss here.

This place is HORRIBLE AND CRUEL. Take your child out of this school immediately! Maybe he can go back when older, I hope you opt for a different school entirely.

The bathroom is a health violation, and the scolding is abusive. End this now. You don't even need it, your child is miserable. Please stop allowing this. The school knows and thinks this is normal! RUN!
posted by jbenben at 7:01 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Agreeing that this place does not sound like a good fit for your 2.5 year old AT ALL. A ratio of 1:15 sounds absurd to me, but I would be willing to tolerate some mess if the teacher were loving and caring, which it does not sound like she is, or maybe she would be if she didn't have 15 children. And it's going to be more before the 2nd teacher comes in! Did the three people who gave you the good references for the school have this teacher?
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 7:18 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

These are your son's formative years, please stop subjecting him to this abusive teacher who yells at children who cry. He is way too young for this kind of structure and rigidity. She has totally squelched all of his enthusiasm. The teacher either does not like your son, or does not like children. Either way, does it matter? No. Definitely report her, just in case no one else has had the balls yet.

Sounds like the best thing about this school is that it's free. Sounds like you're getting what you pay for.
posted by the webmistress at 7:24 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

So, you've gotten a lot of feedback here validating your concerns that the situation in the classroom is not good. But, not much to your actual question about how to address it with the school (beyond removing your son, which is certainly a valid option).

I think if the teacher is unwilling to meet with you, this perversely helps you--this is a clear red flag that you can go to the Principal with, along with all the other red flags. I think you laid out your concerns here in this Ask very clearly. Print it out and use it as notes for your discussion with the principal. Bypass the teacher entirely because you've given her a chance and she swatted it away. Don't wait for her to talk to the principal and define the narrative (i.e., paint you as a busybody unreasonable parent). Contact the principal, be polite but firm and straightforward about your concerns. Focus on the items that are directly related to the teacher behavior (scolding, inappropriate expectations given your son's age, unwillingness to talk with you about your concerns, etc.), and less on structural items related to the school (teacher/student ratio, mix of ages in a single classroom) since presumably you knew about those going in and you say other schools are much the same.

Think about what is your preferred resolution. Personally I don't think it's practical to expect the current teacher to change in any meaningful way. (Note, I didn't say it isn't *reasonable*--she sounds like a terrible teacher who shouldn't be in the role she is in. I'm just saying that a meeting with the principal, even if that person agrees that the teacher's behavior is poor, is unlikely to result in changes that would be immediate enough to improve your son's experience.)

You say there's another class your son could possibly be moved to? If you really want to keep your son in this school, insist on that then. Again, politely but firmly. In a sense, what do you have to lose by insisting on this, if your alternative is to stop sending him there altogether?

I'll also just ask you to consider what it is that you "love" about this school? As others have pointed out, the biggest factor by far in any student's experience at any school is the specific interactions he/she has with a specific teacher. It doesn't matter if the school overall is fabulous by various measures--if the person your son interacts with day after day is miserable, he will be miserable. Don't be in love with the "idea" of the school--it's the reality of it that counts.

Good luck, I know it is very stressful to think about challenging a teacher/principal, and perhaps being painted as an unreasonable parent. But all the voices here are backing you up--your expectations are NOT unreasonable, and I am confident based on the way you've described the problems here that you can do what needs to be done to get a better outcome for your son.
posted by msbubbaclees at 7:31 AM on September 27, 2016 [7 favorites]

"Just as point of information because I don't want to treadsit, I'll say the ratio is normal here. All schools work like this. Either they have a class of 12 to 1 teacher, or 24 to 2, which will happen gradually in this case."

Have you carefully checked this against local regulations and any public statistics? It is easy to get these numbers wrong. Sources may count assistants or not, and may be confused about exact ages. (What is reasonable at 4 may not be at 2.) Standards are also revised over the years.

The sanitation problems are an open-and-shut issue. Also, every source I have read has specifically warned against your teacher's toilet training methods. The lack of a plan, and unwillingness to meet, also suggest incompetence, lack of basic training, and inadequate management. I feel some sympathy, as it would be very stressful to have exclusive care of a dozen very young children with inadequate support, while also having a 6 month year old at home. That is not your problem, however.

Young children do indeed cry on drop off and need some time to acclimate. "Months" sounds long.

I would not bother with further awkward conversations. These problems should be obvious to management. I would leave. Also, consider following up with licensing authorities.
posted by floppyroofing at 7:33 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

Too many red flags. I would not send my child there another day.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:33 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I want to hug your boy so much. TAKE HIM OUT OF THERE. None of what you described is ok! And the teacher's refusing to meet is as clear a signal as you can get for that this lady is SPECIFICALLY NOT interested in the welfare of your kid! This is your precious baby and you're the only advocate he has, what are you waiting for?
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:00 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Unfortunately, though, today when I went to pick up my son the teacher flat out told me, when requested, that she could not meet with me and my husband, that we would have to wait until the Parent Teacher Conference in late October. I told her this sounded most unusual and persisted. She persisted as well.

Don't send your child there ONE MORE DAY. If she's this rude and on-the-offensive with a parent, trust that she is a million times worse with children. This is 100% a no-brainer. Pull him out of the this place. I can't even imagine why any of this is up for debate. Pull your kid and explain to the principal exactly why so you can mark their card.
posted by yes I said yes I will Yes at 8:01 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I am a parent of two kids a few years old than yours. It is easy to get into a mindset where changing a bad situation will only make things worse by disrupting a child's routine, even when that routine is patently problematic. This teacher sound terrible. As in needs to be fired. I can only see two options, both of which are more work for you. Either start showing up early and staying in the classroom or go to the principal to explain why you will not send your child to the school while the teacher is employed there and leave it at that.
posted by mzurer at 8:08 AM on September 27, 2016

Please get him out of there.

Bad experiences with a person, or school, don't require that the person or school be essentially bad. It doesn't matter whether the school is good for other people (although it probably isn't). It doesn't matter whether the teacher rescues kittens, knits hats for orphans, and has written a respected book on how to nurture through a sense of love and fun. This is not only "not working out", it could kill your child's love of learning and group activities.

Please get him out of there.

Then, I hope things will be better, but if the next school has problems too, don't let "but we just changed schools" be a factor in your decision of how to proceed then.
posted by amtho at 8:12 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oof. Nthing the advice to pull him out. Regardless of what is "normal" for the culture, the local law, or the method, this is not a good fit for your child. This is his first experience with school, which should be warm, secure, and an invitation to explore and learn. He isn't getting that experience here. He is too little to know how to navigate this negative environment, and he's showing behavioral concerns as a result. Please help him by putting him in an environment that he feels more secure in.
posted by vignettist at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Others have pointed out concerns but as a note point, both my sons cried for months at that age when I dropped them off at school. As in, at least four months. Both apparently stopped crying soon into the day and got along with the routine. They are in a Mandarin/English school and what helped with finding out how my son was doing was to have my husband drop them off at times as he speaks Mandarin and I don't. So, if your husband can speak Dutch, send him in one day to chat with the teacher briefly or to get a better sense. Otherwise, do they have email? I had some brief emails with the head teacher (there weren't any problems, I just wanted a sense of how they were doing), and that was a good to have communication with a written/not time-dependent method.

My kids' teachers only had to write reports for them when they were in the toddler room, but unlike you getting negative reports, they tried to find something nice like "Child enjoyed picking up rocks at recess". I did have some concerns about what I saw as different methods from my own but overall I just left it to the school. Kids cried? Oh well. Kid didn't want to nap? Too bad, that's what his school did. And like I note, they both ended up loving their school (5 and 3 now). Some parents are seeing a huge safety concern but as you explained about the teacher ratios are the norm I guess that isn't an issue in the Netherlands. If your child is saying he likes school now, I would recommend leaving him there.
posted by biggreenplant at 8:46 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Disclosure that my own educational proclivities lean toward unschooling, though I have a healthy curiosity about certain alternative schooling methods. I am at home with my extroverted 2.75 year old.

School is not the only way for a child this age to get socialization. There are playgroups and playdates and chilling at the park and library storytimes and music classes in my area; I'm sure there are in yours, too. Some of this requires being proactive. I'm a socially anxious introvert who just founded a forest school with parental presence because there was nothing like that in my area. It's not the easiest, but you can do it. My daughter is very well socialized with children of various ages. Of course, this might not all be possible if you're sending your child to school because you work, but just saying--it's not a matter of preschool at 2 vs never leaving the house or talking to other kids.

All that being said, the quality of care makes a huge difference. And this school sounds gross and unsafe. As a child, I was in both daycare and preschool. My mother was a preschool teacher at a large daycare center, and initially I was placed in a 2s "class." I have vivid memories of my unhappiness during this time--the dirty carpet, the children fighting over broken toys, the stern teacher, being forced to lie down on a sticky mat even though I no longer napped. Those memories stick with you. I was deeply unhappy, and I remember this being a source of stress for my parents, as the center didn't want to move me to another class due to my age. But my mother advocated for me; I moved to her class, which was wonderful, and then 6 months later started at a local play-based preschool, which was also wonderful: warm, nurturing, clean, safe.

Your child deserves to be in a safe environment. You should trust his unhappiness and your own instincts. You are your child's best advocate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:33 AM on September 27, 2016 [3 favorites]

I sympathize if this school time is providing you with much needed childcare time and you have to keep your son there. In that case, I hope you can at least switch classrooms and find a more nurturing teacher. That's assuming you have no other childcare options. However, if your son is enrolled in pre-school at 2.5 because he's meant to be learning social and academic skills, then I would withdraw him immediately. He's not going to learn in this environment and it's needlessly stressful for you and him. Surely you can find a better way to help him learn group play and social skills. But he's still a toddler, why push academic settings already? Because it's just "what's done?" That's not a good reason when he's clearly not benefitting from it.
posted by areaperson at 10:14 AM on September 27, 2016

the agents of KAOS: that is for the Netherlands, but the OP is in the Dutch-speaking Flemish Community of Belgium (totally separate system and rules).

OP: can your native Dutch-speaking parter be more involved in communicating with the school? I have to imagine the language barrier may be creating additional difficulties here. It sounds like a bad situation and I'd be pulling my child from that school in your situation if that was possible.
posted by borsboom at 2:45 PM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

The teacher's new baby is in daycare all day and she's working with a giant, mixed-age classroom all day? How is that supposed to work out for anyone? Without a lot more naps, at least.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:52 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

When you met the principal, make sure you have really specific examples - and frequency - to refer to. Principals deal with parental concerns all the time, and you want to make it easy for them to a) take you seriously, b) see there is a legitimate problem, and c) identify an easy course for rectification.

Come with a solution or preferred path forward, and for me this would be serious enough to involve my fluent partner to ensure there are no misunderstandings.

I appreciate that there are some cultural differences in Belgium, but I am extremely skeptical that the hygiene issues you are talking about would be up to relevant codes. I understand this whole school situation may be par for the course there, but I am a little concerned that you are normalising something that in the majority of the developed would be considered a sub-standard, even dangerous, level of care. For example, in Korea hitting children in school is not uncommon, but there is no way I would accept that for my child regardless of how "normal" it is.

Frankly, there is no way on Earth I would leave my 2.5 year old with 15 other children and one teacher, in an environment where she is regularly scolded and not taught or expected to wipe herself, wash her hands, face etc. and allowed to run around filthy. I would in fact be incandescent with rage if this was happening at her daycare.

Best of luck with whatever you decide.
posted by smoke at 7:14 PM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

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