I think I have mentioned before my underwhelmed emotions about Jasper’s kindergarten. That not one staff member used to come and greet him or say goodbye when we arrived and left. That not one staff member ever offered me any information about the kind of day he had or what activity he enjoyed. Still don’t unless I ask them. That he has not formed one real friendship and when asked who he played with will quite matter-of-factly tell me he ‘played all by myself’.
Here’s the thing. I just don’t think the staff like the children that much. Don’t get me wrong, they care for them, they run a lovely structured program and they tick all the boxes they’re meant to when it comes to meeting the government criteria, rules and regulations for a kindergarten.
But it seems to me they are more concerned with writing down what each child is doing and having everything in its place than simply playing with the kids and teaching them through play and fun activities.
I find their barely controlled panic when a child hurts themselves really quite funny – like something has happened that they didn’t have in the program!
There was the time I went to open a toy from its wrapper on a table with lots of books on insects and toy bugs and asked the girls if that was OK. Three of them simultaneously cried out ‘NO’ with the director then offering that its because the pieces might get lost.
Even dust doesn’t got lost at this place.
Or the time we weren’t there for two weeks and when we returned not one staff member said hello or offered up a cuddle or asked Jasper where he’d been or if he’d had a good holiday.
My shiny happy Jasper is just some flotsam in this place. Other kids are more needy, more in need of assistance, more outspoken in the setting. Jasper just goes about his merry business and they – from all appearances – do nothing to tap into his world.
So why have we left him there all year? Well they do do things with them, it’s not like he is neglected. He seems to enjoy it (when he’s there) and I needed some down-time. Let’s not underestimate this last point. If he had been really unhappy and fought going there I would have pulled him months ago, but that just hasn’t been the case.
We are SO relieved we got a place in a wonderful pre-school for him next year. A centre which just screams it is for the children, with not an inch of wall space or even ceiling space free of the kids’ artworks and creations. Where I’ve seen staff scoop children up and kids run to staff to tell them things or for a cuddle. Where there is an energy and a joy about being a part of these children’s lives.
So while we’ve just been celebrating the world according to Jasper, what with him turning four and all, today Chef came home from dropping him off with a parent information note about the PALS (Playing And Leaning to Socialise) program and a form to sign for Jasper to be a part of it.
This is a really good program. I remember it from when Oscar was little and I think the kindy ran it there for him and some of his classmates. It is a series of half hour sessions using story telling, songs, games and role-play which work on skills such as greeting others, taking turns talking and listening and at play, sharing, asking for help, identifying feelings, empathy, overcoming fear and anxiety, managing frustration and calming down and speaking up.
But you know what. Just handing the info sheet to a parent with a ‘I’d like Jasper to do this’ is not good enough. Why? Have there been any situations or events that have made you concerned about him for this to be necessary? If so, why has there been NO discussion with us, his parents, about it – when there are now only EIGHT weeks left in the year?
Don’t get me wrong, if any of my children are offered a place in a free educative program I’m taking it – hell, Jasper might come home and be able to model some behaviours for his older brothers to learn. BUT there is a way to go about informing parents of the program and why they think their child would benefit from being involved.
And apart from that, I want to yell at this place that what they see as Jasper’s shyness is actually his reflection of how they interact and treat him.
I remember when Felix started at a pre-school his teacher said to me really early on that he was quite happy to play on his own rather than ask to join in and that if another child asked him to join an activity he would but would then just move away after a little while. This was apparently a red flag moment. I pointed out that maybe he didn’t want to play whatever it was the other kids were playing and was happier doing the activity he chose to do on his own and that wasn’t it better to move away once bored or over it than just lash out at the others or destroy what they were playing or WORSE, stay in the activity even though he didn’t want to? Can I point out that at this time he was EIGHTEEN MONTHS OLD.
She also noted that Felix would sometimes go and do something to another child (like take their toy or some such) but that she was perplexed by it. She could see he was not doing it out of spite or naughtiness or malice and that it was obvious he did not want the toy or book or whatever it was to play with. She said to me, ‘You know, he’s doing it for a laugh. He’s got this really developed sense of humour that his peers just don’t understand yet.’ Well, DERR. Thank goodness she finally ‘got’ him.
Holy crap people, let’s get a grip. Jasper – like Felix and like his father and let’s face it, like me – will not engage just for the sake of engagement. He will instigate conversations and games with adults and children alike, but if there isn’t someone there he likes/wants to initiate with then he will happily go on his merry way and make his own game or do his own thing.
I’m sorry but I actually see that as a good personal trait.
So look, my shiny happy all singing and dancing and crazy walking and funny faced Jasper is going to do a social skills course. Not because he needs it but because there’s not really anyone – adult or child – at this pre-school he particularly likes or wants to play with. I’m not saying this to make myself feel better, I’m saying it because I.know.my.son.
Hell, when he’s here he’s got three brothers to negotiate – two days at kindy are probably his idea of quiet time when he finally gets to play with something he wants to play with without having some great interloper of a big brother or some pesky gnat of a little brother coming in and sabotaging it.
I just want to tell them that the main reason they see him as shy at kindy is because of how they are with him, not because of who he is.