Sunday, August 25, 2013

Lessons Learned

I thought I'd take the time to jot down a few of our (tougher) lessons learned, after our first week at Kindergarten.  Some of these have been harder to adjust to than others.  But, I figured the stories that came with some of them were interesting and lend a new perspective on things!  That means, this will also be a pretty long post (warning!).  ;-)

Overall though, I'd say we are doing really well transitioning into a new school, with new kids, new teachers, new drop off and pick up routing, and a new structure to our life in general.  Phew!

And, before we start with the "bad", let's show a picture of the good!  Here's a couple of Logan, goofing off, excited as ever, on his first day of school.  :)

  1. Logan's the small fish (again), in a much bigger pond.  And those big fish are rough and like to push. Logan's learning this one the hard way after a few scrapes and tumbles.  I'm also learning to bite my tongue and keep my Mama Bear in check, since all I want to do is yell at the other Moms, or teachers, to get their ass into gear and reprimand these kids for shoving other little ones around, but I don't.  

  2. I do think this has happened mostly before school, when he's playing on the playground (and there's no real supervision), while we wait for the first bell, and after school, where he's mixed with all other kids staying in the after school care program.  Otherwise, I believe the Kinders all just play amongst themselves, which is better for him.   Still, he can sometimes be a sensitive guy and hasn't liked some of the pushing and bullying but doesn't quite know what to do when it happens.  :)  I suspect this'll blow over and he'll learn what to do - hopefully not by turning into a pushy bully himself, but at least to stand his ground so that these sorts of encounters don't phase him.

  3. Less attention to detail.  The teachers, and the counselors of the after school program both, don't track the little details of my precious kiddo.  I'm sure this is more a Mom learning than anything :) As I'm used to the (practically) one on one attention we got at our preschool.  But, at a "real" school, everything is just bigger and more crazy and more chaotic.  This could also be due to first week jitters and I'm sure over time I'll establish a good rapport with Logan's teacher where I'll be able to ask about specific issues, nor will I be as protective as time goes on.  ;-)  But for now, I've noticed I'll ask very specific questions and I may or may not get a detailed answer back.  And for this anal retentive Mama, that has taken some adjusting!

  4. Trusting and letting go.  The first few days of the week were great when we dropped Logan off.  We marched into his room, in a line with all of the other new Kinders and parents. I'd help him leave his lunchbox in his basket, he'd hang up his backpack, head to his seat and I'd give him a quick hug and kiss good bye.  Easy and clean.

    However, starting Thursday, while we were waiting in the outside line to go inside, the teachers came out and told all parents to leave.  Wait - you want us to just leave our little one all alone outside in this long line of stranger kids?  That doesn't feel right.  In fact, that feels very unnatural and very weird.

    Every parent was hesitant and most kids were too.

    Suddenly, while bending down to explain to Logan that I'd be leaving him in the line and he'd have to walk in by himself with his class, it dawned on him too (he was already upset since he got hurt just a few minutes before on the playground, see above, so this was really just icing on the cake that he wasn't prepared for). He got that death grip hold with two arms wrapped around my legs telling me to please don't go.  He begged me to stay or to take him with me.  And, he told me he'd miss me.

    It was all I could do to keep a calm and straight face.  I told him I'd miss him too but that he'd be just fine and he'd have a great day at school.  I gave him a quick (as quick as I could while prying his very strong arms off of me) goodbye and walked out to the quad where I found every other parent lingering around, trying to get a last glimpse of their child, making sure they were ok.

    Of course, I know it's silly - the gates to the school are locked, they are safe and fine - but something about leaving them outside in line to fend for themselves vs. leaving them inside a safe warm cozy building and sitting at a desk - was a shock to pretty much everyone there.

    Friday was just as bad, I'm afraid to say.  He told me he wasn't going to have a good day without me, and clung to my waist/legs again.  I know this won't last forever but it's a pretty tough thing to handle, especially when I'm already battling my own issues with my little guy growing up so fast!

  5. Minimal and/or implied communication.  This is, in some ways, related to #2 above. While I think the school thinks they are trying to communicate VERY well to parents, some things are VERY confusing to first time parents!  You do learn this over time and/or via other parents, but not necessarily from the "authorities" themselves.

    The biggest example of this is the mysterious - but oh so very important - THURSDAY WHITE ENVELOPE.

    Dum. Dum. Duuuuummmm.

    Every Thursday, the kids are sent home with a white envelope. This envelope is meant to hold any and all communication from the school or teacher, to the parents.  Every Thursday night, you parse through and read it, sign whatever forms need to be signed, etc. and return it back on Friday (with your signature and date on the white envelope, proving you received and read through the packet of stuff!).

    If you lose said precious envelope, you've got to pay a whopping 50 cents to get a new one. :)

    And, if you want to communicate with the teacher, by including a note to her for that week, let's say, you must mark a little check box next to your signature so that the teacher knows to look for your note inside the envelope.  But, none of this is actually explained to you, like I have just outlined above.... (I was lucky enough to learn this from a colleague at work, to help save me some frustration!)

  6. The weird thing to me is we have, you know, these things called phones and/or email, to communicate with.  I get that the larger educational system does need a way to get some of this paperwork out to us and back.  But, I'm assuming (hoping?) that if I really needed to discuss something one on one with Logan's teacher, I could either pick up the phone and call her, or email her directly.  We'll see, when that happens, if that is the case.

  7. Not all kids are polite, nor share, as Logan has learned to do.  I'm not saying Logan is the squeaky clean, super polite and always sharing kid - but he has learned a thing or two from the last 5 years in preschool and with us.  So, this is a weird one for him to now learn, in a different light (and related to #1 and 2 above, if you're following).

    The other day, when I arrived to pick up Logan from after school care, he got very upset when he saw me.  I asked him what was wrong and he said he was waiting to play a game and now that I was there, he wouldn't be able to play it.  I said hey - no problem, I'll wait for you.  So, go play your game.

    He went back to the table and quietly, and politely, asked the other (bigger) kids if he could have a turn.  No answer.  He nudged in a little closer to the table and said hey, it's my turn, can I play with the marbles now?

    One of the (bigger) kids literally pushed him out of the way and to the side.  :(   This was all happening while the (probably no more than 18 year old) counselor was sitting at the same table, perhaps 2 feet away, and not doing a damn thing to intervene.

    I kept my Mama Bear instinct in check and decided to just "calmly" observe.  *pats on back*

    Logan, as expected, got very upset that he was getting pushed around, ignored, and most importantly, not allowed to play the game which he had patiently been waiting for, and which he knew he had very little time left to play, since Mom was here and waiting for him.

    He stomped off in a corner, visibly upset and about to cry.  FINALLY, the counselor DID notice this.  She went over to find out what was wrong, walked back with him to the table of kids and said ok guys - we all need to share, so everyone gets two marbles each, and assigned them out to each kid.

    Logan was a happy clam, now with his two marbles, and took them over to ANOTHER game, in a box, which he was wanting to play with.  This counselor, now paying more attention, went with him to help him open the box and start building this other toy.  But, just as the last piece was removed from the box - literally, just at that moment - the Head Counselor called out to the entire room, OK EVERYONE!  TIME TO CLEAN UP!

    As you can imagine, Logan fell apart with disappointment and I had to haul him to the car kicking and screaming (well, not really but that's what it felt like), to go home.

    And the most unfortunate part of it all?  was that he blamed the entire bad experience on me.  :(

  8. It's never too early for peer pressure to begin.  This one is quite a small observation, but cute nonetheless.  One of the kids Logan has made friends with (but doesn't know his name because he's too shy to ask) really liked Logan's t-shirt, from Day 1.  I remember Logan even mentioned that a kid liked and commented on his t-shirt, but the comment didn't register any more than that for me.  However, on the morning of Day 2, while we were waiting for the bell, I offered him to go play on the playground, which he readily did.  The minute he saw his new friend, he pointed him out to me, and then insisted I help him take off his sweater. RIGHT NOW.

    I had just put it on because Logan was complaining of how cold it was, so I was baffled as to why the sudden change and at first objected.  He continued to pester though, so I did, at which point he happily skipped over to his new friend, jutting out his chest, and pointing to his t-shirt that he was wearing THAT day.  Check it out!!! It's a FLYING PIG!!! And from there, they were off, playing good guy/bad guy, cops and robbers (or something).

    I had a good laugh.  But I can't lie, I was also thinking OH GREAT.  He already cares so much about what his peers think, he's willing to freeze his ass off to show them.  ;-)

  9. You are responsible for your stuff.  I know this one is going to take a long time for him to learn, and I should probably be happy with the fact that we're learning this with his lunchbox, as opposed to something more valuable, but the lesson still has been a frustrating one for us both to learn.

    As I mentioned earlier in the week, Logan lost his brand spanking new Angry Birds lunchbox (which he loved so dearly and was very proud of) on his first day.  I looked high and low for it every morning, hoping it might turn up.  But, as each day rolled by, I knew it was a goner.  The tough thing for me has been that this touches on another lesson, that not everyone is trustworthy, and some people will take your things.  I've struggled with how direct I should be about this lesson, since I don't want to turn my innocent and trusting little guy into some cynical kid who immediately lets his mind go to a bad place, when something like this happens. But I do want him to be aware that these things will happen.

    Likewise, I can't help but think this also means - for me - that I can't assume another parent will have as strong of a conscience as I, and return something that simply does not belong to them.  :)

    So, a few things have happened during the great Lunchbox Mystery escapade this last week, that are probably blog worthy.

    One, I think the whole "put the kids' lunch boxes in a basket" process is crap. What I mean is, it's a fine enough process, if the teachers (or whomever is responsible for monitoring it) were actually monitoring it.  I'm all for teaching kids to track their own stuff and make sure they are responsible and accountable for their own things.  Absolutely.  But, I'm sorry, you're just being stupid and naive, if you expect 5 year old brand spankin' Kinders, on their very first day, to understand and follow the process to a T.  Perhaps after a couple of weeks, when you've guided them through the process, sure.  But not on Day One.

    If I were creating a brand new process at work, you can be damn sure I'd have to document the shit out of it, walk it through (MULTIPLE times) with all stakeholders and participants, ensure they understood the new process, train them on it, and possibly even hand hold and SUPPORT them on using that process for a few weeks after go-live. And that's all with ADULTS.  But hey, what do I know.  ;-)

    Every morning, we all pile the kids' lunch boxes in a very generic white (laundry looking) basket at the door of the classroom, as does every other classroom.  Then, at lunchtime, said baskets are brought out to the quad for the kids to sort through and grab their own.  I suspect the teachers ARE monitoring this part of the process, to make sure each kid grabs the right lunchbox (I mean, half these kids probably don't even know what their brand new lunchbox even looks like!)  I think they're doing this because, on day one (the day that Logan lost his), the teachers noticed he didn't have a lunchbox, asked him if he brought a lunch (he says they asked him if he'd like his own lunch or the school's lunch - LOL!), and then gave him the school lunch because they thought he didn't have one (again, he said he wanted the school's lunch, so who knows!).

    When the kids are done with their lunch, they all put their lunch boxes back into the basket.  But, from what I've gathered, two things break down at this point in the process.  One, the kids don't really differentiate which basket is theirs (why not color code them, for example?!), so I think they're just throwing their lunch box into whatever basket they see first.  And two, the teachers aren't moving the baskets back into the Kinder building when done, so hey!  whaddya know - all these new lunch boxes out in the quad, are now available for the picking of any older kid who happens to saunter by and want a new lunch box to use.  (see, there's my cynical old self creeping out that I'm trying not to show Logan)

    At the end of the day, during pickup, parents/kids sort through these baskets to get their lunch boxes and head home.  I've actually asked Logan to just put his lunch box back into his back pack, as opposed to the basket, when he's done at lunchtime, but it's probably asking a bit too much for him to independently break out of process at this point.  ;-)

    When I picked Logan up on Thursday, not only did the counselors report that they still hadn't found his Angry Birds lunch box (which he has asked me about EVERY.SINGLE.DAY, not only if I had found it, but why hadn't anyone turned it into the Lost and Found?) but they ALSO couldn't find his old blue lunch box (the one from his preschool days, which we had been using since Monday, since the Angry Birds one was lost).

    Honestly, I was irritated.  Seriously?  We've lost another one?!?  As it turns out, they said, about half the Kinders have lost at least one lunch box this week.

    HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE?  Where are they all going?!?

    I decided, Screw this, I'm going to go look for myself.  Because, while I try looking every morning, I'd never had the chance to look in the evening, after the school day.  But because I was picking up Logan early that day, the inner quad to the school was still open.  :)  Logan was VERY nervous that we were going into the quad, when the gates were closed but I was determined.  Interestingly, several of the baskets were still out in the quad!  And, some of them still had lunch boxes in them.  JEEZ.

    So, I went one by one looking through each and amazingly, came across his Angry Birds one!  I inspected it all over - sadly, it didn't have his stuff inside but someone else's. Of course, once Logan saw it, he was more excited than ever that I had just found his Angry Birds lunchbox. Yet, when I looked closer, I found a small marking of someone's name on it though.  So, of course, I couldn't be sure if that was his that someone just took and rebranded (very likely), or just another kid who lost the same exact one (because hey, it's an Angry Birds lunch box from Target after all).

    Another lesson for poor Mama here, is to mark everything with first and last name AND room number too.  I had actually marked his lunch box with his name, but I had just written it on a piece of masking tape and taped it to the lunch box, since the box itself was black and I didn't have time that morning to hunt down a silver (or whatever) Sharpie.  Guess I should've.  *sigh* I just didn't think anyone would have taken off the tape and rebranded as their own!

    Rookie mistake!

    Anyhoo, I couldn't take that one home, even though we were pretty sure it was ours. ;-)  But I also still hadn't found his old blue one. And I was in no mood to buy any more lunch boxes!  So, I decided to check and see if his building was still open from inside the quad, and sure enough, the door was unlocked.  We went in and searched all the baskets INSIDE too.  Logan helped, and actually found his old blue one in his basket (which makes me wonder why the after school guys couldn't find it?! but anyway...)   Thank goodness!  So, we grabbed his stuff and headed home.  Logan questioned why we couldn't take his Angry Birds lunchbox home and I had to explain we weren't sure that was actually his, since it had someone else's name on it. :(

    When Friday pick up rolled around, and we were heading home, Logan announced he had figured out what happened to his Angry Birds lunchbox.  Oh really?

    He apparently found TWO of the same Angry Birds lunch box.  One with the kid's name written on the front and back.  And one (the one he thinks we found the night before), with the kid's name written just on the front.  He thinks this second one is ours.

    I asked him how he knew it was the same kid's, he said because it had the same name on both.  I said but you can't read so how do you know?  He said he compared the letters and the letters were the same.  Haaa!

    I then said Yes, but, does the kid have the same backpack as you?  (because, the lunch box, at least for ours, came with the backpack and snapped on, as you can see from the pics above)  His answer?  Mom, Dad and I can have the same shoes, which look the same, but are still different sizes.

    Ummmm.  Okaaaaaaay.  (I guess that's his way of saying, he could have the same lunchbox without requiring the same backpack to snap to?!?)

    I have no idea if it's actually the same kid or not.  But, the theory could hold if it were.  I could see the kid grabbing Logan's by mistake and then the parent thinking it's theirs, and writing their kid's name on it again.  But, that would also mean they would have had to take off the tape with Logan's name and would have also kept his food/ice pack we had in there.  Jon pointed out that maybe they thought we (another parent) tried to steal their's, so they were "just doing right" in their mind by claiming it back - but still, it seems fishy to me.  Wouldn't they have seen that it didn't have their kid's name on it like their original one had had?  (Jon just chalks that up to unobservant parents, or an unaware Dad intervening, or something)

    Anyway, Logan asked me why would a kid take his lunchbox, with his name on it, if it wasn't his. And, that's where my struggle lands.  I finally decided to tell him two things could have happened.  Either the kid got confused, didn't see Logan's name but thought Logan's lunch box was his own, and took it home.  Or, he took it because he liked it and wanted it.  Logan decided, well, if he took mine and it had my name on it, why can't I take it back?

    I finally told him we could sort it out on Monday with his teacher.  If he could prove that both lunch boxes actually had the same kid's name on them, then we would have a case.  Otherwise, we've lost it forever.

    I also told him that he had performed some fantastic detective work and congratulated him on possibly solving a very tough mystery.

    "Yeah, I know Mom, that's because I want to be a detective."


No comments: