Last Friday, Laura observed Dante’s preschool class, and then that afternoon we had our first-ever “parent-teacher conference.” I feel like I have to put quotes around it because, really, we’re talking preschool here. Still, I was a bit apprehensive going into it — besides being an unfamiliar situation, I wasn’t sure what I was going to find out.
Well, what I found out is that I love Dante’s preschool, Cotton Creek. We talked with two teachers, and they showed us a lot of what Dante has been doing, along with explaining some of their activities and teaching techniques. They report that he has been making huge progress socially, and good progress physically as well. Both the teachers we talked to were just wonderful people — I enjoyed their company even aside from the subject matter. Fran, the site director, has 41 years of experience!
Have I mentioned that this is a public preschool? I suppose I shouldn’t be so amazed by the fact that a public school is really good — I got a public education and I feel really happy with it — but I guess I’m still a bit flabbergasted by the fact that we checked out some pretty pricey schools, and the public one was better by far. For one thing, it’s got a 4:1 student-teacher ratio, which nobody else even comes close to.
The “catch”, if you want to call it that, is that every kid at Cotton Creek has been classified “at-risk” in some way by the state. Either they’ve been identified with some health issue (autism, disabilities, ADHD, etc.) or are in some other at-risk category, like “English not spoken in the home” or “Mother under a certain age” or something like that. Dante is in for his motor delays. I remember when we first visited there, and were a bit concerned about this, and asked Fran, “What does it mean to teach a class full of special needs kids?” She answered, “My philosophy is that all children have special needs. We teach them as kids, not as diagnostic labels.” I think that’s when my crush began.
Dante, for his part, was thrilled to show us all the stuff he plays with, the activities, etc. It was great to see him displaying such positive emotions in that setting, since I still see him complain a lot in the morning about going. Overall, coming out of there, I felt such a positive vibe, and felt so much gratitude that we were able to get him into this place. I feel like it’s hugely helpful to him. What a blessing. It also made me really clear on the fact that if/when we move, we really need to stay in the same school district.
Laura had the same feelings that morning. She watched as the kids went through all their various routines, and whenever Dante needed help with something, somebody was always right there to help him. He got a lot of individual attention, and was much more at ease than she expected him to be. When he was reluctant to move during a little dance break, a teacher bent down and helped him move his arms; by the end, he was moving them on his own.
One quick story from that observation day. So they’re doing a little activity where a song plays and the kids do motions to act out the song. It being near Thanksgiving, the song is all about turkeys, and the kids flap their little turkey wings and waddle around gobble-gobbling. When the turkeys run in the song, the kids run, and when the turkeys sneak, the kids sneak.
All except for Dante. Instead, he’s just standing there, watching this process unfold, and then he says, in a loud voice that cuts across the music, “But I don’t know WHY the turkeys are sneaking.” This is such a Dante thing to do, and I just love him for doing it — instead of just following orders, he’s like, “Hey, wait a second, what’s my motivation?”
Then Fran explained to him, well Dante, the turkeys are sneaking because they don’t want to be eaten, and we eat a lot of turkeys around Thanksgiving. I really appreciate 1) that she gave him such a straight answer, and 2) that she gave him an answer AT ALL, rather than just saying, “Dante! Get back in line!” or some such. I feel like it’s an illustration of what I saw in so many ways on that Friday: Cotton Creek is a place where he gets understanding and love. I am so thankful.