So, the thing is… I’m filling out my four-year-old’s midyear preschool evaluation.
Preschool Midyear Evaluation
Parent’s Name Mooooooooooom! Child’s Name: Ana
Space: Well, I think the classroom is pretty small for sixteen children but the only times I really notice it is on rainy days when they don’t get outside to work on their Gross Motor Skills. (Ana comes home and gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “Motor Skills.” And the term “Gross” for that matter.)
We all love the vast playground. I
love all the expertise she is gaining in gardening and I hope to return at least
one ton of pea gravel extracted from her shoes by the end of the year.
Inside: Well, her room is smaller than last year’s room and there are more children but she seems to be blossoming. Going potty down the hall hasn’t been an issue at all, although I did learn this year that Ana can go almost seventeen hours straight without having to pee. (This is longer than her mommy by about 16.5 hours.)
Personnel and Classmates
Does your child look forward to going to school? In theory, yes. But she takes after her daddy and judging by the clothes he puts on our kids, he’s not a morning person, either.
Does your child like his or her classmates? Well, not all at the same time.
Does your child seem to get along with classmates? I’m a little rusty in the communication styles of four-year-olds but I THINK so, judging by how many children to whom Ana has said, “You’re my best friend EVER!”
How does your child feel about his/her teacher? She loves Miss Kiki but not in that terribly obsessive CALLING-HER-MOTHER-BY-MISS-KIKI’S NAME kind of way. (I feel good about this.)
How do you feel about your child’s teacher?
I love her. I mean I really LOVE her. I might have to call her Mommy myself. I wanted her to come for Thanksgiving. I wanted her to just move in with us!
She’s an amazing teacher—amazing because she has sixteen four-year-olds in her class and she is calm and patient and seemingly tuned in to each of them. She “gets” Ana and Ana is as difficult to read as her sister is transparent. Miss Kiki pegged Ana from the first day. When the snack was offered at 10:00, it was something Ana had never seen before (Froot Loops, mistakenly distributed by a new assistant teacher when they were actually earmarked for a craft. Ana’s quiet response, “I can’t eat that. It doesn’t have any protein.”) As Ana’s face grew longer, Miss Kiki made up a new rule on the spot. If a child would prefer to have goldfish crackers over whatever the snack of the day was, he or she need only ask. Ana asks every day.
Kiki is a marvel. She is enthusiastic and fun and maintains a structure in the class seemingly effortlessly. Four-year-olds are difficult –it’s a difficult age. They don’t know whether they are little kids or big kids and they are just beginning to test their social relationships. They take turns trying to boss each other around and getting their feelings hurt. Ana, who was so shy and reserved last year that she had only one friend, is thriving in Kiki’s class.
And not just Ana. Kiki has taught me so much this year about parenting a four-year-old. For example, I was doing my usual rant about Barbie and how much I hate the idea of a stripper as a plaything for my child when Kiki said, “Yes, she’s horrible. But did you know that it requires really well-developed fine motor skills to dress her? And that your daughter is REALLY GOOD at that?” Wow. No, I didn’t know that. But I bought about seventy-three new Barbie outfits so she could show me.
I hear Kiki’s voice coming from Ana’s mouth all the time. One day, as she wrenched something from Jane’s grasp and I promptly wrenched it from HER grasp, she said, eyes full of tears, “Friends don’t grab!” (Perhaps I could have responded better.) And the thing is… I know that Ana is in a particularly awkward phase right now but I also know that Kiki sees through that. She understands Ana and she celebrates the things that make her so very special and she downplays the rest. I am learning to do that, too.
Plus, you know, I’ve watched her handle some situations that no one ever tells a teacher she will have to negotiate. Like the little girl whose parents divorced this year and don’t speak to each other now. Kiki manages to listen to each of them non-judgmentally and to use the diplomacy of a U. N. representative in arranging field trips and parent conferences.
Or, take the little boy whose mother has decreed that he eat no Dairy, Wheat, Refined Sugar or Inorganic Foods –making an innocent pizza party an exercise in ostracism. Kiki never complains. It’s like she knows she has sixteen students and then the REAL students –the parents, grandparents and well-meaning friends of the children.
I’ve watched her put lots of her own funds into providing things for her classroom. Once, I tried to reimburse her because it seems to me that teachers already subsidize their jobs by being so miserably paid. She didn’t want to take the money but her face lit up that I even noticed. “So, you KNOW,” she said. But I don’t think I do. I wouldn’t know how to deal with an aggressive child without breaking his spirit. I wouldn’t know how to deal with sixteen kids with sixteen different agendas and sixteen different levels of coping skills. I wouldn’t know how to deal with sixteen runny noses all at the same time!
Actually, all I know is that she is so rare and so talented and that if the world were a just place, she’s be paid more than any executive of Enron. What she, and legions of other teachers, is doing is worth so much more to our country than we can ever repay. I wish I could at least pay her a living wage, just out of gratitude for how much she’s helped Ana and me this year. But all I really can do is to reinforce her lessons at home as much as possible and appreciate her as a rare human in this world. It takes a special person to do what Ms. Kiki does.
What activity does your child seem to enjoy most? Getting to school.
What activity does your child seem to enjoy least? Using a Kleenex.
Does your child enjoy chapel? Yes, she not only enjoys it, she’s committed to converting the rest of us. Like when we went book shopping and she zeroed in on the one book on “creationism” in the whole place. We’ve read it every night. (In her defense, she also chose a book called “How Yussel Caught the Gefilte Fish.”)
What do you feel your child is receiving from school? I think she’s getting the world, literally. I think she’s being exposed to the world in the only safe and non-threatening environment there is now that she’s decided we are the Know Nothing Parents and are on the side of her sister.
Do you have any suggestions of how to better our program? Only the obvious “Try to Clone Ms. Kiki” suggestion. And you might want to remove anything especially valuable or breakable before Hurricane Jane starts school there next year.
(c) Barbara Cooper 2003
Barbara Cooper is the mother of Ana (almost five) and Hurricane Jane (2). She lives in Austin, Texas and she is NOT the parent with the unreasonable dietary requests for her child, at least not this year.