Thursday, 31 January 2008

Flight of the Bumble Bee

Tuesday was the fated first day of didn't go well.

It wasn't that I was actually stupid enough to think that Mister would do the miraculous and enter into something new all enthused and willing, afterall it was the first day of big kid school, so some anxiety and tears were expected, but it is Mister we are talking about. Whatever drama was going to unfold was always going to be extreme. Having said that, the school itself effed up all our preparation for us. NOT happy!!!!

Late last year we went to the school of choice to take a tour. While on the tour, the principal mentioned that the kindergarteners (pre-schoolers) were currently undertaking transition visits with the school and had their final visit the following week. Mister was invited to come along and spend the morning, where we were assured that he would be visiting the classroom and teacher he would get next year. We, as parents, thought this would greatly help Mister, and remove some of the mystique surrounding this looming building and the people who contain it.

On the day, he wasn't too happy for us to leave him, kicked and screamed, but when I came to pick him up, he was fine, and was seen talking to other kids; had made a craft and the teacher gushed that he had settled quite quickly once I had left. Needless to say, it was encouraging for me to hear that, but I felt even more assured when Mister told me about the fun things they had done and the "buddy" he made, who just so happened to be called Mister too (fancy that!!!). So banking entirely on all these positives and totally downplaying the separation thing, we drilled it into him that his first day was going to be "just like the last time", just a little longer.

He had been worried about the lengthy day, and had been having nightmares about being left somewhere and never being picked up (total separation anxiety dream), but over all we were encouraged to find him quite excited about school and looking foward to seeing Mrs Fibberty-Jibbert again. It seemed the initial taste had given him enough confidence to feel that he could suck it up for the our dreams!

So on Tuesday, we arrived at the school on time. Unaware of where to go, so we asked at the front desk:

"This is Mister. He is starting new today. Can you please tell us where Mrs Fibberty-Jibbert's classroom is?"

"Oh! Mrs Fibberty-Jibbert doesn't start until tomorrow. She takes the new kids who have had no school experience. I have Mister down for Mrs Oozie-Kaphoops' class."

Upon hearing this information Mister's thin veil of containment goes up in smoke like a kleenex next to a naked flame. He screams that he is NOT GOING as he proceeds to high tail it out of the head office.

I am left to argue the point and wrap my head around the confusion to the front desk person, who assures me that Mrs Oozie-Kaphoops is lovely and how much Mister will really love her; and then I realise that Mrs Flibberty Jibbert just isn't going to happen and our months of careful reassurance amounted, in Misters trusting mind, to a conspiracy of EPIC proportions and a pack of dubious lies - at best...."so what ELSE have they lied about, I could imagine him thinking. It was just awful, but was about to get worse.

I tried to take in the location of the classroom from the map explanation given by the front desk person, all the while glimpsing flashes of Mister running for dear life outside the administration office with Ashley hot on his heels - if it was someone else, it would have been downright comical and Benny Hill music would have been playing in the background.

When I finally emerged from the office, Ashley had cornered Mister and we proceeded to lead (read: drag) him over to his designated classroom. Once there, we were greeted by the teacher, who was quite lovely and gentle. Mister wanted nothing to do with her, and given the time wasted chasing him around, all the kids were now seated, cross legged, on the carpet, heads turned and staring in Misters direction -just the thing he HATES, consequently Mister decided to do another bolt. This time I chased after him, and managed to get him back to the class room. The teacher suggested Ashley stay with him for a bit and then leave without too much fuss. It didn't happen.

Once the suggested time arrived, Mrs Oozie-Kaphoops approached and said "say goodbye to Dad". to which Mister protested loudly. Mrs Oozie-Kaphoops then took his hand and told us to leave - kicks and punches were thrown and we left the class room with our hearts breaking and the sound of his tortured screams ringing in our ears all the way to the carpark.

The secretary rang us later, to tell us that the principal had to be called to subdue him and he was now "sitting quietly and looking around" (made it sound like he had been straight jacketted and tranquilised). Mister later admitted that they had to lock the doors because he kept trying to flee. To his detriment NO ONE was game to befriend the wild man, and although he is now resigned to the reality that school is here to stay, he has struggled to find a friend. It is tough being the new kid at school. I do wish he had started in the other class with all the other fresh stock, but he is considered to have had "previous experience" and so he doesn't qualify for the newbie class. As it is, he is in a mixed R-1 class, which I am also not too happy about (internal GGRRRR!).

As it stands, he seems excited about the learning aspects and experiences that school offer, it is the long lunch time play that is bringing him the most anxiety. I am sure it will take him a couple of weeks to find his feet yet, but I do feel bad for him, and rather helpless. I just hope he clicks with a nice kid and is able to enjoy his play time. Today he begged me to persuade the family of his Canadian best friend to move to Australia (sob).

Is this in any way, an even remotely familiar new kid in school story, or are we just odd?


Jen at Semantically driven said...

Oh dear, poor you and poor Mister. It sounds like it will take some adjusting and this takes time. Mine isn't quite the same experience as you but my son spent nearly an hour in the principal's office on his second day at school and earned himself a bit of a bad reputation as a result of this and other similar incidents. I got sick of the timeout slips let me tell you.

Maybe it will take some time for your son to settle in and hopefully the teacher is sympathetic to this and can help.

It's really hard when he's at school and you're not there to witness what's going on but I'd talk to the teacher all the time to see how he's going and to see how you can work together to help him settle in. I'd also chat with the principal to see if they can offer some help. Good luck.

shishyboo said...

no advice or anecdotes since I'm not qualified but lots of (((hugs))) for you

jeanie said...

Strauss - you are ALLOWED to be your child's advocate. I know that school offices are designed to scare the pants off you and the staff delight in making parents feel like school children again - BUT

You are allowed to call and make an appointment with the principal. You are allowed to ask their reasoning and whether there could be a few alternate paths if this one doesn't work in a limited time frame.

You are allowed to take some of the teacher's time before or after school and work with her in strategies to help your son cope with the strange new environment.

You are allowed to volunteer - I know being in my daughter's school helped her greatly when she was having a hard time settling.

You are also allowed to show up early at drop off and pick up time and try to work out which kids/parents you may have a best fit with and kidnap them - only joking, but while you still have the little one with you and no outside work commitments, one of the blessings is the chance to interact with other parents.

The school reacts more in your child's favour if you are their advocate - it doesn't mean you have to be a bully or "assertive" - it just means that you can check if you are happy with the way you are going to deal with things or whether you need to get them to change.

Good luck!!!!

Sorry about the rant - I know the powerlessness you felt and how schools can make you feel. They SHOULD have put your boy in with the other newbies IMHO - and you have to work out what is the best path now for him and you to have a positive experience from now on in.

The Brave said...

Thanks for that Jeanie. I have been communicating with the teacher,but it feels like I am beating my head up against the brick wall. Mister told me he spent his lunchtime crying alone by himself and I nearly cried myself. I don't believe that they have just left him on his own like that, when all the other inexperienced kids have only been doing half days this week - WTF!
It is difficult to volunteer with Missy Mopps in tow, but I am volunteering to help with the swimming lessons next week. I asked if it was ok to bring Missy, but since they didn't even bother to answer my note I am bringing her anyway. Since I aren't getting the reassurance or answers I need from the teacher I will go an see the principal, in fact I haven't been able to sleep well tonight, so I think I will call her over the weekend and see if we can discuss it before Monday. And yes, they do make you feel like you are wasting their time. I wish I had insisted on having him in the other class. I wish I had asked to speak to the principal on the first day, it is hard now, because he has had a week with this other class.I feel like I have stuffed it up completely for him.

The Brave said...

Thanks Jen, I am getting the impression that the teacher isn't to sympathetic at all. I have spoken to her after school about support for him at lunch and she tells me one thing and Mister tells me he was pretty much abandoned, so she is not following up - I see a lack of care. I feel for you with you little boy, I can see that Mister might go down that road just to get out of lunch time and that would be awful. AFter the first days antics, I think the teacher has ber mind made up about Mister too, which is a shame, because he has always been very well behaved in the classroom - perhaps he has been lucky in the past and had teachers who were more aware of or sensitive to those who were a bit more socially awkward - I don't know.

Lynda said...

Poor little poppet. Starting school can be so traumatic. And I imagine that you are all feeling a little unsettled after the big move etc.

I hope that once you are back in your own home and he has had time to make some mates and find his way that all will be easier.

Tracey said...

Oh my stars, what a horrific experience. The way I read it, the school has stuffed up, and not provided him with the appropriate first day experience at all. Having been through three kinder starts, I couldn't imagine that sort of thing happening up at our school.
I'm not feeling very impressed with the teacher either. I don't know, but I'd be pushing for him to transfer to the other class.

I'm feeling for must be heart wrenching.

Kate said...

Oh it sounds so familiar to me although my son has just started his first year of secondary school!

But, when he first started primary school, he had a tough time. I think it took him about a term to settle properly. Crying, feeling ill and all of that. Well, he ended up loving his primary school very much and made some wonderful friends.

Fast forward to this year and the same has happened. He is the kind of child who does not cope well with change. Everyday for the last two weeks, he has cried before going to school. Then on Tuesday he didn't! Yay! Wednesday he went off to school camp - he cried a bit that morning - he is an anxious boy.

But back to your Mister - I remember the teachers telling me that it was best for me to just drop my son at the door and go. No hanging around waving. I would hand him over to his teacher and walk away. Even when he started crying, I had to keep walking. That was so hard. Then they advised me not to go on the excursions with his class for the first term until he settled.

Anyway- I know I have been no help but I wanted to say - I know how you feel.