Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Trouble brewing

Joey participated in a summer reading program, and for a treat, the school let families come to a picnic lunch with the kids today. Actually, there wasn't much special, you showed up, and ate a crummy school lunch with your kid. But Andy got to come, and I got to have extra minutes with my Joey, so we were all about it. Woo-hoo!

So the invitation said to come five minutes early and meet the children in their classroom to go to lunch. So we pack up Andy and Grandma, and off we go to Hugh Mercer. The parents are arriving in a staggered timing because the picnic is during "your child's regular lunch period", which is also staggered. Consequently, we managed to sneak into a parking place just as the first wave of parents were leaving. We present our IDs, get out passes, and go to Joey's classroom- but he isn't there. He now has lunch with the self-contained teacher rather than the autism teacher. Fortunately, Mrs. Huff is a wonderful lady, and she takes us around to Joey's new inclusion room.

Last year, we were very spoiled, and unfortunately, I was unable to take full advantage of it. Joey's kindergarden teacher, Mrs. S (they really do call her Mrs. S), is a gift from heaven- a truly talented teacher. Whenever you appeared in Mrs. S's room- announced or otherwise- she had a big smile and a welcome-come-in-and-join-us attitude. There were no bones about it- we were the moms and dads, important to our children and their education, and we were always welcome to come participate in the classroom. Spoiled. Rotten.

We appeared in the door of Mrs. A's room (I'll leave off the full name for right now), escorted by Mrs. Huff, and five minutes ahead of lunchtime, as the invitation stated; Mrs. Huff announced us. We were greeted with, "Well, we're still doing instruction. They have to meet him in the cafeteria!"

"Oh," I responded, taken aback. "We're sorry, we were told to go to his classroom." We retreated with Mrs. Huff continuing to apologize, and hotfooted it to the cafeteria.

Not impressed. For one, I'm a parent. I should be welcome to come witness my child's instruction time. For two, she should have addressed me, as I was standing there, if she wanted me to go to the cafeteria. For three, we were instructed to go to his classroom, and she should have been aware of that. All the other teachers were- all the other parents arrived in the cafeteria with their child's class.

So we are now in the cafeteria- where to wait? The tables each have signs on them to say which teacher sits there, and when. Mrs. A is not listed anywhere. We double-checked. We triple-checked. No sign of her. We finally ask, and apparently Mrs. A has been relegated to the "Quiet Table" due to shortage of room (? Don't they know each class that needs a table for lunch before school starts? Even Mrs. S has a table sign!) So we go to wait at that table, and here they come. Dexter and Joey are in the middle, but end up at the end because they both want to hug Andy. We get into the lunch line, and I help Andy and Joey (and mom helps Dexter) get their lunches, and we emerge to find... no-one we know. So we follow Dexter to the table. Where has the rest of the class gone?

Note that no-one has introduced themselves to us, nor really asked who we are. One lady asked if we "belonged to Joey and Dexter", and I later discovered this was the classroom aide. Joey's usual aide was out sick, and her sub was not there at the moment (I think she was taking another child somewhere- Joey technically does not have his own aide- and this is a different person from the classroom aide). Suddenly this same person appears and asks Dexter and Joey is they are going to join the class outside for the picnic, and again if we belong to "Joey and Dexter." I corrected her ("I'm Joey's mom") but I am not happy that the class was already out the door, and our guys had time to go to the entire other side of the cafeteria and sit down before anyone corralled them. Were they watching? What if Joey had decided to scoot out the door- especially with the change in routine?

We are still not introduced. We scurry after the boys, outside to a grassy spot around the corner. The teacher (I later learned this was the teacher) as two blankets and eight children. She spread one blanket, and Andy, Joey, and Dexter sit there; the other children, the teacher, and an aide sit on that one. The classroom aide sits in the grass between the two after kindly fetching a chair for my mom, who really can't sit on the ground. The teacher finally says something like, "I'm Mrs. A" before joining the rest of the class on the other blanket as a few other parents start to arrive (they had gone to the classroom, but had missed the class.) A few stray parents from other classes wandered out to the other huddled groups.

What did I notice about this? For one, my child and his friend were separated from the other students in the class. Was this just because we were already there (whereas the couple of other families arrived shortly after we came outside)? Mrs. A seemed to have no interest in speaking with me whatsoever. Not a good sign. Sometime over the course of the lunch, she did thank everyone for coming, but didn't even know my name ("Thanks to Mrs. C, E's mom.... oh, and thanks to- uh- Joey's mom for coming. Oh, and Joey's Grandma.").

Even after the lunch is over, and we're marching the class to the computer lab, it is like we were dismissed-by-snub. Andy said his goodbyes, the classroom aide and the aide sub (who arrived as lunch was ending- probably lunch was her break time) said something, but the teacher? Not a word. She was "busy."

Instead of feeling like we were a part of the classroom and Joey's education, we felt like we were annoying this woman and in her way. Not impressed.

Now, I'm not going to stomp my feet over a single negative encounter. But the first impression was definitely not good. If I don't see a definite change in attitude and understanding in the next encounter, we are definitely going to have issues. If this person thinks I'm going to take being treated like this again, she's going to be in for a big- unpleasant- surprise.


Niksmom said...

Hmmm. Maybe it was her evil twin there instead??

little.birdy said...

It sounds like the event was poorly organized as well. Perhaps she'd only just found out about the details herself. I hope the next encounter goes better!

Andrea said...

Holy cow - definitely inappropriate. Even if she was having the worst day ever, there's such a thing as professionalism and you just don't treat the parents that way. I hope it gets better.

Joeymom said...

This is an event they've done every year for at least 5 years. However, I wonder how used they are to special ed kids participating. :P

kristi said...

I would not have been happy either. I totally understand how you feel!! Is he in a classroom with NT kids as well?? We had this last year and TC's teacher was so very overwhelmed. Sounds like this is what is going on with Joey's teacher.

Unknown said...

Maybe she's new, maybe the administration didn't tell her anything about this until the last minute and she wasn't prepared, maybe the admin thought this would be a great idea and it really was a terrible idea for her schedule and the classroom. The woman was rude, but I think people overreact to rudeness like it's a sign of something else, when sometimes it's got nothing to do with anything important.

Joeymom said...

She's not new. She has been at this school, doing this job, for at least five years.

They have been doing this same activity, every year, for at least those same five years- on the same day.

When one's job includes interacting with colleagues and parents, being professional at all times is incredibly important. The fact that she also isolated my son was also telling os something that could potentially be disturbing and significant.

Rudeness is always a sign of something significant: a person who cannot be bothered to be polite, professional, and kind is someone who is not going to be helping my child learn these important skills and values. So yes, I think it highly significant that this woman was rude to me, rude to my mother, rude to my child, and rude to her own colleague.

On the other hand, first impressions aren't always a rule to go by. We have communicated our displeasure at our afternoon experience, and we'll see if professionalism prevails.

Joeymom said...

Oh, and for the other Kristi, no, this teacher is the self-contained classroom teacher for first grade. She has seven students including Joey, a classroom aide, Joey's aide (technically not Joey-specific, but she travels with Joey and his other classmate to this classroom), and there was at least one other child-specific aide. There was another person eating lunch with the class who was not a parent, but I am not sure of her role, so I'm not counting her.

There was no reason for this person to feel "overwhelmed", and it remains no excuse for being rude.