For the most part, I don’t have any complaints regarding the parents that I work with.Most of them are great and we have very open dialogue about the kids. However, some just pick up their kids and go which seems to work for them and others…create unnecessary drama.
Last night, a parent decided to let me know that she didn’t appreciate the fact that I wrote up a late slip when she picked up her daughter at 6:05. A few things to note: 1 - all kids are to be picked up no later than 6:00, 2 - this was the second late pickup which means there’s a late fee attached to it, 3 - it was actually 6:10 and 4 - this happened a week ago. So anyway, I kindly mention points 1-3 to her (not in that order or with that exact wording but you get the point). She proceeds to give me grief about the exact time by next saying 6:07 although she clearly signed a paper that said 6:10 was the pickup time. She also told me that she knows the rule but the staff last year understood and would let it slide. She would just tell them that she was sorry and give them a nice Christmas gift. Pause. I clearly can’t speak for what was done last year but I do know that there was a different protocol. Even if there wasn’t, I’m not them. But I digress. I reiterate to her that I follow the rules set by my program and also mentioned that I don’t treat anyone differently. It was the second time and I had to document it. Now she goes on to add new fuel by telling me that I threw the paper in her face and told her that she needed to go to my organization’s main office to pay the fee. Not sure when placing a paper in front of someone got confused with throwing it but…I digress again. I take the time to apologize despite this by saying it was not my intention to offend her and that everyone wasn’t clear on the policy so I wanted to make sure that she knew. It’s hard to describe her tone at this point but she thanked me for educating her on the policy (she seemed to want to say something else) and told me that it wasn’t about the $10 fee, it was the principle. Yes, the principle is that you picked your child up late and you need to own that. At one point, she even gave a sob story of how she is seeing patients all day and then her youngest got sick and had to go to the pediatrician. While unfortunate, you were still late.
Now I thought that was the end. She thanked me for ‘educating her’ and walked out of the door with her child…but then she came back in. Clearly still upset, she asked me if children were supposed to open the door. To give background on this, my coworker was changing into a suit for a presentation after work. I was in the gym with the remaining four kids. This parent called on the walkie talkie. My coworker had just gone into the bathroom. I peeked my head out of the gym door to see which parent was at the door and then called a 4th grader to go open it while I stood watching her walk down the hall and keeping an eye on the kids in the gym. This is well within the acceptable procedures given the circumstances and the way that the school is set up. The doors are all glass which means I have no trouble seeing who is at the door well before I reach it. Anyway, I explained that it was not typical for us to do but given the circumstances which I explained to her, it was allowed. I even mentioned the fact that my co-worker had just returned to the room and she would have been waiting outside for about 10 minutes otherwise. ‘Okay, I just wanted to know what the policy was…I’m going to call to make sure.’ Call.
I gave my boss a heads up. She’s in agreement with me. To top it off, I had to go to the main office today and it turns out, this parent never paid the late fee and after today, I cannot take her until it is paid. She’ll really love me then especially after she asked me if I would be at that school next year…yes, you’ll still be dealing with me. Have a nice day!
It’s been a while. I decided to be more diligent about posting in the last few weeks of the school year. I’m not going to do a full recap but the picture that I posted was taken a few weeks ago during Polar’s worst day of the year. For the most part, we haven’t had any major issues with him which has been great. Anyway, on this particular day, his Lego structure fell on the ground and broke into pieces. There was no recovery from this moment. The girl who accidently knocked it over apologized but it didn’t matter. Initially, he went off by himself and I was okay with that because there are days when he doesn’t want to be bothered with anyone. I won’t go through each detail but I will say that being off by himself didn’t help. It escalated. He started throwing anything he could find and pick up: cups, pencils, other kid’s artwork (we were able to prevent most of that). My co-worker took the kids out while I stayed in with him and another kid. He overturned the trash can and recycling bin (hence the picture below) and then kicked them and began throwing empty plastic bottles in my direction. During his angry tirade, I kindly reminded him that he would have to pick all of that up before leaving. When I realized that he clearly wasn’t going to calm down any time soon, I rushed in to prevent him from hurting me or the other student in the room. Over an hour after the incident, he finally calmed down…a few minutes before his mother arrived. By the way, we did call her to pick him up but she worked 45 minutes away from the school. He did clean up the trash…with his mother and even felt bad about destroying someone’s artwork so he asked to recreate it. So many other things I could mention about this incident but I’ll leave it at that. I think I’m prepared for almost anything at this point.
The organization that I work for runs a program during days when the kids have off for those parents who don’t necessarily have a place for their kids to go. Yesterday, I worked this program for a few hours. I did it once before in November during the teacher’s convention. It tends to have a camp feel to it. Anyway, I thought this would be a pretty laid back afternoon given that I didn’t arrive until mid-afternoon. I was in for a rude awakening. Things started off fine. The kids were in the middle of free time. I played a free games with the kids. The “problems” arose during movie time. We lined up the remaining dozen and took them to the studio to watch either Madagascar 3 or Monsters vs. Aliens. We take a vote and then one boy starts crying because he didn’t pick the winning movie. I have no sympathy. Then two kindergarten kids decided that they wanted to everything they weren’t supposed to do especially not during movie time…play tag, use wooden sticks (from a craft) to have a duel, tickle one another. Each time we told them to stop, sit down or separate, they gave us a hard time. The line I hate the most is “I don’t want to” to which I usually respond “it wasn’t a question” or “I didn’t ask what you wanted”. When we finally separated the two kids, things were good…until they found their way back to one another. It got to the point where I told the kids that I was going to have a long conversation with whomever came to get them regarding their behavior. This helped, thank goodness. The problem I found is that there really isn’t much of a punishment when you’re having movie time especially if you aren’t at your normal facility. Also, I couldn’t really call the parents because clearly those two kids had been like that all day and they hadn’t done anything bad enough for me to justify calling a parent…finally they were picked up…last by the way. Usually seeing the interactions with the parents give me an ‘aha’ moment where I see why the kid acts the way he/she does. That didn’t happen. What I did get out of those three hours was a sense that if I do summer camp with my organization, I’d prefer the older kids just so I don’t get those two. It’s sad but true. I’m glad to be back at my schools today. They made me appreciate my kids.
Student (K): Miss Latrice.
Student: I breed Beanie babies. (She’s pushing her beanie baby tiger in the swing)
Student: Miss Latrice
Me: What’s up?
Student: I’m also a stuffed animal whisperer
Me: (not sure how to respond to that)…you do a lot of things…
Student: So, if you know a depressed stuffed animal, give him my card. I’m going over T’s house to help with her monkey who has a whole in his neck.
Friday, we were homeless…okay it might sound exaggerated but last Friday was a Girl Scouts day. This means that instead of meeting in the cafeteria, our program is in the teacher’s lounge. This only works out because about 10 of our usual kids are in Girl Scouts. Anyway, I was in the middle of bringing supplies into the teacher’s lounge when one of my parents (who happens to help out with Girl Scouts) asked what time we would be in the gym so that they could practice for a competition on Saturday. That’s fine. By the time we go in the gym, they’ll be done. Great. Then the news makes its way to me through the grape vine (a student and a janitor)…they will be setting up tables and chairs for this competition…before 6pm. Imagine my excitement. I go to the secretary to see if she knows exactly when this group is coming in…she has no idea. This baffles me but I move on. I look in the gym…some of the chairs are already lined up beyond half court. The gym is out. I think maybe we can do a movie..but now the secretary has left and I don’t know if I need to get permission to go in the library. Think, think…we’ll drive ourselves crazy if we have to stay in the teacher’s lounge. We decide to find a hallway where we can sit and play silent ball until the Girl Scouts left the cafeteria. Normally they are only in there for snack and then they go to random classrooms but that day there were troops in the cafeteria for the entire time. Yay us. A parent joked and asked us if we forgot to pay the rent because we were sitting on the floor in the hall. This all could have been avoided if someone had told us that the gym would be off limits in addition to the cafeteria. Communication helps…Hopefully there aren’t any surprises this afternoon.
Oh random sidenote, I can’t remember if I mentioned a boy in my morning program who tends to do and say things that are inappropriate and make you wonder what he’s been exposed to at his young age. Anyway, this boy who we will cal Blurt has done and said all sorts of things that make you go hmm. Like the other week he said ‘chicken sex’. My co-worker and I swore that we heard him wrong but no…he said ‘chicken sex’. We only know because we asked him what he meant and he said ‘when chickens make a baby’. Wow. Fast-forward. When we are ready to dismiss the kids to their classes, they get in a line and the line leader of the day decides what I have to do before I put my hand out to give them all high fives. My sort of remix to City Year’s morning greeting. It’s like a morning goodbye…so the line leader is trying to think of things for us to do (my co-worker is at the other door this time) and he starts throwing out options like run a lap in the gym…not happening. So Blurt says ‘kill yourselves’…WHAT??!! We make him get in the back of the line. Dismiss the other kids and talk to him about why that’s not okay to say to anyone…I really wonder what goes on in his house…
Tomorrow is another day.
Few things…last night I went to a student’s basketball game. This is the same student who was mentioned before because she has been suffering from anxiety. Since she is making all of these appearances, she will now be known as Sporty because of her energy and the fact that she plays three sports. Anyway, Sporty asked me to stay at the school from her game. It was pretty cool to watch and also gave me an opportunity to have a lengthy talk with her mom about what’s been going on in addition to meeting her grandmother. It was nice way to spend my evening.
In other news, Polar is a funny kid. He brought in a bear yesterday and when we were taking the kids to the bathroom, he asked us to quiet down because “Blue Bear is sleeping.” Then later in the day, when his mom picked him up, he left Blue Bear on the stage. Another student brought it to my attention just as a parent arrived so I found myself walking to the door with a teddy bear. Polar remembered Blue Bear later and had his mom call to make sure he would be safe overnight. I told him that I would keep Blue Bear in my car so no one would touch him. Polar tends to be concerned about such things and, since he doesn’t come to the morning program at that school, I figured that was the best option.
Polar is only funny until he gets really angry…which he did yesterday. We were doing relay races and another kindergarten student was running against him in the relay. Polar was faster but the other kid decided to turn around when Polar turned instead of going down and around the cone. This infuriated Polar…so despite the fact that his team still won, he was angry. He stood up and started walking toward the other team like a man on a mission…a bad mission. He looked like he was ready to punch the other kid out for cheating. Luckily, I was able to calm him down once I got him to focus his attention on me and what I was saying to him (like the fact that his team still won and I knew the other kid cheated). He gave me a hug and was fine for the rest of the afternoon. Go figure.
Eh. We’ll throw this in too. This morning I was coloring with my all kindergarten group. There are less than 10 kids and none of them are ‘of color’. I was coloring my crabby patty bun orange just because I like to do things differently. Another student who had the same sheet was coloring his bun peach. He looked over at mine and said “Miss Latrice, you’re supposed to do the bun skin color.” I asked him “whose skin color” referring to the fact that I’m brown, not peach. He didn’t get it and just looked at me still insisting that it should be skin color. I think it’s time to really dig into diversity more…at both schools. Any suggestions regarding activities to do? I’m creating my plans for February.
Yesterday was an odd day for me somehow. It wasn’t bad but, for some reason, I felt really drained when I left to go home. For the afternoon, I had a clue hunt planned along with another activity. I could not fully set up the clue hunt until school was dismissed because parents are waiting in the gym at that time. It also marked the start of Science Explorers (a new club) which met in the gym. For this reason, I decided that I would set up the gym during homework time and when the kids were cleaning up. This took much longer than I anticipated…but worked out when the kids put it in action. Each team was given a clue and that clue determined which activity to do. Each station consisted of a team building activity such as spelling words with their bodies or the amoeba race where one kid was chosen to be the center and the other kids on the team formed a circle around the center with their backs facing it. This was an interesting one. Anyway, the next time I do a clue hunt, I’ll need to have a better flow so I’m not confusing myself by trying to make sure that the right clues are at the correct stations.
Other than that, I forgot to have Polar change into his shorts before he was picked up. His mother told me the day before that two days per week, he would need to change his pants before being picked up. I completely spazzed on that one…the student with anxiety stayed for an hour this time which was a step in the right direction. She did ask to see her teacher at some point but came back and talked with the kids for a bit.
Final note, last week I had to lay down the law with a student’s babysitter. This student is usually the last one picked up and his pickup typically happens somewhere between 5:55pm and 6:00pm. The program is over at 6pm. Anyway, his babysitter is the main person who picks him up. There was one late pickup a few months ago which was documented at the time. We were giving her a five minute grace period for the occasional times that she would pick him up late. One day she clarified the pickup time and I informed her once again that it is 6:00pm. Fast-forward. Last week, I told her that from then on, there would be a 6:00pm cut-off with no grace period because she was picking him up after 6:00pm way too often. The next few days, she picked him up around 5:30pm. Yesterday, she came at 6:02 and while I’m inclined to let it slide, I also don’t want you to take advantage of my niceness…so I wrote out the late slip. Since it’s the second late pickup the family is responsible for paying $1 per minute. Not much given the amount of time. After three times, we tell the family that the child is in danger of being removed from the program. Although a co-worker informed me that they usually don’t take kids out because they don’t want to lose money. And I just found out that the parent has to take the money to the main office when I was under the impression (and a bunch of other people because this wasn’t clarified with the staff) that the site coordinator took the money to the office. Nope. We are not allowed to take the money. So even though it’s only $2, his mother or stepfather will have to drive 30 minutes to pay a $2 fee. That sucks…but 6pm is 6pm.
Tomorrow is another day.
Okay, it’s time for another update. Polar has finally returned. He’s slightly more mellow but still himself. This is mostly due to the fact that he is now medicated. I’m not a huge fan of medicating children especially at his age (6) but then again, I’m an aspiring educator…not an aspiring doctor or psychologist. Polar, post-medication, is now obsessed with the scuff marks on the floor. It’s somewhat odd to watch this obsession and to see how his mother was unsure of how to deal with this new obsession. We were walking down the hall and he kept stopping to clean the scuffs on the floor. I was also informed, by his aide, that he was doing this during school. So yes he’s back…but definitely changed. I’m curious to see if there’s anything else that’s different about him. In addition to his return, the girl who has been suffering from anxiety returned yesterday. She seemed a bit more timid than usual but other than that, she was fine. The real test will come on a day when her father doesn’t pick her up during snack time. He was even surprised to see her in the cafeteria with us…we’ll see how this goes. Hopefully she’s back for good but it’s a day by day thing.
Let’s see. The team experiment seems to be going well so far. The kids have been really good about cleaning up and sitting with their teams. I will have to come up with a survey or something to assess how they felt about the process. Today should be interesting because we are doing a desert island activity where the kids will have to pick (as a team) which items to have on a desert island. The second activity will be a clue hunt which I’m about to work on now. I should probably get started on my February calendar too. I think I will be back appreciations for Valentine’s Day…or candy grams. Okay it’s time to wrap this up and get to work.
Tomorrow is another day.
My challenge for the kids over the next two weeks deals with team dynamics. If we’re doing an activity, the kids are usually split into groups or teams in order to accomplish a task. For the most part, this works out fine. However, I decided to take it to another level in January. Last week, the kids were given teams and told that they would be with that team for the entire week. The teams were Blue, Red, Green and Yellow. The kids created team signs and became adjusted to who was on their team. They even talked about it outside of the program (I only know this because a sixth grade who only comes on Wednesday and Thursday kept asking me which team she would be on before we were able to take the kids to the bathroom). It was even interesting to see the kids last Friday. It was a Girl Scouts day which meant that we were missing a good deal of the girls who outnumber the boys (usually 2 to 1 if not more). Since we had less than 10 kids when starting the activity, I decided not to keep those teams for the activity. The kids were actually sad about it.
Anyway, this week I decided to take it up a notch. Yesterday, I handed out puzzle pieces that I created from cereal boxes. Each piece had a child’s name on it. Once every student had a piece, they had to find the other kids with pieces to their puzzle. I informed them that they would keep these teams until the end of the month and assigned team names: X Men and The Avengers. The kids took to the names immediately. Fast forward. Today, the kids will be given the new rules. They will be required to eat snack at their team table, clean with their team (either after snack or homework time), sit with their team (when waiting for instructions regarding an activity or to transition to the gym). This will be interesting.
Also, in other news, Polar has yet to return to school. The kids have been asking about him and a few have even expressed that they miss him now. In addition to him being absent, I have been informed that another child has been experiencing anxiety. It’s to the point where she has not been in our program in over a week. Her teacher tried to give me an indication of what it’s like and what she does when the student begins experiencing anxiety. However, they haven’t really been able to transition her back into the program yet because of doctor’s appointment, parent pickups and her teacher using her as a helper to give her time to adjust to the idea of coming to the after-school program. It’s unnerving to think of a nine year old having anxiety in the way that it has been described to me. Hopefully we’ll get her back and her parents won’t pull her from after-school all together and maybe we’ll even get Polar back too. I’ve missed his goofy ways.
Tomorrow is another day.