Dear A’s school diary
Yes I’ve decided to write to you. I don’t think she will. She will probably just burn you in anger if she knows that anyone ever created one to begin with. Hell hath no fury like a toddler made to go to school apparently. Why was that not a saying! My little girl has been waiting to go to school for the longest time. Her cousins, friends everyone went to school and she would always ask “I want to go amma, just like my akkas (always referring to her older cousin sisters), can I?” And I used to feel so bad that we hadn’t even gotten her into day care leave alone some kind of a school. It was one of the few things she was looking forward to in Bangalore.
So I started touring schools on my day 3 in this city. Bangalore is known to have a ton of fun fun schools for children. A wide variety in fact. So I started my tour. She will be 3 this summer – so she goes to prenursery. Then nursery for 2 years. Then 1st grade at 6. There are small scale play schools like home day cares for 3 yr old kids. Then there are play school chains around the city that are bigger and slightly more expensive. Then there are international schools that are way more expensive and typically accommodate both working parents with a day care as well in house for after school care. Lastly, there are the proper classic Indian schools that house children from nursery till high school. Oh and there are the Montessori schools as well. Where do I begin this process?!?!?!
I’d been told international schools are snooty and I shouldn’t send my kid there unless I’m fine with her growing up as a rich spoiled brat. I don’t buy this fully but there’s some truth to this. So I decided not to start there. I started with the small home care type schools to see if I could ease my little one in slowly here. They were depressing. Dark. Dingy. And all I heard in these places were loud crying kids running around with runny noses. I saw 3 of these and ran out of there dumping loads of antibacterial sanitizer on my hands. Then there were the chains – more like the McDonald machine. Big enough to be a chain but not big enough to care for little things like leaving the gate of the school closed! As I was leaving one such school I noticed the gate wide open and 2 year olds playing by the gate there. It would have taken a second for any one of them to run into the road right there or someone to walk in and pick a kid up! REJECT. Then my neighbor suggested her daughter’s place. Another chain but had a fun, loud, bright and colorful vibe to it. Guess what happened – they rejected my daughter! They didn’t take kids out of the standard school cycle, so if I wanted an admission I needed to come back for June academic year. Sorry! 😦
That’s when I finally found this international school down the road from our house. It looked bright and fun. There was sunlight in the rooms! Yah!!!! A fun playground. The teachers all seemed really nice. With so much emptiness in our house I was really hoping the school would help fill some of the gaps. Specifically this international school that felt so much better than any home care, big chain or anything else I had seen.
Day 1 – she skipped her way into the school. She told the school head – ALRIGHHHHT!! I’m ready let’s go! They fell in love with her instantly. Then she saw the small classroom and refused to go in. Finally when I went in, she followed me and sat in with the other kids. I noticed something weird. The kids just sat on their chairs the entire time I was there. The teachers were making juice and showing the kids pomegranate. Seemed like a perfect activity. Except the children just sat there and watched the teachers. They didn’t do anything themselves. They barely touched the fruit. They just sat there and were asked to watch. When the outliars got up, they were promptly asked to sit back on their chair or were forced into their chair. Drove my little one nuts. She kept getting up and walking around to entertain herself. They’d all been sitting there for 30 mins straight just staring and listening to a lecture. Then snack time lasted 45 mins. The teachers were practically wrestling the kids and force feeding them. One parent later told me that most kids are not fed breakfast before they show up, so parents insist that the teachers feed the kids. My daughter was scarred by this. Completely totally scarred by it. I kept telling her play time was coming. Then finally play time did come. The playground was cleared of all it’s toys that I’d seen the day of the tour. Apparently they’d introduced a new playtime routine 3 days a week replacing open free play time. Organized Physical training!!! Kids were supposed to take turns running and picking things from places and dropping them elsewhere. Well except since they were waiting for their turn, most kids were just sitting there in a corner … WAITING. Again – sitting!!!! Not to mention sitting in the hot hot hot sun! really. I was worried! Bordering on screaming at this point. I had to hold myself back – this is just day 1.
Day 2, they asked me to leave in 10 mins. She started banging on the door when she realized I’d left. She cried the entire hour she was there. Not the normal whiny kind of crying, the kind that involved banging on the door like a crazy animal in the zoo!!
It was all over after that. All week 2 we wrestled her and my husband had to physically constrain her to drop her off at school. She fought him as hard as she could trying to run out of the school. We did for 3 days and then stopped. This is wrong!! This is not how it should be. There had to be a better way. Week 3. She didn’t go to school. She just refused to get out of home and would cry waking up in the middle of the night saying NO SCHOOL!! Now she’s figured out that getting into the car in the morning means she will be driven to school. So she refuses to even leave home in the morning and get into the car.
Week 4: We decided to change this routine. We talked to the principal and explained to her that she needed time. Having us sit in class for just 1 day was a bad idea. She needed more time. So we requested that grandma sit in this time for 1 – 2 weeks. It worked miracles!! Day 1 of the 4th week she agreed to go into the play area with grandma. Day 2 she went into the school building to the waiting area. Day 3 into the classroom. She’s been in the classroom 3 days straight now. A week of goodness with grandma. And by goodness I mean the willingness to enter the class. She participates in the class activities once in a while. Grandma is mad at the school. She reported exactly the same things that I did. Kids are always sitting. Teachers are always asking them to sit. They aren’t strict but they aren’t very creative about letting kids be kids beyond the structured activities. I can tell my girl isn’t going to be happy here. I can tell it’s only a question of time.
Looking back I see exactly how we went from a child that badly wanted to go to school, to one that moans in her sleep about it. We should have stayed with her in class for at least 2 weeks to help her see the activities they did. We should have given her time to explore with the secure sense of our presence there. Maybe I should have never put her in school and waited till the house was full and she was back to her happy self. Maybe I should have looked into schools much more carefully than rush in. Maybe … Maybe … Maybe … it doesn’t stop.
Dear diary .. help me stop it!!
Photo of my little girl posing (intentionally blurred, sorry family / friends reading this) – so excited about day 1 – she was walking around singing and dancing ‘one, day one .. we’re going school.’ I’m still trying to come to terms with how we went from that to this.