After our meeting with Emily's teacher, Tim and I knew there was a cosmic disconnect between our philosophies and core values. Teacher yammered on about the importance of obedience and respect in the classroom, which of course we agree with, but hello, once again, Emily is 2 and has no idea what those concepts are. Where we disconnect is whether she should know or not. I think Emily's not ready cognitively to not make a stink when she doesn't get her way. Her teacher thinks she is, so when Emily screeches and throws a book on the ground because Teacher says it's not reading time, I say she's just frustrated and doesn't have the ability to control her emotions, and Teacher sees it as purposeful rebellion and insubordination. (Of course, the devil in me wonders, why the hell wouldn't you just read her the book?)
So I asked a friend of mine about her daughter's school, and yesterday we paid a visit. We brought Emily and when we entered through the white picket fence, we were immediately greeted by extraordinarily happy kids, playing outside with a variety of kid-friendly, hands-on activities. They all got to choose what they wanted to do, and were free to switch at any time. There was one teacher reading a story to a small group of kids, a few kids around a sand and water play table, a bunch of kids on a huge playground, a few kids even chilling out on lounge chairs. The director greeted us warmly, and when we reached down to introduce Emi we noticed she was long gone. She even made a friend, and the two of them just stood in front of each other, saying "Hi! Hi! Hi!" She was absolutely giddy, and only looked at us occasionally, as if wondering why we haven't left by then.
There were 14 kids in total, ranging from 2 to 4, which is a lot larger than our current daycare but didn't feel chaotic because there were 4 super-observant teachers keeping things in line. There were hardly any conflicts because there were so many resources, all the kids felt comfortable and non-possessive. Apparently most of the day is spent in child-centered free play, with directed activities sprinkled throughout in 15-30 minute chunks. We told the director what Teacher said of Emi, and she immediately asked us, "Is she bored? She sounds like she's bored." We shrug and say maybe, we're not sure. She frowned slightly and said, "Oh, 2-year-olds all have their moments, it's up to the adults to help them through the moments, not alienate them." She told us how teachers in So Cal generally do not try to use distraction as a discipline technique and are especially punitive, as if they were still learning about early childhood education from textbooks from the 70's. I also think Teacher is overstretched and wants the same formula to apply to all the kids.
So Emily will smell you later, Teacher. And you can keep the quiet, easy kids, since apparently that's all you can handle. And Tim and I will trust our instincts more and not allow any teachers bully the Mangs into compliance.