(photo of Levi sliding down a toddler-sized slide at a neighborhood playground)
Today is Levi’s last day of school. School’s not out for summer. It’s actually his last day at his current Montessori school. I’m pulling him out. He’ll begin a new Montessori program at a different location next week.
I feel guilty about taking Levi away from the teachers and classmates he’s gotten to know and like these past five months. I also feel guilty because Levi is thriving at school. But I’m not pulling him out of his current school because I’m disappointed with his Montessori education. I’m pulling him out because I’m disappointed with the administration.
In early May, I sent the following email to the administrative assistant, asking her to forward to it the appropriate contact person:
I appreciate that there is a jungle gym, swings, a sandbox, and a backyard available to the kids, and I know that the teachers do their best to keep their eyes on everybody. However, with the toddlers and primary students running around at the same time, it gets a bit hectic out there!
In the five minutes I was in the backyard this morning to pick up my son, I saw an older kid near the jungle gym sprawled flat on his back, a toddler girl hit with a ball, and Levi fall down a concrete stair while following two older boys (who know how to use stairs!).
I’m not necessarily sure what the solution is — fewer kids on the playground at once? more teachers outside? (I know that 1 of the 3 teachers in Levi’s classroom will go on a lunch break at that time.)
I thought I would bring my concern to your attention because another mother confided in me that she shares the same concern. Yes, I know that kids will be kids, and that we can’t shield them from everything, but I do wonder if there’s a way to make the backyard a little bit safer for them to enjoy.
Though enraged from what I witnessed on the playground, I thought I handled myself professionally and was anxious to receive a response from somebody in the office acknowledging my concerns.
I didn’t receive a follow-up email or a phone call that day.
Only the toddlers were in the backyard at pick-up time the next day. Even the teachers commented on how much less chaotic it was in the backyard. Although the children were safer, I was fuming because my concerns were never acknowledged by the staff. At that moment, I couldn’t think of anything more unprofessional than ignoring the concerns of a parent who pays for their child to attend that school.
A couple of days later I did end up meeting with the liaison between the teachers and the administration to discuss my email. However, I found her too agreeable during our chat, too willing to consent to the safety issues I brought up, including the fact that the jungle gym was too big for toddlers. It felt like lip service.
In the following weeks, I became hyperaware of potential safety problems. My frustration levels with the lack of attention paid to maintaining the facility was rapidly rising. When the door fell off Levi’s beloved play kitchen, it took days for his teacher to address the problem — only after I brought her a screwdriver from home. She ended up popping the screw through the wooden door, which wouldn’t normally be a big deal except that the kitchen’s still out of commission…two months later. Why doesn’t the school have a handyman on call? Or a toolbox?
I had to listen to my gut rather than my heart.
We found another Montessori with newer facilities and two separate outdoor play areas, including a toddler-sized space with sandboxes and age-appropriate Fisher-Price slides. The icing on top? The cost of admission will be nearly $200 cheaper a month.
(Yes, I did ask how they could afford to charge so much less than his current school while maintaining their standards and felt comfortable with their answer.)
I still feel guilty about making Levi say goodbye to his teachers and friends, but I have to follow my maternal instincts. My son’s safety comes first. I also wonder if maybe I’m more worried about my ability to transition than Levi’s. After all, two year olds are quite adaptable. Thirty-somethings, on the other hand…