Our Reggio Emilio Preschool Experience
After out Montessori experience I felt shell-shocked. Was it me? Was it the American culture? The parents that I had crossed in the mornings at the Montessori preschool had seemed friendly (welcoming us at the school) and content, when they dropped off their child at the door. They weren’t allowed to go into the classroom. So did they know or understand the dynamics that took place in the classroom? I don’t think so; rereading the raving parent reviews on the preschool, I noticed that parents mostly focused on the skills that their child acquired during the program.
I stopped relying on advice from parents, I put aside my concern about being too sensitive, and I followed a Danish belief: “If you like the teachers, the atmosphere, and if you can picture yourself spending a whole day there, then it’s the right preschool.”
My search led me to a Reggio Emilio based preschool. My husband and I went there, without our daughter, and talked to teachers and observed the classroom. We wanted to make sure that it was a fit before we introduced her to a new preschool. Because from our daughter’s point of view, preschool in San Francisco was NOT GONNA HAPPEN.
Her new preschool was full of life, child laughter, hugging teachers, and bright airy rooms with tons of toys. Despite the environment, mu daughter’s transition was agonizing. Her short Montessori experience had damaged her.
At this preschool the teachers encouraged parents to visit and participate in the classroom. And to my relief they even asked me to stay with my daughter because of her fear and distress. So I stayed with her — at an arm’s length — for a full month (!) in the classroom watching how she studied the other children, focused on following their example, and strived at not attracting attention from either teachers or children. She avoided physical contact — even eye contact — despite the fun and loving environment.
I trusted the teachers 100 % (having watched them for a month!). So despite her unhappiness, I didn’t give up and started leaving her alone in the classroom for short period of times. Daily, her preschool would send parents pictures by email taken throughout the day. When I started leaving my daughter alone in the classroom, the pictures showed her red-eyed on the couch with a blanket, while the other children were playing. Then the pictures started showing her playing while smiling.
For more than three months our once bouncy, outgoing, and laughing daughter cried mornings, afternoons, and nights because she “didn’t want to go to preschool,” she was “scared of English,” and “she didn’t want to live in the US.” For more than 90 days her eyes seemed constantly red from crying, and It took all my strengths to get through that period of time.
… My daughter just finished 15 months of preschool. Because of her teachers’ loving support and later friendships with other children, she eventually turned back into her fun and self-independent self. She’s a happy child today. But she still — until her last day at preschool — insisted that she “didn’t want to go to preschool,” and she cried every morning at goodbye. I think it was a reminiscent of her hard transition. The teachers helped her say goodbye and hugged her, which made her (and me) feel safe. During her day she mostly had a great time, and if not her teachers (and she) would let me know. The teachers were her rock as much as mine.