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Monday, September 17, 2012

Preschool Woes

This spring we were lucky enough to get Ariana enrolled in one of the few American run preschools here in Germany. Last week  (September 10, 2012) she had her first day! She goes Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9-3. She's LOVING it! The first day she brought home a little report card saying how her day had been (good, she was marked inquisitive!) and also a letter A worksheet that they practiced writing the letter and colored a picture. Today she's at school for her 4th day and it already feels normal.

 Last year she attended a German preschool and things didn't go well. Here's the story on that...

Back in November of last year, Ariana turned 3. As she hit this milestone, we had been thinking it would be the perfect time to start her in a preschool. I enjoyed having her home with me as a baby and a toddler, but she needed more socializing than I could provide at home, even with playdates. She was excited to be in a class with teachers and other kids her age and loved to learn! And with Rich being deployed it would help give her something to go do, and me a little alone time.

 After calling 10 different local preschools (all denied us because we were American), we finally got accepted into a preschool 2 villages over from ours. Yes, it was German and we were hesitant to start with, but had high hopes since Ariana already loved learning and played nicely with her friends at playdates and several people had been very encouraging about the German preschools.

She attended preschool from 9-12, three days a week.

We were excited that she would make new friends, learn German and other life lessons. Unforntunatly, it did NOT happen that way.

At first things seemed to be going ok. Her teacher was nice and they seemed to accept her well, at least from what I could tell. Then things started to go downhill.

Now, this might not be average for all German preschools but this is what we experienced with the one we dealt with (name withheld) . I really struggled for a few a while with wanting to take her out of the school but wanting to give them and her a fair chance. Preschool can be challenging, I know this. And adjusting to different cultures is also difficult sometimes. Anyways, here is some of the things we experienced at the German preschool.

- They never helped her transition into German from English like they said they would. (Starting with talking in German and then in English if she was having trouble with physical cues)
- They would only yell at her in German and never try to help her understand what they were saying when they wanted her to do something. Can you imagine being in a class full of people who don't speak your language?
- They never really taught anything, it was basically a daycare. No colors, numbers, letters etc.
- She never brought home artwork or anything she made.
- Kids would occasionally be wandering alone in the hallways. Sometimes upset and crying.
- Most of the time she never seemed like she wanted to go. Many days I had to peel her off me crying. I didn't like it but people told me it was normal behavior for kids starting preschools.
- Ariana once told me that she went out on the playground with another older girl (5) from another class by herself. The playground is gated but where were the adults?! I never proved this.
- They let kids beat up on her (steal toys, push her off chairs, and hold her down) and the teachers response was "we let them fight it out".
- A little girl came up to her when she was playing outside and threw rocks at her head cutting and bruising her  and she was crying when I got there and "it was not a big deal and Ariana should have told her to stop". Apparently the little girl had been taking whatever toys Ariana was playing with all day. During their outside play, Ariana was playing a little house and the child walked over to her (with other child I was told) and they proceeded to throw rocks at her while she was sitting on the floor of the house playing. 
- They let her cut up fruit with a sharp serrated kitchen knife and she ended up slicing her finger open.

That last one was the final straw. At first I kept thinking maybe I was being the overprotective parent and didn't want to be that one American parent who thought her kid could do no wrong. She attended that school for about 6 months before I took her out. I felt like I tried to give them a chance. But things didn't work out for us there.

In the end, 2 other American girls had also joined the school. One of whom Ariana had become best friends with in her class, I think partly because they could communicate with each other. The teacher didn't like that and told me that. But, I saw how the other German kids treated the Americans kids, and the teachers even, and it wasn't nice.

Sometimes, I would arrive early and the kids would be outside playing on the playground by the parking lot. I would sit in my car a few minutes and watch what was going on. Several times I would see Ariana trying to join in a game or something and they German kids would run away. They would steal the little bikes from her or just completely run her over on the playground. Once I even saw her playing in the sandbox and she got up and went to stand in line at the slide and the teacher, THE TEACHER, wouldn't let her slide. Every time there was a chance for her to go, she would push Ariana back and let the other Germans who had just gone and coming up the stairs have another turn. After about 2 or 3 times of this Ariana walked away. She was standing by the slide area when I walked in the playground to get her and then suddenly the teachers saw me and were all about letting her have a turn then, but by that point she was over it and didn't even bother to try again. I felt so bad for her.

So, in short, it didn't end well. I told the other American parents what I had witnessed and things that had bothered me. Like the knife incident I asked Ariana who else was cutting up fruit and get this, it was only the 3 American students. Hmm...

When I told her teacher we were removing her from the school her response was "Well we had too many Americans anyways" What? You accepted them! There was only 3 Americans in the whole school of maybe 75 students!

I'm glad we can say we tried even if things weren't as great as they could/should have been.

We're looking forward to this new school year and we really like the school and teacher so far!

Thanks for letting me vent, I had to get that off my chest!

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