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Your Opinion: How do you handle problems at your children’s school?

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I love teachers. I have many good friends who are teachers and out of all the professions on this earth, I think they are among the most praiseworthy.

But I am having problems with teachers.

Because of my admiration, I always thought I would be the Teacher’s Parent Pet. You know: that go-to person who volunteers at every opportunity and who is loved and adored by all.

It ain’t happening.

It started last year when a little thing called cocaine surfaced on the playground at my daughter’s preschool and parents were not informed. I only found out because I read about it in the Police Beat. My issue was not with the teachers but with the way the administrative staff handled it and I ruffled more than a few feathers. I still feel I was justified but in so doing, I became one of those parents in their eyes.

And I hate that.

Another issue surfaced last week when I drove by Starbucks with my daughter and her friend.

“That is where we get coffee every day!” Haddie announced.
“Who gets coffee?” I asked.
“At preschool. We have a Starbucks center where we get our morning coffee! It’s the only way to start our day!”

I am adamantly opposed to drinking coffee. I fully realize that millions of people are partakers of its caffeinated goodness but for religious and health reasons, my family refrains. And I try to teach my children the same principles.

I haven’t said anything to the teachers and probably won’t. I rationalize it’s not like a liquor store and most people don’t take issue with drinking coffee. Even so, it just seems inappropriate to teach 4 year olds that they cannot start their day without it.

Which brings me to my next point: Hadley will be entering kindergarten next year. The teacher is rumored to be a nightmare. She is close to retirement and taught older children most of her career before she got “dumped” in kindergarten. She is notoriously cruel, yells at the kids and I have several friends who have pulled their upset children from her classroom to attend another school.

Not exactly the way I want my daughter to begin her education.

Would you do anything? The school has an interim principal who is allegedly not willing to address the problem. Several parents at preschool are worried about it and proposed we write a letter but I am hesitant because I don’t want to start my daughter’s education by ruffling feathers at her new school.

And so my question to you is this: where is the line? I empathize that schools are trying to appease so many different backgrounds and belief systems and I know they put up with a lot. I want to show support but I also want what is best for my children. What conflicts/issues have surfaced with your children’s education and how did you handle them?

Amber Johnson
Author: Amber Johnson

Amber is the founder and editor of Mile High Mamas. She is a passionate community builder and loves the outdoors. She has two awesome teens and is happily married to a man obsessed with growing The Great Pumpkin.

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  • comment avatar Marivic October 6, 2008

    I’m lucky I have not had that many issues with teachers or the school. But to answer your question, my guiding principle is: my kids are my most valued treasure. I would not entrust my valued possessions to entities I don’t feel comfortable about, I would not leave them with bad babysitters, so I would not entrust them to bad teachers or a bad school environment. Of course, “bad” is a relative term, so I should say “harmful” by my standards. They spend so many hours of their formative years in school that if I have to be “that” parent then I would. Fortunately, in my experience, whenever I have expressed a concern, teachers and schools more often than not try to work with me. So I’m sure you’ll find a suitable way of handling these issues in your kids’ school. Good luck!

  • comment avatar Jdude October 6, 2008

    Oh this is a toughie! But don’t ask me, I have picked a fight with the Middle School this past week regarding the practice of assigning things to be due on days that the kids don’t have the class (we are on an A/B day schedule) and i just think that is ridiuclous for this age. So yes, I too have become one of “those” parents. But do know what, it takes the likes of us to make a difference and we must not forget that as long as we are kind and respectful in the process we send a postitive message of caring for the school and for our kids. Above all, I want my kids to know that I am their advocate.

    And I would not hesitate for one second over the Starbucks thing. Kids can pretend all they want but the school needs to realize that their demographic includes those that, for religious reasons, do not partake. They can have a pretend coffee pot there and if kids want o play they can, but it does not have to be a brand name station. Years ago in our preschool there were McDonalds pretend stuff in the kitchen and one mom who was opposed to junk food (gasp) asked it to be removed.They kept the food – because some like to eat a good burger during playtime – but got rid of the themed Happy Meal box and stuff like that. I see no difference here if you approach it respectfully and with an attitude of enlightening them to what their students believe.

    Wow – so much to say – but I need to go now and prepare for my Middle School battle at 10:45 this morning! Wish me luck!

  • comment avatar Laurie Probsdorfer October 6, 2008

    I am in my 12th year of parenting my children at the same school. Ours is a small Magnet school with a very interesting community. One of the reasons I chose this school when my now Sophomore son was only two years old, was for the small community. I have a relationship with every single teacher, the administration and most of the other parent volunteers.
    From you article it seems obvious that you have some personal and religious restrictions that might be better served in a private school for your child. If that is not an option then, compromise is in your future to be sure.
    With regard to the meanie Kindie teacher; if you have the information you do on good authority, and you feel confident that these stories are true, find a different school. An administration that would allow this type of behavior is not where you want your children. The admin is as big a part of school culture and your child’s experience as any teacher will be along the line. Kindergarten is a big time for kids. This is the time that they might determine how they feel about school forever! A crabby, mean Kindie (who’s mean to Kindies????) teacher can ruin any chance your chlild might have in the future for a fun, rewarding school career.
    YOU have control over where your child attends school. Your child does NOT have to attend a neighborhood school just because it’s close.
    Choosing an alternate school means making some tough decisions. YOU will be responsible not just for getting her to and from school each day, but getting her to play dates that are not in your neighborhood, sports teams that are further away, clubs or after school activities that are a drive. These things were difficult, but always worth it to me and my family. Nevertheless, we were overjoyed when, after 8 years of driving back and forth, our little school moved from a town 20 miles away into OUR town on a site just 5 minutes away.
    Take charge of your child’s education now. Forge a relationship with the school community and maintain it. It WILL make a difference in your daughter’s school career.

  • comment avatar Karla October 6, 2008

    You are the only voice your children have. I know it’s hard to be the one to stick your neck out, but if you’re not comfortable then it will taint your experience, as well as, Hadley’s. Voicing your opinions and concerns doesn’t have to be negative. If you’re not comfortable bringing it up out of the blue, wait until parent/teacher conferences (if it’s not a safety concern), or perhaps send a nice email message.

    Also, as far as the kindergarten teacher is concerned. Hmmmm. Could you send her some prozac?? lol. Good luck!

  • comment avatar denise @ eatplaylove October 6, 2008

    I suggest looking at other school options. Most poorly led preschools that offer Kdg do it for the money. There are so many open enrollment options around, time to start visiting schools. I was in your shoes last year. Kdg should be a wonderful fun experience, go with your instincts!

  • comment avatar Amber October 6, 2008

    Thanks for the comments so far and I look forward to reading many more! As far as kindergarten, it is part of the top-rated local elementary school, not preschool.

  • comment avatar Brandy October 6, 2008

    Wow, When my daughter started Kindergarted, I was a little worried about her teacher, but for the opposite reason. The teacher was a FIRST YEAR teacher, and my daughter is VERY good at seeing weekness in the “prey” and exploiting it. 🙂 Anyway, it was the best year she has had to date (in the fourth grade now). We even requested the same teacher for her brother. I do agree that her kindergarten year is pivotal. If you are so apprehensive about her teacher, could you request that she be placed with someone else? If the answer is no, I would start looking for another school. Mean teachers have NO place teaching a child their first year of “real” school. It could possibly influence her for the rest of her school career.

    BTW, you do get used to being one of “those” parents. I actually don’t mind so much now.

  • comment avatar Lauren in GA October 6, 2008

    I know what you mean…I wanted to be the Teachers Parent Pet, but in many circumstances I am afraid that I am one of, “those” parents, too.

    I would write a letter explaining that the Kindergarten Teacher’s reputation preceeds her and that you are deeply concerned. I would cite instances where you learnded that parents had to pull their children out of her class. It would be awful if youi had to take Hadley out of the class because your suspicions were confirmed. Why do some people teach when they clearly don’t want to be there?

  • comment avatar Lori October 6, 2008

    It is tough to balance advocating for your children for what SHOULD be and helping them deal with what what IS.

    In doing so, you are teaching them when to CHANGE their world and when to ACCEPT it.

    It makes the choice of school sooooo important.

    if you’re open to schools other than your neighborhood school, I’d be glad to tell you about one I know very well that’s also in your town.

  • comment avatar Erika October 6, 2008

    I don’t mind being one of “those” parents. I believe it is my duty as a parent that my child receive the best education he can. I also pay taxes in the town so I feel that I can. I have had problems a teacher in the past (my son’s kindergarten teacher) who didn’t challenge my son enough which lead to boredom which lead to misbehaving. My son mastered all of the areas in the first quarter for the entire year—thanks to a great preschool. His first and second grade teachers have done better with him. I also think there are some teachers like an easy classroom. So if a child is spirited in any way, he/she tends to get reprimanded more.

  • comment avatar Sketchy October 6, 2008

    I always want to be my children’s teachers friend. But more than that I want to be an advocate for my child. I always keep that front and center. I do try to do both, but it doesn’t always work that way.

    I think you can respectfully address the issue of the Starbucks and question whether Hadley is getting this from the teacher or one of her friends. It could be coming from another child’s mom. If you handle it from that perspective I think if it is from the teacher they will put a stop to it. It’s a really stupid thing to be teaching little kids that an addictive substance is the only way to start your day. No matter how pervasive it is in our society.

    The situation with Kindergarten is tricky, because you don’t actually have any first hand evidence. All 4 of my kids have had older Kindergarten teachers (in 2 different schools) and I actually prefer it. I like that they’ve had teachers who have seen every trick, lol Does that reveal too much about my kids? But it does sound like this may not be a good situation.

    If you can I think it would be as helpful or more so if you could get parents of children who’ve already had this teacher to get involved with those of you who are anticipating it. They can provide you with documented events and not just speculation.

    If you go to the principle and the school board with something like that you may get more action. But going to the school board is key in situation like this.

  • comment avatar Nicole October 6, 2008

    I think there is a difference between a parent who causes trouble just for the sake of a causing trouble. Or a parent who enables a child by taking on a teacher who is actually right, instead of forcing the child to take responsibility for their own actions. That said, I think that if there is a situation in which our children are truly at risk (physically, emotionally or academically) that it is our responsibility as parents to make our voices heard!

    You do have options. You can choose to home school for 1 year, and send her back when she is in first grade. You can look into local charter schools. But make your voice be heard. Our kids are tomorrow’s leaders! They deserve nothing than the best when it comes to education.

  • comment avatar mattsmom October 6, 2008

    Honestly I do not have any helpful advice…because my oldest is the same age as yours. But I do have to say THANK YOU! ALL of the other comments and bits of advice from your other readers are helpful to me, as I am in a similar situation. I plan to try to get my son into a charter school…but since there is a raffle and huge waiting list to get into the charter school my choices may be limited.

  • comment avatar Momma, The Casual Perfectionist October 6, 2008

    Wow! I’m sorry you’re having to deal with all of this. I’m relatively new to this game, as my daughter isn’t even 3 yet. She is in a Young Preschoolers Class once a week, but we’re not really into the full-on school system yet.

    That being said, here are my thoughts. First, about the Starbucks. I think it’s odd that it’s in the classroom, and I understand your concern, but the reality is there *are* Starbucks on every corner. I know your daughter is young, but she’s not too young for you to start the process now of showing her what she needs to do to hang out with her friends and still keep the beliefs your family holds dear. She can play “Starbucks” and she can participate in the roleplay, but what if she says, “Oh, no coffee for me, thanks! I’ll just have water!” or whatever other clever things you’ll teach her to say to avoid caffeinated things in the future.

    Use this as a way to help her learn how to deal with situations like this that *will* arise in the future.

    As for the Kindergarten teacher: I’m not sure what to tell you. I’m all for going to bat for your kids, but what if the reality of next year isn’t what the rumors are from today? Unfortunately, my crystal ball is broken, so I can’t help you out there…and I wish I had better advice for you. If I were in your position, I’d do what you’ve just done: ask others who may have been in the situation for advice and go from there.

    Good luck!

  • comment avatar Kevin October 6, 2008

    Never be afraid to speak up and stand up for your kids. They rely on us to do so and it’s our duty and privilege to provide them honesty and integrity in all aspects of life.

    Given that you say “I want to show support but I also want what is best for my children” you already know what to do. Never be concerned about being one of “those” parents. Your children will understand that you are there for them in all situations. The trust you build through such actions is invaluable. If you choose to NOT be one of “those” parents, your children will learn that you are unlikely to support their needs whenever your own personal status may be compromised.

  • comment avatar Momma, The Casual Perfectionist October 6, 2008

    sorry, I didn’t include my URL.

  • comment avatar Sabrina October 6, 2008

    Gasp. Gasp. Gasp. Sputter. Did you say “cocaine”???????? Just horribly shocked by that. . .I have no advice. Personally, the older my little man gets, the better and better homeschooling looks (but the hubby will have nothing of that, so. . .I’m sure I’ll be struggling with similar issues soon). I feel like it more difficult for me since I WAS a teacher (albeit high school) for six years before having kids. Oh, and I LOVE my java, but I would DEFINITELY say something about my kid being exposed in that way daily. Whew! Keeping it all in my thoughts!

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson October 6, 2008

    I appreciate everyone’s feedback thus far. I agree that now is the time to start teaching my daughter how to stand up for her beliefs, even when they differ with the general populace!

  • comment avatar Lisa October 6, 2008

    I agree with a lot of the comments about being “that mom”, as long as the situation warrants it. I encourage my student’s parents to call me, e-mail me, whatever if they have any problems. I would hate to have a parent upset about something, and I have no idea that there is even an issue. As for the center? If it is a true “center area” that the teacher set up, I don’t agree with that, but if it is something a child started playing one day (because that is how things are at their house) I wouldn’t worry too much. It’ll pass. Next week they’ll be playing something else. This week in my “home center” (I teach 4 and 5 year old PreK) the thing to do is use the play phone to call 911 and yell loudly into the the phone that, “There’s trouble here! Get over here quick.” Now as the teacher, I talk to them about when it is appropriate to dial 911. If I was going to just “guess” at what was going on in these homes to teach these kids to say some of the things I’ve heard them say, I could speculate abuse and other things. I don’t do that though, because if I felt there was a real danger, I would have the administration handle it. That’s the flip side. Maybe the teacher just isn’t aware of this as part of your religious beliefs. Honestly, it’s the first I have ever heard that caffeine is not an acceptable thing. I would suggest you openly and honestly talk to the teacher about your concerns, and then deal with things from there.
    If she says it’s the kids leading things, she can re-direct the pretend play. If it’s her center idea, and she won’t change it, talk to Hadley about what your family believes and why. I like the suggestions that she still play along but say things like, “No thanks. I’ll have some milk.” or “I’ll bake the muffins, and you can make the drinks.” I hope this ridiculousy loooong comment helps some.

  • comment avatar Amber Johnson October 6, 2008

    Starbucks is an actual center. They have the sign, collected coffee cups, everything. Even my beliefs aside, I don’t know anyone who would say they would encourage a 4-year-old to drink coffee. I guess the playing is akin to removable tattoos and bubble gum cigarettes. Harmless at this age but not exactly something most would advocate for four year olds in real life.

  • comment avatar Angie October 6, 2008

    Amber, coming from the public school system, where tenured teachers are very difficult to get rid of, I’ve seen time and time again poor teachers being dumped in grade levels they aren’t prepared to teach in an effort to get them to quit. I hope this isn’t the case in Hadley’s school, but if it is, I’d try my hardest to have a voice in where she is placed.

    As for the Starbucks center: what? Are they getting kickbacks from Starbucks for advertising??? That seems a little inappropriate.

  • comment avatar SJ October 6, 2008

    I’m totally thrown off by the Starbucks centers in a 4 yr. old’s classroom….are they really encouraging children that young to get hyped up on coffee? I”m still shaking my head at that one….

    My son just started kindergarden in the public school system and while we haven’t had any ‘issues’ yet this year, my husband and I made sure from the very start that we had an open line of communication with his teacher. And with the school as well. Is there any way you can request that your child be placed in another classroom to aviod the teacher you are concerned with? And or maybe permitting into another school district?

    I wouldn’t worry so much about being ‘that’ parent, stand up for you kids and be heard. You are their voice at this point in their lives. Eventually other parents will speak up and I bet you they all have some of the same issues…


  • comment avatar SJ October 6, 2008

    I’m still shaking my head at the Starbucks center at your 4yr olds school……are they really encouraging kids of that age to get hyped up on coffee already? I think that’s a tad bit inappropriate….

    As far as being ‘that parent’ – I say stand tall, stay strong and let your voice be heard! You are your kids voice at this juncture in their lives. I’d be willing to be that other parents feel the same way you do about things, that’s always the way.

  • comment avatar Lynanne October 6, 2008

    I guess you pick and choose the battles you are willing to fight. Although there are lots of things that annoyed me about my children’s schools, I learned to keep in mind which ones really mattered for the long term. Before that, I was driving myself crazy all the time.

    As for the coffee – kids love to imitate adults and your daughter may have gotten her comment from another child. However, a bigger issue is the advertising and a school promoting a particular brand of ANYthing. I’d feel the same way if they had a Dole fruit stand or Robert’s Dairy milk case.

    On the teacher – it’s been my experience that the “worst” teachers have turned out to be the best for my child and vice versa. Sometimes the mean teacher claims are exaggerated or fueled by mob mentality. Different personalities of kids do better with different personalities of teacher. Given that, I’d still listen to your gut instinct. I pulled my child out of school because of one particular teacher – how’s that for being “that parent”?

  • comment avatar 4 October 6, 2008

    Okay, first and foremost, you are not one of those parents. You are “A” parent actually an A+ parent. You are diligent and concerned and from my side of the desk, that’s a great thing.
    The best advice I can give regarding the coffee issue… gently explain that your family does not imbibe in coffee and that you feel that teaching the children that drinking it is the only way to start the day is the exact reason you don’t partake. The fact that getting up and being excited to learn is all the reason a little one needs to start their day.
    As for the Kinder teacher…the best advice I can give you is this: you need to decide what your opinion is by your own observation. Let’s face it, I am crazy and silly and over the top. Some parents find me too much, and I am okay with that. They prefer a traditional sort. Now, this Kinder-teacher may very well be ready to put out to pasture but the only way to find that out, is to go in and visit yourself. IF she doesn’t want you in to see how her class is run…that speaks volumes!
    The other way that I found (prior to returning to the classroom) to have my voice heard in a postive tone is to volunteer in the room. You see exactly how a class is run and then if you have concerns, you have seen them for yourself and have the information you need to make an honest evaluation. Again, any teacher that doesn’t want you in their class….red flag, red flag, red flag.
    Open and honest communication. My parents have my email address and I quite often get an email a day asking for clarification or asking for help. Your child thrives when they know that you and Mrs./Mr. are communicating for their needs. Don’t be afraid to stand up for yourself. Your child is worth it…..

  • comment avatar One Mom's Opinion October 6, 2008


    So sorry to hear all of this. Cocaine on the playground is a major problem. I would have flipped out. There is no reason for them to have not immediately mailed home letters and/or addressed this personally. This should have been a major concern of every parent, teacher and staff member and not something that was dismissed.

    Issues concerning safety, following our instincts and such–my hubby and I take very seriously. Most people don’t like confrontations. You can be subtle and not so direct–but, sometimes you have to be very direct and forceful as nothing is more important than our kids well being and safety.

    I wouldn’t worry about being labeled as one of those parents. Any parent that wasn’t bothered by the cocaine on the playground wasn’t worth much in my mind. Let them be upset. It will blow over and you were on the correct side of the issue.

    We’ve had more than a few issues at school. Problems have been easier for me to address in elementary school as I’ve been well known since I volunteer often and at one time or another–had my hand in nearly everything.

    One example, my son was switched from one special education teacher to another mid-way through the year for no reason several years ago. I wasn’t even informed. Had my son not mentioned to me in passing, I wouldn’t have known.

    I called up and addressed this with his new teacher and asked that he be switched back. Once it became apparent that she dismissed me and basically told me that I had no say in the matter–I told her that I would go over her head. I made an appointment with the principal, we all had a short meeting and my son was moved back.

    Whether they realized my reasons had merit or decided to appease me, I don’t know.

    It pays to get to know teachers and staff. I can’t tell you how many times that teacher friends have told me things in confidence that helped my son or myself work around an issue and/or have given me great advice.

    That kindergarten teacher I would avoid as teachers never seem to get those reps without deserving them. Tough is one thing, she sounds like a nightmare. I’d start with specifically requesting the other teacher.

    Follow your gut and I wish you the best of luck. Kindergarten should be fun and not stressful for you or your child.

  • comment avatar 4 October 6, 2008

    From this side of the desk:
    First and foremost, you need to speak up. Your are your child’s best advocate. The issue about the Coffee centre highlights exactly why it is an issue. I would approach the teacher and kindly state that you feel it is an inappropriate strategy to indicate to a child that their morning isn’t worth anything until they have a coffee. A child should be excited about going to school. Period. That is what should start their day off right.
    Secondly: before you make any judgments about the Kinder teacher, do your own research. I know that I have the reputation of being the playful teacher. For some parents who want their children to have a more traditional teacher, I am not the right choice; and that’s okay. But do your own research. You may find a connection with Mrs. Kinder, or you may not. But it will come from your own heart.
    Lastly, one of the best things you can do for yor child is to volunteer in the school. If you are in the class, then you have first hand knowledge and understanding of how the class is run. If a teacher doesn’t want you in his/her class, red flag, red flag, red flag. And once you have been in the class, two things happen. One, the administration tend to listen more and the second thing is that a child thrives once they know that mom and dad are in contact with Mr and Mrs from school. You are your child’s best advocate. Don’t feel bad for being “that” parent. Gosh, what I wouldn’t give to have “that” parent for 3 of my very tender souls. So stand up, be heard and make your voice known.

  • comment avatar Lisa L October 6, 2008

    FYI, I did mention that I disagreed with the Starbucks Center when on Friday, Alex showed me the picture she drew herself that was titled “I am drinking coffee”. Since we don’t drink it I mentioned it to the teacher who informed me that it was just play and that Alex could pretend to drink tea or something else if I wanted her too. I found it was better to talk to Alex about our beliefs rather than try to change the system.

  • comment avatar Erin October 6, 2008

    As a teacher, I say that YOU and your husband have every right to go somewhere else or speak your mind. 🙂
    I will pray fervently that she retires before next year! 🙂

  • comment avatar Lisa October 6, 2008

    I have had some issues with my older daughter’s teachers. We made it through her freshman year only to be given a Chemistry teacher who was fired then rehired for her sophomore year. She has a horrible reputation and I am calling the counselor everyday trying to get her out of the class. I’ll save the rant for my own blog. There are bigger problems with our situation, but I believe that parents must stand up for their children. Even if we become “One of those parents”. It sucks, though. I’m becoming one of them. 🙁

  • comment avatar elasticwaistbandlady October 6, 2008

    Take out the Starbucks thing and add delights like having my 8 year old fondled on the bus and my 7 year old offered “drugs” (it turned out to be candy) on the playground and this could have been written by me.

    Crotchety dictatorial Kindergarten teacher who squished all the fun out of the Kinder experience? Yep. Terrible Principal who thinks that the concerned parents are the problem? Yep.

    And now you know why we pulled our kids out of that school to Homeschool.

    Sadly, my 3 youngest will be starting school there tomorrow. Two of them need Speech help and I like the on-staff therapist. Hopefully they’ll be ready to come back home after this school year.

  • comment avatar elasticwaistbandlady October 6, 2008

    I found one of those Rate-A-School sites the other day. Out of 8 reviews for my kids’ elemntary school, only ONE was favorable. Almost all of them cited the crappy Principal, lackluster administration, and burned-out teachers.

    The school is in the middle of a million dollar golf course neighborhood. (We don’t live there) Most of those parents can afford private school but the rest of us are stuck with homeschooling being our only way out.

  • comment avatar Ice Cream October 7, 2008

    When trying to decide these tough questions I always ask myself, “can this be a learning experience, or it is just abuse?” If the former then I try to just coach and help my child get through it and come out the wiser, but if it is the latter… WATCH OUT ’cause you’re gonna have Annoying Mom all over you until things change.

  • comment avatar Anonymous October 7, 2008

    imo, your child’s education and well being is your number one priority. i think you should do what you feel you need to do for that sake.

    i think you can do this without coming off as the pitbull no one wants to deal with. find ways to show your kinder side, but let who ever is involved (teacher, principal, admin, etc) that there is a reason you’re doing what ever it is you’re doing. let them know it’s because you care about your child, their education, and well being. i think there’s ways to do this without coming off as a b*tch.

  • comment avatar 4 October 7, 2008

    Sorry I am an imbecile about posting comments…I will do my best to hit enter once, henceforth.

  • comment avatar Chantel from ON, Canada October 7, 2008

    I say “trust your gut”…it’s better to be ‘that parent’ than to have your child be treated poorly for the sake of keeping the peace. I don’t know if a letter beforehand would be of any help because it’s hard to argue what you are predicting might happen, BUT I do think it’s important that once the children start school that all of you parents stay in communication. Each of you volunteer as much as possible, stay objective, and write EVERYTHING down. I work for our local Catholic School Board, and I would welcome any parent to the classroom I am in because I know I am doing my best…if your child’s teacher is hesitant to do the same then there’s reason for concern. Also, I am ‘THAT PARENT’ but I still show up with a smile on my face and do my best each time I can offer help in the classroom…a mean teacher is usually an unhappy person – it’s not just you!

  • comment avatar ariel October 7, 2008

    You need a new preschool.

  • comment avatar Ashlee - Mama's Nest October 7, 2008

    This is so tough and I’m sorry you’re in this situation! Of course parents should have been notified about COCAINE! and while I’m drinking coffee right now, I understand that too!

    This is why I am a firm believer in taking charge of our children’s educations. I understand that not everyone has access to specialized private schools and nowhere is perfect but we (you!) have a choice where our children are educated.

    Just like with our doctors, your school works for you. YOU pay for it. You have a choice.

    Best of luck!

  • comment avatar Jenn October 8, 2008

    Well I may be on the opposite side of the fence here’s my opioion on both accounts:

    1. Preschool: Pick your battles. Is it good that they have Starbucks store, no, but is it the end of the world – no. I think it’s our responsibilities as parents to teach our kids values as well. Cocaine is a different story. But I would worry that if I was complaining all the time it may be like the boy who cried wolf.

    2. Kindergarten: You need to experience the teacher before you complain. I’m sure there are parents who like the teacher, they maybe are not as vocal.

    Good LUck


  • comment avatar Eve October 8, 2008

    Don’t worry too much about her kindergarten year. Stay apprised as to what is going on in her classroom now (and find out about where she got the Starbucks comment from) and spend some time touring private schools that you’d consider. You’ll learn alot in the interviews and if you do decide to put her in public, then it’s more of an educated decision. YOU are hiring her instructors for kindergarten. IMO emotional fulfillment will do 1000x more for any child than any amount of academic “rigor” if it omits love and respect. This decision can and should take some time to make, that’s why it doesn’t hurt to put some time into it during the school year rather than waiting for next August….plus, private schools usually start filling in March (kind of hard to put money down when you haven’t had a trial run at the school, but you can get a pretty good idea of how a school runs by touring and going back for an open house night, concert night, school fair, etc. and your ideas for a school might change over the course of “getting to know it”)….but what’s great is that you have TIME to consider alternatives. Now, if you’re thinking about just keeping her in her public school even with this horror, then I can’t emphasize enough how likely it is that you could look back on the experience with regret. But the larger scope of influence by the teacher would be borne by your daughter. It’s not hard to find teachers who truly love teaching kindergarten, even if it means paying out-of-pocket for it. No one could pay me ANY amount of money to send my kids to the public school in our subdivision, and we look at their enrollment in private as an investment in them which will pay large dividends (joy and lasting satisfaction and a great desire/thirst to learn are the foundations of our school). Probably what you’ve heard about this teacher is accurate and she shouldn’t be around children anymore…..any teacher can get to this point, some after a few years and others after 30 years, but the point is that they shouldn’t be doing that job just because they “used to” be good at it. And it’s always the vulnerable ones who suffer. It happened to my friend’s kinder son last year but she kept siding w/ the teacher and giving her the benefit of the doubt b/c of her reputation to create high academic achievers…well, her son became a changed boy and she truly regrets leaving him in her class (the principal couldn’t fire her b/c of the TEACHER’S UNION despite the 20+parents’ complaints). Good luck!

  • comment avatar Eve October 8, 2008

    I meant to say don’t worry about her kinder year because you can take your researching options in stride, spend this year on it, touring, networking, getting people’s opinions on places they’ve enrolled their children, etc., and the decision will come to you in time. Don’t stress is what I meant, but in the spring you’ll be able to get your “ducks in a row” and plan on a specific program for H….which, you might find you’ll need to switch her out of by October (and that’s okay if it needs to happen). Courage!!!!

  • comment avatar Traci October 8, 2008

    Hey Amber,
    As an early childhood educator and former kindergarten teacher, my guess is the Starbucks Center is a way of letting children role play what they see their parents doing. Right or wrong, most kiddos see their parents drinking coffee on a daily basis. Most early childhood educators would not intentionally do anything to make any child feel uncomfortable. They have to love what they do, they aren’t in it for the money! Diversity is a BIG word in early childhood circles and I would guess the teachers would be very open to your views if they are presented in a kind and gentle way.

    As for the kindergarten teacher, if you do not want to join in on the petition, I really recommend finding an alternative school just for the first year, and then going back to your neighborhood school for first grade. It is such a vital time for little ones, and you would hate for Hadley to have a bad experience that would “ruin” school for her from the start. If your preschool offers a K program, that might be an option or just switch to an open enrollment school nearby for kindergarten. We (mommies) worry about kids switching schools and finding new friends, but these little ones don’t really have issues with that (it is more a mommy issue!) It may be inconvenient, but better than creating a fear and dislike of school when it should be about building a foundation for a love of learning!
    Good Luck Amber!

  • comment avatar LuluMom October 9, 2008

    Yikes, Starbucks enters the hallowed halls of education! Scary. We do see tons of branding in the food areas at schools. Just make sure to give your own kids healthy habits and choices.
    About next year’s teacher, why don’t you wait and see how things turn out. A year is a long time, many things can happen. Although kindergarten is a key entry to “big kid” school, don’t spend tons of energy pre-worrying. The parents of this year’s kindergarten class might create a stir. Also, Lynanne’s comment about “mob mentality” has merit. Try to view the big picture.
    Take care,

  • comment avatar Amanda D October 9, 2008

    Interesting post, Amber. My daughter must be going to the same kindergarten! That is what her teacher is like. I heard NOT A SINGLE good thing about her. I can’t afford to put her in full day though (it is $250/month for full day here) so I have put her in the half day program with that teacher and have decided that even if the teacher is cranky it wont harm her forever. Good luck with the whole thing!

  • comment avatar Scattered Mom October 10, 2008

    As Mom of a special needs child, I went from wanting to please the school and be a “good” mom to having to be a Mama Bear and be “That” mom. I’ve come to the conclusion that the teacher has a job to do, and it’s not to be my friend.

    My job is to advocate for my son, even when it’s uncomfortable and hard because if I don’t, who will?

    I personally would say something about the Starbucks thing. Not so much that it’s coffee, because I’m a coffee lover. However, I don’t agree with the free advertising/company promotion that my child is getting in that situation. Make it a cafe and play menus with healthy snacks, and all would be good.

    With the teacher Amber, go with your instincts. I had the same situation with Jake in grade one and I allowed myself to be suckered into just riding the year out, which turned out to be a VERY bad year.

  • comment avatar Jessica October 12, 2008

    ok… where to start… I dont even know!!!! I havent been able to keep up with you in awhile…. but glad I could stop in today!! ;0)

    I will just say.. that I too have become one of “those” parents…. from teachers pet to total opposite….

    And thats why I homeschool. ;0)

    Its not for everyone… but it works for us! GOod luck with whatever you decide…. and know that I think you should mention the starbucks thing… I believe one of the prophets somewhere along the line have mentioned the whole concept of tolerance becomes accpetance…and acceptance soon turns into agreeance and then into participation…. (thats sooo not verbatum but you know what I mean…) ;0)

    Stop by if you want!!

  • comment avatar mumple October 15, 2008

    Oh, Wow! I started having flashbacks while I read this post.

    If you have reason to believe that those *rumors* of a horrifying teacher are true, you need to act on it. My son is now 19, and we’re still dealing with fall-out from a demon teacher when he was in 2nd grade!

    If you have options for teachers, request her teacher. (I live in PA, and I’m not sure if it’s state or federal, but if you request it, they have to have a rock-solid reason for NOT honoring it.) If you don’t have that option, is there another school you can start her in? It may be a pain for you, but in the long run, you will NEVER EVER regret being pro-active in her education.

    Regardless of where she ends up starting school, the best thing you can do is volunteer IN the school, and attend PTA. Make sure the office personnel, the principal, the guidance department, the teachers KNOW your face, and who you belong to. Even if you can only do a Homeroom parent thing, or volunteer a few hours a week in the office, whatever it is that puts your presence in her school is the single best deterent for bad teacher behavior. And it builds your rep with the staff as a helpful, caring parent, not some shrew who shows up, makes demands and then disappears until the next crisis (not that that’s what you’re doing, but with 3 teachers in our family, I know that’s what being “That Parent” means to them.)

    Good luck!

  • comment avatar serf 'rett October 15, 2008

    Frankly, I’m appalled by the coffee situation and I don’t appall easily! I can understand fried baloney, but not coffee.
    You will not like my answer to the teacher problems, but it is the alternative we choose for our three. Homeschool. And, no, our kids are not social midgets, uninformed illiterates, survivalist or religious fruitcakes. (We won’t discuss how homeschooling three kids, K-12, makes their two parents social midgets, uninformed illiterates, survivalist or religious fruitcakes.)

  • comment avatar Karin Piper November 26, 2008


    I’m a little late in the game so I hope you found a resolve. From cocaine to caffeine with a downer of a preschool situation. Wow!

    I agree with the other members that adviced looking elsewhere for schooling. The preschool should be concerned with keeping your trust and respect, not the other way around. The cocaine situation saddens me because it is truly a sign of poor leadership at the administration level. As a parent I would be concerned about my kids safety and whether proper communications would be in place if a serious situation would arise.

    You are your child’s advocate, and you should expect your school to understand and respect this.

    As far as the elementary school goes–you have choices. I know families that have enrolled in alternative schools for a coulpe of years until they deem their child ready to embrace the neighborhood school options. Your public schools are also a choice. Besides you do not have to commit to every or any school you visit and research. Look at it as a “coffee date” not a marriage proposal.

    If you still decide to enroll your little girl in the Kindergarten you mention, you will know that this is the best schooling option for her based on other facts your research revealed.

    Best of luck!

  • comment avatar MileHighDad December 17, 2008

    On the Starbucks Center bit, I would be just a little, if not a lot concerned, just how are they all getting to the Starbucks in question?
    1. Do they all walk and if so, how many teachers are going to ensure street crossing and walking safety?
    2. Are they riding in a private vehicle to get there?
    I had a disturbing comment come from the back seat when we passed the local brewpub, 2 years ago. My son was doing pre K with a Mr. Jason as he teacher at a local unnamed center here in Castle Rock, when I heard coming from the backseat, “that’s where Mr. Jason lives” as my son pointed in the direction of the brewery. I asked how do you know, and he said, “because that’s where Mr. Jason car drives to, and I asked have you been in Mr. Jason’s car” and he answered yes.
    I talked to Mr. Jason about this and he swore the kids only played with his car in the parking lot outside of the center. This was not the answer I was looking for, so I went to the center’s director, asked her if Mr. Jason leaves with the kids during the day, she assured me no. Then I told her about my son’s conversation when passing the brewpub. I then asked why the kids were playing with Mr. Jason car in the parking lot. She assured me none of this was happening but the next day Mr. Jason was no longer employed at the center. My son did tell me he was never “touched” by the Mr. Jason and he had never gone with Mr. Jason anywhere.
    Since then I have been very involved in what goes on at school at preschool and now he is in the public school system in Kindergarten, not so much as a classroom volunteer as there are plenty of them and being a man, I do not want to tread on this hallowed classroom ground. I attend and tape all the functions and am involved with orderliness before school waiting for the teacher to do her thing; there are 6 year olds who are just dropped at the curb where the driver leaves for the day mot even caring which direction is taken.
    I do not care, 6 years old is just not old to carry this chore out and not get “lost,” distracted or start playing aggressively with others but this is a whole other rant.
    You owe it to your kids to be involved in their day, maybe if the class is well staffed with volunteers, find a reason to drop by the class unexpectedly during the day. Blame it on the kids need for a cough drop or forgotten homework folder, just something/anything, just loiter outside the class unseen by the teacher before going in and observe what’s happening,

  • comment avatar Paula December 18, 2008

    I’m finding myself in the same predicament. We are in a Catholic school. The teacher in question has an impeccable reputation throughout the larger community. I find her offensive and psychologically intrusive. Sure she does amazing amazing things with the children. I will give her that. But at what cost? I’ll tell you! The cost of their gentle little self-esteems. I’d rather my child learn nothing in that grade. Nothing at all and emerge with her self-esteem in tact. It’s such a helpless feeling as a parent. But we can’t tell teachers how to teach. I feel like all I can do is to help my children understand there are all types of people in the world that we have to deal with.

  • comment avatar cnoblefl August 29, 2009

    PLEASE do not sit back so that you are not “that parent”. Your obligation is to your child, first and foremost. Do you pay taxes? Then these people work FOR YOU! You are not there to be liked-but to advocate for your child.

    Do I sound like I have given this a lot of thought? You bet I have! And when I had to take on the school and was told at the supermarket by another mother-“I’m so glad you are doing something about “this”, it’s been going on for so long” I asked, knowing she had an older child who went throught the same school “why wasn’t anything done before?” Because they didn’t want to become a “target”.

    It sounds like most on this board are parents of younger children. There are no do-overs, so you have one chance. I’ve been through three states and as many school districts. My daughters are now 19 and 16-and guess what? My eldest is going for her teaching degree. She’s not going to be “that” teacher… Our kids are placed with people for more hours in a week than they are at home with us-if you know something is wrong, why subject them to it? Would you let them go to spend the day with a child molester? No? Then why let them be emotionally or god forbid physically abused?

  • comment avatar Dawn September 29, 2009

    Having been faced with many obtacles in our schools from the time my children were elementary to now I have a middle schools student and a high school student ages 13 and 17.
    When my daughter first started school we had problems with the principle at her elementary school. We addressed the issues with that principle and to no avail. We ened up in the Superintendents office and eventually in front of the school board on the actions of the principle.
    We choose to not sit back and allow what was happening to our daughter continue, we were very afraid as we live in a small town and we did not want to be labled either, but sometimes you have to teach your children that they have rights and it is ok to fight for them.

    As parents we have a right to raise our children as we see fit, we get the advise of the teachers, and many others during that process, but what we teach them is ultimately up to us, and I would stand up to the teacher, especially if you feel strongly, at the very least with the cocaine issue you should have been informed as well as with the morning kindergarten classroom coffee. At the very least you should have had an oportunity to decline.

    I say fight for your rights as a parent.

  • comment avatar Wendy December 3, 2009

    Okay, since you’re asking for perspective, here’s mine. First of all, cocaine on the playground is a big deal! If you can’t trust them to be honest with you about that, then you cannot trust them with your kid. End of discussion.

    And as for the coffee, I am not opposed to coffee because of religious reason (as your family is), but even so, I am APPALLED that they would give preschoolers coffee… and every day! If my 11 year old came home and said that, I’d pop a blood vessel in my brain. Maybe you’re concerned about saying anything because you don’t want to be ‘that person’. And because it is a religious belief, you’re feeling like your opinions are different than most people’s. But I can tell you (as a liberal, Buddhist parent, who does occasionally visit Starbucks… their Chai tea is way yummy) that it is entirely unacceptable. And most people would find it to be. You just don’t give coffee to kids. (My daughter’s class once had a poetry reading, like at a coffee shop, and they served hot chocolate. Coffee would have been unthinkable.) And also if they’re teaching kids, who have all the energy in the world, that they need coffee to start their day (which is a really unhealthy habit), I would worry what other wonderful life lessons they are passing on.

    As for a really mean Kindergarten teacher, I can tell you that your child’s first teacher sets the tone for their entire school career. My daughter had the same kind of teacher (actually one who picked on boys, which really upset my daughter because she is a big believer in playing fair). And I’ll tell you, I would do it differently if I could. In fact, I ended up taking her out of the school in 3rd grade in order to homeschool her. After a couple of years at home, she’s ready to go back to public school, but we’re auditioning schools to find one within a reasonable distance that is good enough. So many people just accept whatever schools and teachers the district decides to offer them and don’t speak up, but you have to keep reminding yourself that these people are in charge of your kid for 6 and a half hours a day. You need to keep your standards high (or at least not let them go too low).

    Please don’t worry about being ‘that person’ because administrators usually won’t respond to anyone who isn’t willing to make some noise. You, through your taxes, have hired them to educate your child and it should be a partnership. A partnership with as much transparency as you desire. I think that sometimes, as ex-students ourselves, it is easy to revert to the idea that teachers and principals and even librarians are the ultimate authority figures. Don’t you believe it, though. You are the only authority figure in your child’s life. And, as such, it is your job to stand up to the school and make sure your kid gets the best education possible.

    Good luck. I hope it works out for you.

  • comment avatar Teacher Mom December 26, 2009

    I found this discussion very interesting. I am a teacher and a parent, so I’ve been on both sides of the fence. As a teacher, I would like to weight in. When there is a concern, I would appreciate being told rather than have parents take it to the parking lot. If you share your concerns with other parents rather than the teacher it leaves her powerless to address your concerns. I consider myself a good teacher and am well liked by the students and parents in my community. However, I have made plenty of mistakes (cringe!). While it isn’t always comfortable to hear about my misteps, hearing from parents has helped me to grow so much. I rarely have the experience that parents are out of line or over the top for bringing their concerns to me.

    Now, as a parent I have discovered that communication with the teacher doesn’t always work. Last year I had an unfortunate experience where feedback was provided to my son’s teacher in a variety of forms. Sadly, the message didn’t get through.

    This year my son has a wonderful teacher who is so easy to talk to. She still makes mistakes, and my son still messes up, but being able to communicate with her makes all the difference.

    I think even the concern about the “Starbucks” should be brought to the teacher’s attention. As for the mean kindergarten teacher, I would set a preliminary meeting to let the teacher know under what circumstances your child learns best and ask to hear how she meets the needs of the young child. Then you can always go back if you have questions. This would be easier than having the first contact be about a problem. After you keep asking questions she will probably take care around your child (and hopefully others). If not, take it to the principal then the district.

  • comment avatar Julie Poppen December 7, 2010

    Lots of great ideas in here. Also, see this website I edit called EdNews Parent and this post in particular.

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