An Open Letter to My Son’s Preschool Teachers

Dear preschool teachers,

My son is many things:

  • tall
  • sweet
  • funny
  • shy
  • smart
  • sensitive

One thing he is not:

  • a problem

Yet, I believe you consider him to be a problem.  The problem child in the class.  The one who zigs while everyone else obediently zags. The one who needs help and training on how to transition because he’s never been in a structured environment before.  The one that wants to climb and run and play. The one that doesn’t want to mimic the gestures or routines in music class. The boy who knows his shapes and colors already.

Yesterday you handed me the forms for me to sign to have him evaluated by Project Enlightenment, and I had the chance to read the report you had prepared.  Nine boxes detailing issues of concern, and you had checked almost all of them.  Defiant behavior. Aggression. Motor issues. Attention issues. And then I read the comments.  The only positive one was that my son is good with puzzles.  Thank you for reducing my 2.5 year old little boy’s only strength to being good with puzzles.  And you think he has low muscle tone?  By that point, I was in disbelief.  Of all the items in your report, that one was the  most ludicrous.  This child has been climbing up and down stairs well and fearlessly for months.  This child loves doing somersaults on our bed.

Again, I wondered who was this child you had described. I must have looked shocked because you hastened to reassure me that these weren’t observations made in one day but over the course of the last 3 months.

I left, went to Barnes & Noble and bought Daniel a new book because that’s what I do after one of these increasingly horrific preschool encounters.

When I walked in at pick-up time, he was sitting a little separate from the rest of the class (whether that was by design due to how you want to separate him to manage any hitting or by accident I don’t know).  He looked up at me and smiled.  You commented, “what a nice smile!” as if you hadn’t seen him smile before.  I thought that was so strange. Is my child smiling at school such a rare occurrence?  You told me his behavior during the first half of class had been good like he had been at drop-off but not as good the second part of the day.

It was then I realized that you do not know my child.  You see, what I saw at drop-off was a child who had shut down.  He had no expression on his face and looked overwhelmed.  He looked at the floor as he sat there, and he looked miserable. That’s not my Daniel, and if that’s what you consider to be good, desirable behavior then we have a problem.  No wonder you were so shocked to see him smile.

I have no doubt that based on the Daniel you see at school, the person from Project Enlightenment will say he he has a problem.  And we will pursue further testing and evaluation to get him any help he needs.  I really am glad that you, his teachers, are bringing your concerns to our attention, but what really bothers me is how you seem to have written him off.  It’s like we’re all just biding our time until the evaluation happens and you can kick him out.  And that we never hear anything positive about him.

He’s not an automaton.  He’s a little boy and that you seem to have forgotten that…THAT’s the problem.



  1. Attention issues? He is not even 3! Maybe they are BORING him. Defiant behavior? Defiance is considered normal development for a 3 year old! When you look at how boys grow and learn and interact with the world, his behavior sounds normal. As as shy child, I am sure he is trying to find a way to express himself within the confines of his shyness. Additionally, boys are very cause/reaction. Perhaps their response to his hitting and defiance achieves an objective (if he is shy and overwhelmed at group activities, their reaction allows him to sit out).

    I think of the little boy in my son’s class who climbed the furniture every day. No matter how they rearranged the classroom and what measures they took, he somehow would find his way to the top of whatever piece of furniture he could access. Was he defiant? Absolutely, as he was told not to climb. He was even smart enough to wait until the teacher had the pants off of a child for a diaper change or trip to the potty so they couldn’t stop him. It didn’t mean there was anything “wrong” with him. Did he climb at home? NO! His mom even told me, I don’t know how to correct this behavior, he doesn’t climb at home. This little boy loved the personal attention that climbing got him. Of course, due to the nature of the behavior, ignoring him was the only thing they couldn’t do. When he got older, the same boy loved to pick on all the other kids (like the little brother) not because he was mean, but because he loved the cause and effect relationship when the reaction occurred.

    So much we see teachers try to paint little boys into the modern education box that is, let’s be honest, designed for little girls (who are naturally quiet and naturally enjoy quiet group activities) rather than provide the type of active, hands on, learning environment boys require or the type of shyness friendly environment a shy boy requires.

    I know you are getting him checked, and maybe they will identify something but I suspect that the issue is theirs, not his.

  2. I am right there with you! I have a 3rd grader, who is brilliant, and has ADHD, and all he hears are the negatives, He has a teacher that excepts nothing less than perfection, and that doesn’t always work for kids with ADHD. She nit picks, and she has picked him apart, and pretty much killed the foundation I had laid to teach him that he ADHD is a gift, and it is, and shame on anyone who can’t see it…. And its so hard for me because as someone who works in the school system, I try too hard to see both sides, but now, I have been reduced to advocate for my child, and nothing more! No longer am I seeking her side, now I’m just trying to save my child!

  3. I am a pre-k teacher and first off I must apologize on behalf of my profession because there are some ppl out there who shouldn’t be teaching! It saddens me that she only found 1 positive thing to say about your child. I would recommend taking a serious look at the environment and determine if it is the appropriate one for your child. Not everyone wants to sing and dance and do the hand motions…who the heck cares? It does not mean a child has developmental or behavior issues.

    I hope you find some answers!

  4. Your son sounds very similar to mine. I have had my issues with his pre-school too. The book that helped me the most was “The Problem With Boys” which helped me to understand that the predominantly women teachers these days try to fit boys into girl-centered behavior: sitting, listening, etc when their natural tendencies are running, being boisterous, and yes: aggression.

    I’m sorry you’re going through this. It’s hard. Perhaps this school is not the right fit?

  5. Sounds like exactly like what we’ve gone through! Oh my gosh, since age 3, our boy was the “problem child.” I have a 4-inch binder with all the paperwork from all the testing he’s had through the years…. and the result, over and over again, is that he is VERY SMART. And usually bored. And when he gets bored, he finds ways to “misbehave.”

    The first time I read that list of problem characteristics, “excessive running and climbing” was one of them. I was taken aback. What normal boy doesn’t want to run and climb? A lot??!! And by whose standard is it “excessive”? I’d be concerned if he didn’t want to run and climb.

    My husband’s theory is that high energy is a trait that works really well for human beings in a pre-industrialized society (hunting-gathering, farming, etc), but not so well in our overly-sedentary, X-Box, post-industrial one (DS doesn’t even want a video gaming system: “too boring – I’d rather really play than pretend to play on a Wii”).

    There’s so much talk about “getting kids moving” and “one hour of active play a day” because of childhood obesity. At 10-years old, DS has seen the PSAs about “one hour of play” and to him they don’t even make sense. To him, what kid would need to be encouraged to run and play? He’s scolded way too often to “settle down.” (Next year middle school starts, and there’s no recess…. that’s going to be really hard for him.)

    So if a kid is too active, it’s pathological. And if a kid is not active enough, it’s pathological. “Normal” is a pretty narrow band of children, IMHO.

    Take heart! I bet Daniel is awesome!!! 😉

    1. This pulled on my heartstrings. My boy was only just turned 4 when he started ‘big school’ and they were so quick to judge him. “His social skills are not good because he doesn’t play with the other children” – he’s an only child and likes to play on his own sometimes. Doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to play with other children, he plays with his cousins and other friends just fine. “His fine motor skills are poor because he can’t write his name” – he can build models with Lego and fasten zips, his motor skills are perfectly ok. “He’s got a poor attention span” – yes, because you’re expecting him to sit on the carpet and learn letters when he’s already been reading full sentences for nearly a year. And he wants to go run around outside. They’re too little to be classed as ‘behind’ just because they don’t fit in boxes. If they clearly have additional needs that’s one thing but not conforming does not make them ‘naughty’ or ‘delayed’ or any other label they want to slap on them.

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