Princess Pupil - August 20, 2012

I spent five days holding my breath last week.  I never knew wanting a good teacher for my daughter would feel like waiting to find out the outcome of a job interview or waiting to get asked to the prom by high school’s biggest dreamboat (impossible).  And, she’s only in preschool.  I feel like one of those over-the-top parents in the documentary Nursery University.


There were five teachers in the mix.  During the orientation, we had a chance to listen to each one tell us about a different area of the four-year-old preschool program.  My odds appeared good.  Only one teacher seemed uncomfortable, refused eye contact and had an unanimated look on her face.


The woman probably had no wrinkles because she never changed her lifeless expression.  And, trust me, I stared for quite some time, just to see any sort of transition.  You know when you’re staring at somebody who’s daydreaming or intently watching the TV and they look like they’re dead because they don’t blink or budge?  Okay, maybe I’m the only one who questions whether they’re alive, but there was nothing, nada.  If she didn’t talk, I would’ve recommended her to be an extra on The Walking Dead.


My daughter matches the mood at Disney.  She is constantly in the happiest place on earth.  I could give her a giant, cardboard box, tell her it’s the only toy she’d have for a day and she’d be inside giggling within no time.  In fact, I often find myself jealous of her youthful ability to see the sunny side of everything.  And it’s my job to ensure that she keeps this attitude for as long as I can.


Well, unless this woman is one of those preschool teachers that can’t interact with adults but suddenly turns into Glinda the Good Witch when she’s around kids, she would suck that great spirit right out of my babyface within five minutes of meeting her.  There was a 20% chance of this happening and anything over .01% was enough for me to contemplate barrier tactics and alternate plans.  I needed to protect my daughter from having this teacher turn her into a zombie.


Not to mention, my daughter is on the border of the age cut-off for kindergarten and this is a crucial year for her to be up-to-speed and move out of preschool.  If she doesn’t seem ready, she’ll be attending another year.  I don’t mind her doing this, but preschool is damn expensive.  It’s something like four, plane-ride vacations expensive.  I need to ensure her teacher actually communicates with me, so she can move on up.


The head teacher, the one I liked the most and had already heard great things about, announced that they would be forming small groups with assigned teachers by the end of the week.  Of course several parents asked, in unison, are these assignments set in stone or flexible.  The answer was a kind, but terrifying, “We review each child throughout the week and decide the best fit for each of them.  Any requests will be taken into consideration, but not guaranteed.”


Basically, if you didn’t like the assigned teacher, you were s#$* out of luck and would either have to threaten to move your kid out of the school and pray they obliged or your kid would go to the only third-rate preschool with openings in the area because you would be kicked out for threatening them.  Neither sounded like a good option to me.  Throughout the week, I would be praying a lot, sleeping very little and dropping hints that my daughter needed a “warm” teacher.  In fact, I made it a point to say this to the head teacher, hoping she would catch my drift, but her expression said, “I hear this all of the time”.


One of my friend’s kids was a shoe in to get the head teacher because the older sibling had her.  I knew there was a damn reason I was supposed to have another kid!  They get all of the perks of being a legacy.  I asked my friend to put in a good word for me, but knew every other parent would do the same thing.


Everyday, my daughter would come home and only mention the head teacher.  She was glowing every time.  I thought, “What the heck are the rest of the teachers doing?  She doesn’t even know their names!  If she doesn’t get this teacher, she’ll be heartbroken.  And, if she gets the zombie teacher, I’ll be heartbroken.”


During my weekly playdate with my girlfriends and their kids, I asked everyone how they felt about the teachers this year.  It was unanimous; most preferred the head teacher and everyone was afraid of having his or her child turn into a zombie.  Okay, they were worried about having their child assigned to this one particular teacher.  I was the only one seeing her as a zombie and picturing my child turning into her.  In fact, it was invading my dreams (maybe I should consider not watching so many movies and TV shows about zombies).


Then, finally, on Friday, I received a text message from a friend saying her daughter got one of the good teachers.  She had received an email from the teacher.  Slowly, the news kept coming in.  Each friend heard their child’s assignments and they were all favorable.  I was surrounded by exclamation marks and happy emoticons.  In the end, I was left with only two possible outcomes: Teacher Zombie or Teacher Royalty.  My daughter could either win the gold medal or get fourth place.


Anxiety overcame me as I hit refresh on my email over and over and over again, for the next two hours.  I would walk away from the computer for about 5 minutes at a time and return to hit refresh with nothing in sight.  When upstairs, I would hit refresh on my iPhone.  Finally, I received an email introducing my new favorite color, blue.  She would be part of the blue group!  That was the head teacher’s group!  Hooray!


As far as I’m concerned, she was asked to be part of the royal family.  I’m assuming this is the beginning of the teacher assignment madness.  It will be a yearly ritual from here on out.


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