Epic playgroup fail


As it turned out, there were several things that we found concerning about Oskar’s first days at school (well, “playgroup” to be more accurate). Lamia had sat in during the first three days and she has written about that on her blog. Bottom line was that we did not like what she saw.

So on the fourth day I came to the school in the morning to talk to the headmaster. I wanted to hear from the horse’s mouth what she had to say about Lamia’s comments. In fact, Lamia had written a long email after the first day already, and the reply had literally been:

Thank you for sharing your concerns.

That’s a bit thin.

The problem was not that Oskar was desperate and heart broken when he was left behind. We had expected that (and while we did, it is yet one of the most gruesome things you have to do as a young parent: leaving your child behind who is too young to understand why you are doing it). The problem was neither that they tended to change the official curriculum for the day. I get it: a playgroup is dynamic. Things change on short notice. Even though the things that change felt like they were always a downgrade versus what they should have been, that’s okay. I am willing to believe that overall this is not a biggie.

One problem, however, was the weird excuses which just ranged from unprofessional to a whole lotta bullshit to me:

Oh, someone is sick, and the replacement did not know how to do it.

Oh, another person is sick and this is why it is not done.

Oh, we are right now in “revision month”. Next month will be different.

The other, much bigger problem was that the stimulation we had expected from the curriculum for the playgroup and the boastful sales pitch they had made, was not even meeting our most basic standard. There were hardly exercises and sessions where Oskar would have learned anything he could not learn at home. This playgroup felt like toddlers were “parked” for the day. That’s maybe okay for many people, but we have Agnes at home – if the playgroup cannot do anything better than what our nanny is doing, then what’s the point?

So we sat down with the headmaster and I explained these concerns again and that our trust in their approach is already shaken. I was surprised by how little she seemed to care about that.

Leo: You do understand that I consider the 2 weeks trial period not a trial for us: it’s for your school! And right now you are falling short of our expectations. So the question is: what are you going to do to fix that?

She had nothing for me, but pointed out that now was the fourth day and the parents were not supposed to sit in anymore. Okay…

To be clear, I do know this is not easy for her to remedy. But heck: showing a little bit of effort would go a long way here! What would I do in her situation? Well, for one, I would not consistently come up with bullshit excuses. And then, I would reassure the parents that I’d talk to the teachers and maybe take a photo or two of their kid during the day, showing all the great things he or she does.

Is this a bit of effort? Yes it is!
Is it proof that things are better than we think? No, it’s not.

Despite that, it would show that there is a genuine interest to make things work from her side. That might be worth a half day slot in a playgroup that costs 1’000 Singdollar per month… But as I said: she had nothing for me. I told her that we’d have to think about this, that we had not made any decisions, but that I’d yet like to get the withdrawal documents.

What we did decide was try another school in parallel. The one that had been our second choice, but that we had turned down initially due to a little more walking distance and the fact that a lot of construction works are happening in the area. They offer sit-in sessions for free and we wanted to use this to ground ourselves: are all playgroups in Singapore like the current one or are there meaningful differences?
The Saturday after the first week in the playgroup we chatted with the administrator of the other school and we made an appointment for a sit-in session. Nevertheless, we planned to have Oskar continue going to the first playgroup to see how things develop. But then he got sick and could not go the following days. This basically meant that we came to the end of the 2 weeks trial period of the first school without any other impressions than the ones we already had.

Tough break! So today I passed by that school and delivered the withdrawal papers.
It feels like the right thing to do. We have thought long about this and we tried to judge whether we are too critical and expect too much. Frankly, I don’t think so.

Tomorrow Lamia will do the sit-in with Oskar at the other school.
I really hope this is going to go better.

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