Monday, December 6, 2010

A little story about consent

I may have mentioned before that I am unimpressed with Will's preschool teacher. She is preoccupied with the business of teaching - the planning and the rules - and doesn't seem to "like" the kids, or even take the time to get to know them. Most of the kids attend for two mornings a week, and yet there is a new unit every Monday, so there is no time for them to explore a topic in any depth. Dinosaur week there were toys, crafts and a couple of stories . . . nothing about meat eaters and plant eaters, or dinosaurs hatching from eggs. During transportation week the kids were practically fighting over the play centre with the big road map, but by the next week it was gone. She is obsessed with the kids sitting quietly and waiting at least three times in the 2 1/2 hours they are there, and she even bribes them with gummy bears in the circle room.

It was September when she first mentioned that she would be conducting a developmental screening test on the children, something she was unable to explain in detail even when asked to elaborate. The idea of this test made me very uncomfortable. I'm not a big fan of standardized tests under most circumstances, and definitely not in this preschool setting. I have no concerns about Will's development, and didn't want to risk a false positive score that would put her into the system. I didn't trust the teacher to administer any sort of test, especially to my child. When the consent form came home I clearly checked "I do not give consent" for my child to participate, signed the form and returned it to school.

Can you guess where this is going?

When my husband and I picked up Will from preschool a couple of weeks ago, Will started telling me about "going into the kitchen with the teacher and playing games." It didn't really occur to me what she was talking about until the teacher told me, "She did great. Twelve out of twelve." My eyes almost jumped out of my head, and fortunately my husband was there to ask what she was talking about. "The DISC preschool screen," she answered.

He chased after Will as I looked at the teacher. I hate confrontation, but there was no way that I was going to let this go. "But we did not give consent for Will to participate."

The teacher was stunned. "I was sure you had checked off consent!"

"No. We were not comfortable with the test and clearly signed that she did not have our consent to participate."

"Well, I never would have tested Will if I didn't have your consent. I mean, you can see the test and the information any time."

"I may have to look at it, now that she's already been tested."

I went home and wrote a letter to the board, outlining our reasons for refusing consent and our concern that our refusal to give consent was completely disregarded. Sure, it was a careless oversight, but a significant one.

And then I waited to hear from the teacher, assuming she would check her consent forms and realize she had violated our trust. No email. No phone call. Nothing.

I did receive an immediate reply from the president of the board. Apparently this test is standard practice in preschools across the region (that would have been something important to pass on to the parents) and apparently the teacher is specially trained to administer it (again, that would have been good to know). The president suggested that the teacher would be uncomfortable speaking with a parent about her concerns regarding a child without the test, which is bullshit. That's the teacher's job, and it is my expectation as a parent that she would approach me about any concerns she had with my daughter.

And the issue is still that of consent. No harm was done this time, but what if it was something more serious? What if I denied consent for a flu shot or a field trip and my consent was disregarded? How can I trust that my directions for my child will be respected?

Today I was duty parent for the first time since the incident. The teacher asked to speak with me privately at the end of the day. I went over my reasons for being upset, assuming she wanted to explain her position and listen to me explain mine. Instead she just offered to shred Will's test, "as if it had never happened." Of course I told her that was what I wanted. She said she "felt bad" and had learned "not to work from a master list next time" but there was no real apology.

I'm trying to look at the experience as a chance for me to practice being an advocate for my child. But looking to the years of formal education ahead of us, it really terrifies me. I know there will be more mediocre (at best) teachers and disappointed expectations. I'm trying to remember that even these experiences are important, and that there are excellent and creative teachers out there too. But oh, I can hear the siren song of the private school across town . . .

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wow. That IS frightening. Both that she initially ignored/overlooked the consent form and that she and the board didn't seem all that concerned that ignoring/overlooking your lack of consent was the primary issue.

Are you going to raise the problem again, maybe once this testing topic blows over?