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My second child is in kindergarten this year, and I'm unhappy with his teacher. The children are required to sit 30-40 minutes at a time while the teacher explains at length how to do centers. The centers are too rushed and not creative -- a lot of coloring, cutting, pasting, and not much else. What are they really learning? The teacher also has poor time-management/organization skills. The teacher assistant says there is not a lesson plan on Friday for the following week and the teacher isn't open to her suggestions.

I've made the principal aware of these concerns -- little has changed. I would like to be part of the solution, not the problem, and I want my son to have the kind of kindergarten experience he deserves before he launches into 12 years of gradually increasing work. Any suggestions?

Hopefully, you talked to the teacher before speaking to the principal. Like any other organization, schools have a specific way of handling problems. The appropriate first step is to talk to the classroom teacher -- she's the one who is running the classroom. If you haven't visited the classroom, we suggest that you do so to get a real picture of what this kindergarten is like. It was very unprofessional for the assistant to criticize the teacher.

It's good that you want to be a part of giving your child the education that he deserves. Talk to the kindergarten teacher about why certain things are being done and the outcomes that she is hoping to achieve. Then, give the teacher a chance, especially if your child is happy and not having any difficulties with the program.

This kindergarten program is obviously different from the one your other child had. Do look for the positives. Your child will definitely benefit from learning centers. They are a wonderful part of the kindergarten curriculum because they provide young children with the hands-on experiences that they need in order to truly learn. And don't knock cutting and pasting, which build the fine-motor skills necessary for handwriting.

On the other hand, 30-40 minutes of teacher-directed instruction about learning centers is excessive. Few children can listen for such long periods of time, and most will quickly become disinterested in the activity. Plus, effective teachers have solid time-management skills.

If the teacher's explanation of the kindergarten program and your observations of the classroom confirm your views that the program needs to be improved, approach the principal again. This time have other parents with similar views join you in speaking with the principal. This approach is more likely to result in change.

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