I’m writing as a private playgroup director/teacher to bring to light something that has become increasingly more common than it has been in the past.
Before I delve into that, I’d like to make you aware of some important things.
First and foremost: I am 100% aware that parnassah is from Hashem and I will come home with the exact amount that I am supposed to. I still want to share this with you to bring awareness so that you aren’t the cause of the loss of parnassah.
The price for local Crown Heights playgroups is high. It is definitely a significant expense, one that we are very upfront about before you sign your child up. While many may think we are “rolling in dough,” like with every other business you are certainly not taking into account all of our expenses.
Local private playgroups cost an absolute fortune to run. Rent prices are sky high, teachers and assistants need to be paid (and truly deserve to be paid a lot more then what we can even afford.) Basic supplies such as tissues, paper towels, disinfectant wipes,purell (the list goes on and on), snacks, lunches, projects and activities, paint, glue etc. add up to hundreds of dollars monthly.
On top of that, many programs include specials that come in to further enhance and make it fun and exciting for the children adding to the overall cost to run.
As their teachers, we are in charge of both their mental and physical well-being at all times of our long day. We care for them, we teach them, we discipline them and we love them as our own for the hours they are with us. And when they go home, our work just begins: we have preparations for the following day, we have follow-up meetings amongst ourselves to discuss and better the program constantly, we worry about the details and how so and so didn’t eat/drink/nap as usual and the other one is having a tough time adjusting to not being an only child anymore. We have phone conversations that sometimes last hours to put plans into place. In short, we are invested 100% – as we should be. For most of us, this isn’t just a job it is a calling.
Many of us put hours into meeting parents and their children before the school year begins to see if it will work out. We do tours and have children sit in to see if it’s a good fit. We invest in making sure it can work.
Unfortunately, the past few years I have found that parents have become very lax about their commitment to keeping their child in a program. I’ve had children not show up one day and as I always do I sent the parent a message mid-day with a “hope your child is feeling good. She is missed” only to receive a message in reply. ” We won’t be coming anymore”.
Or this message on an Erev Shabbos, “So sorry, found something closer to my house so my child won’t be back on Monday.” And then we are left with an empty spot to fill mid-year and the odds of doing so are extremely low. We are also left with a sense of loss that this child’s absence brings. Seeing and being part of your child’s life on a daily basis is a privilege and one that I don’t take for granted. Not being given the opportunity to say goodbye is honestly heart-breaking and leaves us with a strong sense of loss.
Sadly, due to this trend, many of us have been forced to take a months deposit which is non-refundable to help defray the costs of an empty spot. Many times the spot is free for far, far longer than just one month. Our expenses haven’t changed significantly because we are down one child, yet our income has. For many of us, this difference is a big chunk of the small margin we work on for our take-home pay post our expenses on day to day running!
Every parent is entitled to change their mind. We don’t always know what the back story is so we try to be ‘dan lekaf zchus’ but one thing is for certain, there is a strong, strong lack of mentshlichkeit going on with how this is occurring. A basic courtesy call, a 2 weeks heads up, a chance to say goodbye are all some ideas of how to go about this if you absolutely must. Please remember that many times we have turned away other parents because we are full and now we are left with nothing.
I’d like to point out another side as well.
When a child comes to playgroup we are making a ‘shidduch’ between teacher/program/child. We are aware that many things need to click for it to be a good fit. When a child is not a proper fit for the program we do not ever text a parent “Today is your child’s last day. He won’t be coming back tomorrow as it isn’t a good fit.” It is never done on our end.
Instead, we work with the child (many times even to the exhaustion and detriment of the rest of the children and our program), we meet and talk to the parents, we get extra help on board. We get the child extra help and evaluated to bring our their best. We talk to Mashpiim and Rabbonim and make sure we are within our halachic bounds to do so. And only then when every other option has been exhausted do we make the break if it is needed.
Another side point I’d like to mention is basic hakaras hatov (appreciation). We certainly don’t “need” the danish/chocolate or note, but hearing and having the parents appreciate what we do and cultivating that feeling of gratitude for what we put in makes us feel appreciated and loved in our position as “interim parents” to your dear child.
I am writing this so parents can be more aware. I write this so you know why we ask for a deposit (we have all been burned), I write this so that when you sign your child up for camp and you take the spot you don’t pull out last minute “because we went to the country and stayed for 4 extra days so we won’t pay”. I write this so you think 4 times before you take a spot up that can go to another child who will be there the entire year. I write this so you take your commitment as seriously as we do.
Oh, and when you see us with your child in the street a mere few months after they have been in our program a warm “hello” would be greatly appreciated! It shows us that we meant something in your child’s life and have left a lasting impression, just as they have left their mark on our hearts.
With deep appreciation for choosing our us as your child’s guiding light for a school year.
Crown Heights Playgroup Morahs