Go mbeannai Dia duit.

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Quaker by conviction, mother by default, Celticst through love, Christ follower because I once was lost but now am found...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Monday Memories.

You can get all A's and still flunk life. ~Walker Percy

I did not like school. It was, for the most part, a place of unremitting boredom where they would not let you read books & insisted you learn things you were not only not interested in but were never required to use ever, ever again. This includes nearly all the math I failed to learn. The exception is times tables but fingers are good for that too.

I went, to begin with, to the local state schools. I had some pretty good teachers. I even had one exceptional one but she too failed to help me acquire any math. I was neither popular nor pretty & my interests were so arcane I struggled to make friends. To boredom add loneliness. Intellectual loneliness & social loneliness.

In N.S.W. you change schools for grade 7 when you move up into a high school. That is plain terrifying when you are 12 & all your friends are graduating to the local high school while you get to go to some snobby private school that requires a longish train journey every day, a silly little hat perched unbecomingly on your ungainly teenage head & silly gloves in a climate where gloves should definitely be banned in summer. Bitter in winter & the year I had my honours English & history classes starting at 7.30am or 8am was horrendous. My mother would not let us leave the house without breakfast but who can eat when even the birds are still sensibly in bed?

I was a reasonable student. I got lots of As in things ~ English & History mostly but science as well when it didn't require any mathematical knowledge on my part. I was o.k at sport & played on teams. I learnt to blend but I was never who I was & frankly school was exhausting. Bored. Lonely. Exhausted. I was all those things. What I don't ever remember being is terrified. Horrified. The cane was still in use & I saw it used on the renegade boys who thought they could challenge the powers that be & win; they couldn't. But not terrified.

As Ethel Turner says in her opening chapter of Seven Little Australians, there's no such thing as a really good Australian child. This is true but up until now I would not have said Australian children were particularly violent yet look at the stats the Sunday Mail quoted: 131 assaults in Qld primary schools last year; 383 in Qld high schools, of which 111 were by girls, an increase amongst the girls of 158%. 158%!!! 195 high school boys were arrested. Arrested! That makes them criminals.

Our teachers, & believe me these poor sods get all my sympathy out here, have been turned into paper tigers. No~one is afraid of a paper tiger. The problem is that without that fear that the tiger has claws & teeth & can inflict some serious pain if you tug his tail our schools have become jungles. What's more they are so busy trying to control the mayhem they are incapable of doing the job they are employed to do: teaching our kids to read & write & do enough math to get by with. I may have hated school, been bored by school, & been lonely but I did learn to read & write enough that I could sensibly educate myself for the rest.

The thing is though, & it took me a long, long time to get my head round this, schools are not like they were back in the day. Something has changed. I was employed, for 10 years mind you, to basically babysit the problem children in primary classrooms. No~one called it that of course. It had some fancy names & was hidden as *remedial teaching* but babysitting is what it was so that the teachers had some chance with the rest of the class. I got the older kids; the really tough hardened boys. Liked them no end. They were heaps of fun but the kids couldn't read a full length picture book let alone at grade level. They had no tools to help them learn. They were mightily bored.

I can remember my favourite lad, the one who occasionally wrecked such havoc I was requested not to come in because my safety couldn't be guaranteed. Yeah. Pause for thought, hey? There were still 24 other kids in that room with him. I can remember him relieving the unremitting boredom of his work by writing his answers so that there was one big letter then one tiny letter; one big letter, one tiny one. I was amused & simply requested his tiny one be large enough that I could read it. His teacher hit the roof. End of the day's amusement & the child became more difficult to work with. *sigh* Years it took them to get him expelled & believe me they worked on it!

Ten years & I got to the point where, *expletive, expletive* this! I can do better than that & we began the long slow process of pulling our kids out of the system. I looked at my beautiful Ditz & what had been done to my beautiful Liddy & just refused to put her in. Still schools offer things to their wider community. They make the right political noises about wanting parental involvement so Ditz got choir & band & sport through the school & I'm very grateful they accommodated us but I am not so grateful for some of the other lessons she learnt. I am not grateful for the child who slugged her just for being a homeschooler. I am not grateful that she witnessed an 11 year old issue death threats on his teacher. I was completely horrified when we witnessed 2 children attack a teacher to the point they drew blood, only to have the parent verbally abuse the teachers & the teachers tell me it was not worth the paperwork to file a police report.

I remember when school was safe & boring, when teachers taught & kids didn't need after school tutoring to learn what they should have learnt in their 8 hour school day. I remember when kids didn't bring knives to school in order to feel safe & kindergarteners didn't think stabbing that day's enemy was good conflict resolution. The school world has changed beyond recognition. This is the new face of terrorism & it is perpetuated by our own.

And Ditz wonders why I won't put her in our local high?


Allison said...

I briefly but seriously considered going into teaching after college - working with children with special needs. It took a few days observing the class that I ruled it out. The poor teachers desperately *wanted* to teach but spent far too much time simply attempting to maintain order in their classrooms and, by the time everyone was organized and settled, it was too late. Impossible to cram a 50-minute lesson into 20.

As for the violence and overall disrespect for teachers and learning, well, I don't have any answers. But I suspect it is at least a combination of a failure of parents to instill a healthy respect for both in their children. And how can a child view a teacher with respect when the parents verbally abuse the teacher in plain view of the child?

Mrs. C said...

Ganeida, I agree. School shouldn't be such a hurtful place!!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ganeida,
I have a friend who is a teacher, and he said that most of the children in his class don't really want to be there, but have to be due to new legislation, and they are so unruly. He is quitting at the end of the year, as it is so stressful.

seekingmyLord said...

I homeschool. I am thankful for the choice to do so. I feel sorry for those who do not have such a choice and for those who do yet don't even consider it. Dare I say this again?

"The public school system is a rather necessary default method to educate the masses, but a significantly inferior method to educate the individual."--L. Townsend, Homeschooling Parent, 2008