15 April 2011

The Turnaround School

"The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated." (Eliza Doolittle, My Fair Lady)

How would you like to go to this school? Behaviour "specialists" roam the halls with their walkie talkies and hand out citations to students who don't make it to class on time. Parents are volunteering at the school doors to smile at you... and hand you tickets if you're late. Yeahh, you're probably late because you're dragging your feet in the mornings and don't want to go. Helpfully, the school provides "motivational" posters on how to get to school ten minutes earlier. They must reason that the problem is in your poor planning, not your lack of enthusiasm.

The article is mostly about the poor, poor teachers, and how student perception of the teachers might have just changed after the school made national news last year. Um... Ya think? Nobody made you take this job, chickie. There's the door if you don't like it.

But the STUDENTS have no choice.

Notice that the students are not asked, but TOLD that they are to stay a half hour later, their lunch hour is cut, and they must attend dopey meetings in which they are to relate the high and low points of their day. This will allegedly get to the "root cause" of their bad behaviour. Really. I can't make stuff like this up... it's in the article. Oo, goody. Amateur psychology hour, too. Just what the elite high schools are doing. None of that robotics tournament stuff, ski club or lacrosse team. "High and low points" of the day discussion is soo much more interesting. Productive, too.

Oh, I would *hate* to have to earn my living in a place like that. I'm not saying that it's bad to want to stay in school, pass, move on to college or anything like that. At all. What I am saying is that this whole compulsive education system we have is wrongheaded and it makes for un-needed strife between people who ought have reasonably common goals. It's hard to respect the very hard work your teacher is doing for you if you view him as your jailer.

Sometimes caring for someone means that you let them make their own bad choices. I'm a mom of two teenage boys, and they are doing PLENTY of things that are bad choices. Even the difference between having a 13-year-old and having a 17-year-old is profound. I think I've gone from "MY kid will never do x, y, or z because I'M going to raise him RIGHT!" to, "If my kid does x, y, or z, he can count on zero support from me."

A 17-year-old is big enough to get away with all sorts of things, but that doesn't mean I have to be an enabler or expend my energy uselessly on the screaming hissy fit (remind me of that later, mmkay??). I will be the bad guy who just doesn't happen to share her computer or give rides in her car. I will just happen to be the parent who doesn't happen to remind children who want to be treated like adults about their appointments. It's hard to do. There are some doozie mistakes going on here. But at least one of my children is so close to adulthood that we're going to have to let him take the doozie adult consequences that go with his mistakes. All that to say, nagging, detention, and forced compliance DO NOT WORK long-term to change behaviour in older teens.

Most of us parents have figured that out, dear schools. Why can't you?


  1. You'll enjoy this video (it's only 11-minutes). The high school math teacher starts off by saying he has the hardest job in the world. He has to sell a product nobody wants to buy! LOL I like his ideas though.

  2. [If my kid does x, y, or z, he can count on zero support from me.] I am right there with you and, oh my, is it hard to watch your kids make bad mistakes.

    The difference between an adult and a child is not how he (or she) behaves, but how she is treated."

    The truth is, even as an adult, I have not always prioritized education at the top. Oh, I didn't choose to hang out instead of getting educated, but I have deliberately and confidently planned to accept a lower grade on a paper by how I chose to complete it. If nearly adult kids don't value an education, they can live as adults without one for awhile.

    Then the tough part comes when that child is yours and you have to decide when to help and when to say, "How's that working for you?"


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