Monday 4 October 2010

Great arguments from last term

Junior is going through a rough patch with his schooling at the moment. He's acknowledged as being very smart, but his results in most subjects are absolute crap. If he likes the subject, he does a little bit of work (and I mean a minute amount) and comes near the top. If he doesn't like it, he completely switches off and gets marks deserving of the nuff-nuffs on the special bus. Seriously - they are so bad, he should have been kept back a year.

Here are some classic arguments that we've had so far this year:


"Why should I do my homework? It never gets checked".

Sadly, on checking with his teachers, that's almost entirely true. If they bother to set homework (half don't), they check it once a month at most. We teach him he has to do it every night - but the school has taught him that he needn't bother. Aaaaargh! There are no consequences at school for failing to do homework. There are consequences at home, but it doesn't fix the fact that there is a stack of homework that he hasn't done.

And what do his teachers say when I ask for a list of all the homework he's missed? "He'll have to get that from his friends".

Trouble is, they haven't bloody done it either! So what's the point in asking them!


"So what if it's late? They won't take any marks off."

Again, that's largely true. In most cases, the first we found out about an assignment being set was when a letter arrived from the school telling us that it was overdue. Consistently handing them in a week late has not yet resulted in any marks being lost. I even argued with one teacher that they should deduct marks so that he'll be taught a lesson - I was told that I was being a bit "harsh". There are no consequences for handing in assignments late.


"I don't bother to write anything in my diary because my teachers never check it".

True. Not only don't they bother, but the school is considering doing away with diaries because kids use them so rarely. The idea that they don't bother to use them because the teachers don't bother to check them is lost on the school executive. We have a saying in business - "the only things that get done are what the boss checks". My main job as a manager is being a nitpicking bastard who checks everything - and then goes back and checks it again. Once people learn that someone is checking, they start doing. Amazing.

There are no consequences for ignoring the diary, which of course leads to homework not being done and assignments being handed in late. I am dumbfounded that my teachers managed to check our diaries in each and every class - when there were 30 or more per class - yet the modern crowd can't do it when class sizes are half that.

School uniform

"You'll wear the bloody uniform because the school has a uniform policy and they keep telling us parents that it's to be followed".

"No one else cares about the policy, why should I?"

"Because I bloody-well care, which means you will care. I don't give a shit what anyone else wears - you will wear the uniform".

Guess what? The school executive talks about enforcing a uniform policy, and sends a lot of guff to parents about following the policy - but only one teacher actually bothers to enforce the policy.

There are no consequences for being out of uniform. Result - half the kids are wearing something non-uniform. The parents of every other kid (ie, those in uniform) are having daily rows with their kids about dressing properly because they can see a lot of kids getting away with breaking the rules.

Dropping crap everywhere

"Pick that up - you don't just drop rubbish where you feel like it. Put that in the bin."

"Why? We never get told off at school if we drop rubbish".

Although schools go on and on and on about being green and environmentally friendly, when it comes to littering, most appear to not give a rat's arse. Some teachers will pull kids up and put them on detention, but others pretend they never saw it happen. There are next to no consequences for trashing the place.


"Get a move on - this and this need to be done NOW!"

"Why are you so uptight about this? No one cares if I'm 10 minutes late to class".

This is so depressing - true again. Response from teacher, "We try to maintain a relaxed atmosphere here - telling kids off for being late could make them feel excluded and put-upon. We don't want them to feel pressured and stressed".

I could go on and on and on. I won't, because it will probably bore you as much as it annoys me.

I like the school. I like Junior's friends - they are a really nice group of kids. I like the parents that I have met. I like most of the teachers - although a few make me want to climb up a water tower at lunch time and open fire.

The problem is that we enforce what we think are a reasonable set of rules at home. You don't lie, cheat or steal. You don't murder your siblings or covet thy neighbour's push bike. You do what you're told when you're told, and you don't talk back (that will be the day). If you are given a job to do, you do it properly and quickly. If you do a slapdash job, you'll do it again until you get it right. You don't keep the rest of the household waiting by being tardy. You clean your own crap up and you get your work done on time and you do it to the best of your ability. When your work is done, your time is your own and you can relax and goof off.

Trouble is, to the school, I might as well be talking a foreign language. Theft is "redistribution of inequitably gained possessions" (OK, I made that one up). We try and ram home that actions (or lack of action) has consequences. Trouble is, the school teaches him exactly the opposite. Which version wins? That which is easiest for Junior to follow - ie, actions have no consequences. It's bloody difficult as a parent when the school constantly undermines us on what I think are some pretty basic principles. The result for us are some pretty horrendous arguments. Good thing we live in a wog neighbourhood - screaming and yelling are par for the course around here. I'm strangely gratified to know that one neighbour is having exactly the same problems with his oldest kids - we can hear their arguments from a block away.

Is there any point in sending him somewhere else? Probably not - some of our friends are teachers at other schools around Sydney, and the problems that I have listed above appear to be systemic.

I'm really not bothered about what they are teaching the kids as far as the curriculum goes - it will all be forgotten shortly after they leave school anyway. I doubt I'll ever get into an argument about whether the history course is too "black armband" or not. What drives me round the twist is how slack and sloppy they are - it is not a tightly run ship. No one seems to have a grip, and few of the staff appear to give a damn. Those that do are clearly in a minority, and they probably feel it even worse than I do as they have to live with it every working day.

The bottom line is that quite a few teachers seem to be utterly petrified at the idea of telling kids to pull their bloody socks up.


kae said...

1. He's a very handsome young man. But he'll need more than that if he wants to do anything in his life, like earn a good wage.

2. Reading some comments at your fave edu blog it's your fault that your son isn't doing well at school. You should be pushing him to succeed....

don't hit me, Boy, I was being sarcastic!

Boy on a bike said...

Handsome? He could be a bloody male model if he bothered to get out of bed. If school doesn't work out, there's always Zoolander...

Anonymous said...

Thats the problem... he can already see a pathway to success which does not involve applying himself with too much effort at everything else. Still, keep at it. I recall having a lot ofgrief with our older and he (bless him) dislikes manual labour so much got his act together at 15 and became quite studious. I expect another few years of the battle of the wills with the younger still to be had.


kae said...

"he can already see a pathway to success which does not involve applying himself with too much effort"

No, he doesn't see that. He sees no point in applying himself as there's noone to check his work.

I doubt he sees beyond the next day's sleep in... or the weekend.