Tag Archives: school

“For everyone”

Dealing with the “Real” World

 Some have a belief that school is not real- that real life begins only upon graduation- I wonder, in today’s age of fast pacing and career switching, how any could still suggest that the place students are expected to spend at least 12 years of their lives is not “real”.  A microcosm perhaps, but nevertheless, very real in the social-cultural, and physical-material sense.  And is school an audition? another idea that appears to be floating – No.  School is the way in which the majority of children are socialized and when the fit is right- children thrive- when wrong the blisters not only burst but chafe so deeply the right space might still feel too constricting.

   While homeschooling may provide an answer and is increasingly an option for those who have the time to devote to not only searching out places that will provide stimulation and feed the curiousity of the learners ( museums, art spaces, public performances, lunch time forums, construction sites,  people watching ..) for the majority a school- regardless if private or public, remains the full time space where one’s children attend to daily rituals of practice- practicing communication skills, practicing public participation, practicing organizational skills, practicing physical skills, practicing the give and take of learning- practicing.

   And it is the curriculum that determines what gets practiced.  April is when many parents begin to question the past year’s choice of schooling and wonder if new arrangements ought to be made for the following September.  Things I encourage parents to look for in a school when touring a new space go beyond the basics- not just the physical structure and the size of the rooms, but importantly the sounds one hears when walking the halls; are the sounds coming from the classrooms representative of students’ voices? Do the walls feature student work? Is there an energy even outside the grounds?  For elementary students, what appears to be happening during lunch time recess? For junior high school students, are the activities/clubs posted of the type your child may express interest in joining? In a Senior High students should be visible- activities are ongoing and classes more individualized- visit at more than one point during the day and notice how students move about…

School is the “real world” for students while they are moving through it; help them understand and appreciate how growth in any direction can require a new fitting, and believe in them when they are ready to practice something new.

Value the Student, not the mistake!

 Schools claim to be teaching “values needed to become a part of a democratic society” – “values” – to me, this is a “heavy word” suggestive of concepts like responsibility, integrity, openness to new people, new ideas, and a recognition that students may make mistakes. What lesson will a student learn when a punishment for an action is much greater than the crime? Is it wise to teach students that one slip is never allowed? I am not perfect, and when I tutor I may be “encouraging excellence in those I teach” but  – why do some school administrations persist in believing that draconian measures might teach students “values”? When a punishment is so much greater than a crime, will a student really learn anything more than that bullying is allowed as long as the school administration is the group doing the bullying? And then what? When they grow up and the school years are long behind them do they practice empathy- or operate from a “holier than thou plateau” – the latter message implicit from their observations of their own school years.

Teachers and administrators model behaviour. How a school administration deals with students on a one-one or group basis sends a message loud and clear to the entire population- some student families have more clout than other student families. Unfortunately that is almost the only message that is transmitted. When a teacher continuously picks-on and embarrasses a student in front of the group – this is bullying. When a Vice Principal behaves in one fashion with a parent present only to do an about face when only the child is present – this is bullying. When a child contributes hours of overtime to school groups and causes , when a child actively works for the benefit of the group, that student is modeling positive behaviour. And students can see it. As a private tutor I am one step removed from the formal institutions, and an ear for both parents and students. I have learned to trust the students’ evaluations of what they are hearing and seeing taking place in the space where they spend so many hours- their school.