I've been very caught up with the kids and school the past few weeks, it's been pretty hectic. I like to make sure they settle in for the new year, so I find I spend a lot of time at the school in the first month or so. And then I wish I hadn't because the politicking that goes on in this school is just ridiculous. I find myself getting sucked down into the vortex, my life getting smaller and smaller and my brain shrinking each minute I spend there. You would think as a school it would be the opposite but no.
I'm not a great fan of primary teachers in general - I find they have an 'us against them' approach to parents and often put their own agendas ahead of what's best for the children. I'm sure they wish that us parents would just go away and leave them to it.
For example, this year the kinders finished at 12 noon for THREE WEEKS. This was because they had three classes this year (it is usually a two-stream school) and they were assessing the kids before putting them into proper classes. They kept six or seven of them back till 3pm each day to assess them more fully, and it took them three weeks to get through the 78 kids there are in kinder. On the whole this sounds like a good idea I guess, although I question the value of 'assessing' a five year old in a single session in an unfamiliar environment - but I'm no expert on education.
Some parents found that they were finding this somewhat inconvenient, especially if they worked fulltime or had siblings to pick up at 3 as well - a teacher pulled me aside from my canteen duty and says to me conspiritorially "What have the other mothers been saying?"
"I don't know what you mean" say I.
"I've heard the mothers are WHINGEING
about the three weeks of early finishing" says she. Well she should know. From my experience talking to primary teachers they all got High Distinctions in WHINGE101 for their degrees.
"Well, I guess they're saying that three weeks is a long time." say I.
"WEVE GOT 78 KIDS!! WE HAVE TO ASSESS THEM ALL INDIVIDUALLY" says she, voice rising - I'm being yelled at by a kinder teacher. She failed to add "and it would be too hard and I'm too tired to assess them in class groups."
"I can't be held responsible for what people are saying Mrs XXX" say I "and I understand why
you're doing it, it's just that three weeks is a long time to arrange for pickups, especially if you've got to be back at 3 for siblings or if you work."
What I can't believe is that the school can implement a strategy like this without any form of consultation and then not have considered the perspective of the other parties (ie: parents) who play a key role in the success of the strategy. And then, when faced with critiscism to sweep it away by accusing the parents of 'whingeing'.
And woe-betide if, as a mother, you work full time. Oh, the judgement
radiates from them like kryptonite. I know someone who sat her hsc pregnant, still managed a degree in environmental management and is forging a stellar career at the ripe old age of 27 with a nine year old in tow - she's a living testimony to my motto of pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. Anyway, she tried to make an appointment with her child's teacher to discuss some things going on in the classroom. She offerred 4:00pm as a convenient time. The teacher said "4 o clock. I have a LIFE
you know". My friend was so stunned she didn't reply, and took a half day annual leave to accommodate the teacher.
I'm all for paying teachers more money, although they're much better paid in Australia than in the US from what I understand from the educational tv show The Simpsons.
Teaching is a vocation, not a job and unfortunately vocations aren't very fashionable. They don't fit in with the politically correct model of employment law, being dedicated isn't worth much in renumeration terms. It is a fact to be a good teacher involves a lot of outside core hour work, and it is a thankless job.
Unfortunately you get paid the same as a teacher whether you're dedicated or not. What's happening here is that the teacher's unions are encouraging teachers to stop doing the outside hours work, not because it is thankless but because it is not paid.
Family dynamics are changing, parenting is changing, kids are being protected from the harsh realities of ever knowing that they have weaknesses by parents and teachers alike. As a matter of fact, I can't say 'weaknesses' I have to say 'opportunities for growth'. Parents are much less tolerant of teachers attempts at discipline and behaviour control these days. I can see that teachers are at the cleanup end of all of this, and for that I feel for them, but I'm not convinced the teachers unions are heading in the right direction in all of this. They too have their own agendas, and somehow the theories of what is best for the children are being hijacked and manipulated to suit.
And, call me old fashioned, but it's week six now. My kinder child has not done any reading yet. None at all. What's that about?
The kids of course, are oblivious. They have friends, they run on the grass, they drink from the bubblers and line up at canteen for a cup of custard and a pikelet. And maybe that's all they need.