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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A kid in school

We're going to have an high school exchange student with us for the entire school year. I'm excited to have another member of the family and to have the opportunity to see our world through his eyes. What I hadn't expected was to get a whole new view of our community just because, for this year, I'm the parent of a schooled kid.

I just came from a new parent meeting at the high school our exchange student will be attending. It's hard to explain what they talked about. For me it was like listening to another language, our paradigms are so different, I really couldn't even understand everything that was said.

Shudder. I truly hope our own children will never want to go to high school.

The whole process is so artificial. Most of the "adjustment" to high school doesn't seem to revolve around academic learning. Rather, it seems to revolve around learning their system. It is astonishing to me how much cognitive dissonance one must accept to see through the world view of a high school. It felt Orwellian to listen to.

Some examples:

The principal made an effort to tell us parents how important we are. She talked about "School Nation" and "The School Way" (phrase has been changed to protect the guilty) "We can talk about the Way, but you've got to be teaching it at home for this to work." So, we're important - not because we're the parents who have a responsibility to raise our children. We're important because the kids can't learn the "School Way" with us telling them about it at home. Now the school is telling us what values and expectations we should be teaching our children.

A counselor quoting from "Nurture Shock" that high school age teens need 9+ hrs of sleep a day, superimposed with the Athletic Director, Assistant Principal, and Dean, telling us that the more involved students get the better it is. Involved means being in clubs, sports, going to dances, buying an activity card to get into the games for "free" (after paying for a $30 activity card) etc, many of which have activities that last until 8-11pm. AND that same counselor telling us to expect 4-6 hrs of homework a day for our students. So these kids get to school at 7:30am (!), which means waking up around 6:30 +/- depending on how far from school they live (our student will be bussed in and so have to be up earlier), getting off school just after 3pm, going to a team practice from 3:30-5pm, or going to a game which could run even longer, going home to eat and do 4-6 hrs of homework, and STILL getting to bed in time to get 9+ hrs of sleep? That would mean getting to bed around 9:30. Even a public schooler can do the math. Something's got to give there.

Or how about how the counselors who kept saying that parents should stay involved and in contact with the school, but that the students should be the one to contact the counselors if they had concerns "because we want the kids to start learning to take some responsibility for themselves." Which is a great idea. Yet, the kids are in each class for 51 minutes, with a 9 minute passing period in between, a 3 minute "warning bell" 6 minutes into that 9minutes passing period, before doing it all over again. They have to have a student handbook/schedule book with them at all times, in which is a place to have a signature from an authority if they need to be out of class during the class period. So, they want the kids to take on more "responsibility" but don't trust them to take a leak with out express permission, or to get to class with out being told by bells what time it is?

Here's the athletic director telling us of the many advantages to joining a team sport - learning sportsmanship, team work, resilience... all good things. He's encouraging the kids to get on a team and the parents to support their student athletes. Followed directly by the same Athletic Director explaining the grade requirements to stay on a team. "If a student has 2 or more Fs on a weekly basis they may not participate for the following week." So essentially, it's ok for an athlete to be failing 1 class at any given time? Join athletics, it's ok to fail 1 class, we expect that?!?

There's a full time "Community Resource Officer" assigned to this school. We were warned about the dangers of "sexting" - random, but probably good advice. She got up to talk proudly how good the safety procedures were for the school (all but one exterior door locked to keep people out during class time, kids regulated to the proper blocks...), and how "We don't have any more drugs than any other school." (Oh, yea for that.) There's another police officer assigned to the school as well. So, with two active duty police officers, this school is glad to say they aren't any worse than any other place.

Most of us have read that kids that eat dinner regularly with their families have better grades and do better in general than those who don't. A kid in high school who does any of the recommended extra curricular activities has a schedule which precludes a reasonable and/or regular time for a family dinner. The school obviously expects families to arrange their lives around the school schedule. Yet there are often conflicting school schedules should you have kids in different schools. Goodness help you should you have an elementary, middle school and high school student.

This is insane. I'll be getting a new world view from having this exchange high school student, but so far, it has little to do with "exchange" and more to do with "high school student".

1 comment:

mariacristina said...

As mother of the school exchange I can tell you: in Italy school is worse. Here you go to school from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day, also on Saturday. You have to study about 4-5 hours every afternoon, and if you play any sport teachers say you are losing time instead study! And all subjects are compulsory, you cannot choose. No activities are in the school, school are closed in the afternoon.