Showing posts with label connecting. Show all posts
Showing posts with label connecting. Show all posts

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Dear Teacher: It's Not You and Me Against My Child

I've never been a really big fan of school. I was good at it. Very good (no false modesty here). But I didn't enjoy it, and I left as soon as it was legal to do so. I left with Dad's blessing on the understanding that if I was leaving school, then I'd need to still be doing "something" and I immediately enrolled in an adult learning course anyway.

It wasn't the learning that I needed to get away from.

When my teachers discovered my intent to leave, there was a little bit of a fuss made. Like I said, I was "good at school". That kid in the top stream class who could consistently get high marks without trying, who very rarely disrupted the others, who was polite, and who was coordinated and fit enough to generally be one of the first picked in sports.

They wanted me to stay.

They didn't tell me that, though. They had the opportunity; I needed to go around each of my teachers to return my text books and ask them to sign my leaving form. Not one of them said anything then. But apparently they did in the staff room, because that evening my chemistry teacher, speaking for all my other teachers, telephoned my father and proceeded to try to convince him to make me stay at school.

This was one of the moments Dad got really, really right. He said: "It's not me you should be discussing this with," and handed the phone over.

Because, even though Dad would have preferred I stay at school, he knew that it wasn't him and the teacher against me but that I was a person with my own autonomy and preferences, and that to force me into something would only breed resentment. It probably would have hurt my love of learning too.

Now it's my daughter's turn at highschool.

She's nearing the end of her second year, and already she's hanging out for age 16 when it's legal for her to leave. She already knows what she wants to do, the learning she wants to move directly into and the places she'll apply to. She gazes at their pages on the internet often.

Over the weekend, she brought up with Mr. Me and I that she was having a lot of trouble learning in class because of disruptions from other students. She's not in one of the higher streams, and a good many of the children are there under duress. So we asked her to speak to her teachers, get their email addresses, give them hers and ours and to ask for ideas of what she'll be tested on and perhaps some exam papers from previous years to practice with.

She did it.

And she has one teacher willing to help. Who sees her as a person in her own right. Who instead of getting in touch with us, has emailed our daughter with all the information she needs, and offered to answer any questions she may have, or clarifications she may need via email as well as in class. Our daughter spent the evening trawling through all this information with no encouragement from us. Independently learning.

Her other teachers just saw a kid who had non-regulation shoes on, and took the time to email us about that, but nothing to do with her learning. Apparently what's important is a united front between teachers and parents. Apparently that's how we keep 'em in line. A united front and conformity.

I'm told that the common response from one of these teachers whenever the kids remark that they're not learning anything is: You don't know how hard it is to be a teacher.

It may be hard, but I believe the ones that manage it best are the ones who stop seeing their class as cats to be herded, but as a group of individuals to be respected and helped to learn in the subject you yourself are passionate about.

I do remember the teacher who phoned to try to change the fact that I was leaving school. I saw him again, in the same lab-coat he always wore, and chatting to a professor, in the corridor of the university chemistry department when I was attending lab classes some twelve years later. I gave him a wink as I walked past. He didn't look overly surprised to see me, but it happened that I was doing the same courses as one of the other science teachers at my old high school, who was updating his skills, so perhaps there had been talk. (Or perhaps I'm a bit conceited.)

I appreciate that he did care enough to phone, and he did try to talk me out of it. It wasn't enough, but I really do appreciate the effort.

And if I could have a do-over, I wouldn't change a thing.

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Friday, 2 November 2012

The Shirt of Shame.

Image source: The Ellen DeGeneres Show facebook page
Sometimes it's really hard, when you come across a picture that's been shared more than 30,000 times on facebook. 30,000 times that other people were in on a joke I'm certain isn't funny. What we have here, is no better than spanking.

Now, I'm aware in its country of origin it's perfectly acceptable to smack/spank your kids, and if that's acceptable, then what's on this picture certainly won't have a lot of people stand up and explain how this form of punishment a)won't work long term, and b) will create long term problems. That those who do are asking to be ridiculed and scoffed at. Told they have no sense of humour, or worse, be informed that they'll be raising a pack of hellions unfit for society, because "that's what happens when we don't instil a fear of punishment into our kids."

Another quote that's doing the rounds though, in many different forms, is one that says:
Most People are Only Alive Because it's Illegal to Shoot Them.
And it's the one that came immediately to mind when I saw the photo of those two little children in the shirt of shame. Not because I thought their parents needed shooting (let's get that clear, because I assume a lot of people thought that was where I was going) but because one is as ridiculous as the other.

I can safely say that NO person is alive today solely because I thought I might get in trouble if I shot them. I also believe that the threat of jail time isn't going to stop a person who sincerely wants to shoot another. It could make them do it in private, however.

Now, these kids are clearly being punished for pissing off one or both of their parents. Not because they weren't getting along, but because their squabbles were annoying.

How do I know this?

Well, because when people we love aren't getting along, and we care about that, we try to mediate and resolve the issue, don't we? If our friends are having a dispute, do we talk things through with them, or do we just ensure they shut up until we're not around? And these friends, we assume, are people who have already learned about resolving their own disputes growing up. The only reason we'd tell them to shut up until we weren't around would be because we both didn't care about the outcome and felt discomfort with the dispute.

So doesn't it make sense, that if the parents both didn't care about the outcome, and also felt discomfort with the dispute, that they wouldn't try to help resolve an issue that these kids were having trouble resolving themselves, but just get them to shut up about it?

Is it any different to this?

image source
If your children were having trouble understanding something at school, would you prefer them to be given extra help, or to be stuck in a dunce cap (shirt, whatever) for not getting it right? Does this form of shaming make them smarter people, or just resentful of the enforcers? Does it build their confidence and interpersonal skills, or does it make them feel small and helpless and stupid and unlovable?

A lot of comments on the "We Will Get Along" picture were to the effect of: Look how unhappy the girl is - it must be working ahahahaha. Of course she's unhappy. She's just been humiliated by one of the people who she should be able to trust more than anyone else. Humiliated, shamed, laughed at by the world, and not helped with her conflict difficulties in the slightest little bit.

Poor kids.

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Wednesday, 31 October 2012

5 Things I'm Ashamed to Have Done to My Kids (that I still see happening all the time)

There's never been a time when I considered myself a "bad" mother. Since I've been one for fourteen plus years now though, I'd be remiss if I hadn't done some learning along the way, and if there's a parent who has not changed their style at least a little bit in the course of raising an adult, I really don't want to know them.

So there's no judging going on here. OK there's a little bit of judging, but it's the internal sort, whereby you judge, and then think I used to do that until I found a better way so you stop being critical. Still, you feel sad that they haven't learnt, or have and then decided they were fine all along, and you feel guilty for judging and a little bit superior and smug.

Yeah, I over think things quite a lot.

1) Telling your kid not to snatch, then forcefully removing said object (snatching) from the child to return it to the snatchee
I see this all. the. time. Parents and teachers do it obliviously. They must do, because I never see the furtive, embarrassed glance-around afterwards that would occur if they realised the hypocrisy. Actually, one time I stayed at daycare with my youngest to settle him for the first half hour because he was becoming more and more unhappy being there. The carer did this twice while knowing I was there trying to figure out why he was unhappy. And then she...

2) ...said hey, can I have a look at that? and prised a toy from another kid's hands. He then tried to take it back, so she held it away from him, where he couldn't reach, and made him parrot "please can I have that toy?" after her.
She looked at me for approval after that. A look that smugly said: see how I teach them manners? We left then. And after two more times of my little one screaming and crying when he realised we were going (not when I was leaving; it's not a separation thing at all), we withdrew him from that place completely. But I've done it too. I can point at that daycare and say: "look, how horrible" but the truth is, for my eldest, that would have been situation normal.

3) Spanking, smacking, physical punishment, whatever the kids are calling it these days.
This is a hard one to admit, but there was a time when I even advocated for it. I decided myself and tried to convince others that it was the only way to reprimand a child who didn't have the vocabulary to understand your, what I considered must be, lectures. Until one day about 10 years ago, when my daughter was curled on the floor with her hands over her bottom and I realised I was angry at her, really furious at her, for trying to stop me from smacking her. And I recognised that for the atrocity that it was. It genuinely took another six or seven years for me to get to a point where I didn't feel like smacking - to change my brain chemistry to the point where I automatically thought "how can I help?" instead of "stop it you little...."

4) Sat with my kids at the table until they'd finished every last bite of their dinner.
At the time, I thought I was doing right; teaching them not to be wasteful and such. What I ended up with though, was one child, my poor first born who wore the worst of everything, who now finds it difficult to leave anything on the plate, even if she's so full she feels sick. I should have known better, I think. I myself am unable to eat when I have a blocked nose, because I'm unable to breathe. Breathing through my mouth is not an option for me whilst eating. Thankfully I didn't do this for very long. Just long enough to do damage, obviously, but now, at 14 years old, she's just beginning to figure out the food quantities that are right for her.

5) Told them if they didn't hurry up, I'd leave without them.
It seems fair on the face of it, but the bottom line is that I now have an 11 year old who panics when we say we'll wait for him in the car. It's not the relatively good sort of panic where you do things in double time, but the awful, paralysing kind where you can't think, let alone act, and everything just becomes too hard. Poor guy. We're working on it.

This isn't a full list, by any means; I'll probably write another post next week entitled, "5 MORE things..." and I could maybe even write a third post. But there are a lot of things I've done right, as well. And one of those things I've done right, is learning from all the things I've done wrong. Well... all the things I've come across anyway.

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Friday, 26 October 2012

Stop Calling Me Names!

"I'm sorry I got angry when you were bad," he said.

He said that to me! In the middle of the night, with me mostly asleep and my subconscious unprotected. Of course I'm angry - I'm furious! Apology unaccepted, sir, to put it mildly.

How dare he?

It escalated, of course. With me uttering phrases such as, "keep your damned labels off me" and moving to the edge of the bed. When it got to the point where I was named "mean" for being upset, and informed that I must explain why labelling and criticizing weren't the best thing for human growth and mental health since sliced bread, I left the room.

And so, I am here at 4am, calming down, unclenching my teeth bit by bit, considering making a coffee (because it's clear I won't be going back to sleep), and clicking link after link on the ol' information superhighway during the moments when my mind is screaming too loud for me to write effectively.

He was trying to connect with me, but the connection was backwards.

A backwards connection is just the opposite of a real connection, which is based upon two people relating to each other.
A backwards connection begins with an assumption or definition of the other, that ends all possibility of a relationship, at least in that interaction.

-Patricia Evans, Controlling People

For the backwards connection to be made, I'd either have to concede that I was bad, or argue over why I wasn't. Either option would be a silent reinforcement that it was OK to define me in the first place.

It's not OK.

The only person who can truly define you is yourself. The only person who has access to your motives, your understanding (or lack of), your emotional history, your five senses, and your perspective, is you, so you're the only one with the full story. A person can accept your definition of yourself and relate, but they cannot invent their own and expect to be relating. What it boils down to, is, they're making things up.

I understand it when I step back, and disconnect with my emotional part in this, but that can't happen for over an hour later sometimes. I'm hurt and I've a right to feel that way.

I know why he felt like I was being mean and attacking him: it was because I wouldn't allow the backwards connection. So he felt rejected. It's not the first time and I'm reasonably sure it won't be the last.

I get it, but it's still no fun. I want him to relate to me, not his idea of me.

I've seen a few blog posts recently, by men, along the lines of: I'm overly critical to my partner and I don't know why and I'm scared she's going to leave me. I've seen very few from the receiving end. I imagine everyone's story is different, but I think the reason behind this is shame. And possibly fear of public reaction.

I feel neither shame nor fear in this. Mr. Me and I will sort things through today in a gentle, loving way, as we always aim to do, so that tomorrow, we don't have to.

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Image credit: photostock.
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