The System I’m Failing

The school year had only been up and running for about two months and my kid was over it. He was counting down to Christmas break and Summer Vacation before Halloween even rolled around.  When he started high school this year, I was optimistic that his days of hating school had ended. I’m always the optimist. Even when it’s unwarranted. Like now. His days of hating school are, in fact, not over. We’re back to the dreaded three day weekend. It’s a battle every Monday to get his little ass out of bed and out the door. I was leaving for work at 7 am before school started. Once school started, I was lucky to get on the road by 8 because if I walked out before he did, chances were he was going to either be late or miss completely. I know I could lay down the law and threaten his life or threaten to take away the things he loves like his game system and his basketball playing with friends, but I don’t. It’s not because I don’t care if he misses school, because I do. It’s just that I get it. I get all the reasons he doesn’t like it. I’m sure I hated high school when I was there, but I don’t actually remember my high school years so I may not have hated all of it. High school for him is different from middle school in that he doesn’t have all 7 or 8 classes throughout the day. His day is split up into blocks and he only has four of them. Four really long classes.  First semester, he had  gym, which is his favorite for obvious reasons. Then he had biology. A class taught by a very young lady who thought that the whole class should be punished at the beginning of the school year because a few students had behavior problems. Her solution: take away the lab portion of the class. Make everyone do only written book work (aka copying the actual book into a notebook including table of contents). Zero hands on learning. And it was an inclusive class, meaning that they had “special ed” students in the class, which I believe translated into they had behaviorally unsound students in the class, and  I am a complete fan of inclusive classrooms, but if you have two teachers in a classroom and one teacher is exclusively for the few “special” students, then either a.) let that teacher deal with the issues at hand or b.) come up with an effective way to continue teaching the rest of the class. I have worked in 100% behavioral classrooms in the past so I know that it can be done. His other two classes were Math and Social Studies/History, which he neither liked nor disliked. We finally made it to winter break, Biology was over, I thought maybe the new semester would bring some sort of change from the previous dread of school, but I was wrong. He was put in two classes that he had filled out a form to change from at the beginning of the year. Of course, that paperwork was nowhere to be found. When he went to his counselor, who thus far has not been any help at all, she told him it was too late now to change and he should have filled out the paperwork at the beginning of the year. He received a shoulder shrug when he told her he did fill out the paperwork. So here we are, a month into the second half of school. I just got a phone call that Mel is being suspended for being tardy to class too much and they want to give him in school suspension. When he had in school suspension last semester for the same reason, he was literally locked in a classroom (with a key) with other kids serving ISS and was given one opportunity in the morning and one opportunity in the afternoon to use the restroom. He had to sign a paper saying he would conform to the rules, “no talking, no gum chewing, no eating, no drinking, no horseplay” while he was serving his in school suspension while being yelled at by a teacher who feels superior to a bunch of kids.

I know I sound like one of those moms raising an entitled little brat right now saying that I don’t agree with punishment for not following the rules, but that is not what I’m getting at at all. I don’t believe in taking kids who already don’t like school and locking them in a room to force them to recognize the authority of someone who has no respect for them because they are “just kids” and they “will listen to what I have to say, or else.” I have a decent kid who is late to class frequently. He never gets in trouble. He is always respectful to the teacher. He’s smart. He’s nice to all his peers. He stands up for people when they are getting bullied. So when the principal called me this time to tell me that he would be serving ISS for being tardy again, I told her that he would not and they could give him out of school suspension. If he’s going to be “forced” to do something for not following the rules, I’d rather “force” him to do volunteer work in the community while he is out. I’d rather “force” him to see that there are people less fortunate than him and show him that there are ways he can help while he is out of school. So that is how he will be “punished” for not being on time. I will teach him further how to be a decent human being. What I will not do is continue to perpetuate, what I consider ISS to be, which is more acceptance of prison culture for socioeconomically disadvantaged youth. Nobody goes to jail for being late. You get a write up. You lose your job. Those are your consequences. You do not get locked up for that, but that’s a whole other topic altogether….

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