Friday, 9 March 2012

Parents' evening

So we went to our first Parents Evening on Wednesday. Actually we have been to a couple with kids at 6th form, but this is the first with any child at high school. Let's see, how to describe it....chaotic, busy, disorganised, and pretty much complete nonsense.

It is like many professions, where teachers and so-called professional educators have created a language and a way of assessment and looking at the world that they use to judge our children...and then think they can tell us what our kids are like. I've lived with the Meister for over 12 years, they have had her for 6 weeks (and not taken very good care IMO) and then I go along to hear them tell me all about her.

Just have a look here for the complete nonsense, that they waste their time on. I really do think teachers time could be used more productively, and enjoyably for themselves, as well as their students.

It was quite telling that all the teachers were white, most were female, and most were young. I think there were 2 that were probably over 30. So they are all lacking in a bit of experience, but nice enough and well-meaning. They are a generation who has been educated and trained in the pathetic National Curriculum, and if any of them have any ideas about creative teaching they will soon be disillusioned and leave the profession.

I met the English teacher who didn't recognise Puck's final monologue when the Meister delivered it in a class where they were 'learning' A Midsummer Night's Dream. I met the drama teacher who couldn't remember the Meister's name. I met the Geography teacher who is trying to teach my child that our importing food from developing nations is a good thing for those nations so they can get money to buy things-ignoring the fact that Western companies are profitting from getting farmers in developing nations to grow monocultures with sterile seed using herbicides and pesticides that also have to be bought, so the farmers can have the money to buy the things that other Western companies are selling in those nations. There was no mention of sustainable agriculture, or any negative side effects of moving from a sustainable agrarian based economy to one that is based on dependence on export markets and the problems of erosion and drought, deforestation, palm oil, etc. But then again, they are only year 7. I met the RE teacher, the History teacher (who seemed to know his stuff), the Art teacher, the old Maths teacher (who seemed sensible), some others and the 3rd Science teacher the Meister has had in 2.5 months of school. I pointed out that she said she was studying 'Electromancers' and that there was no such thing. He concurred. Apparently the school have bought in a curriculum based on some magical world to teach the kids science. Is there really any need to comment further?!

In the end, after an hour and a half of walking around meeting people who seemed to like the Meister, and have good things to say about her, but who were generally talking performance and targets (apparently she has Target level 5A for just about everything-whatever the hell that means) her father and I convinced her to let us go home without having seen PE and Spanish teachers. We had a long walk, and it was cold, and we had to get the baby, which all seemed more important than listening to people whose opinions we don't really value.

It was a difficult exercise. And while I think they were all perfectly nice, and wouldn't mind socialising with a few of them, mostly I was just made to feel that institutional education is limiting and demeaning and causes much more harm than good. I keep thinking that if she stays in school, she is going to be judged using criteria chosen by somebody else. Her older siblings have all been able to apply to college or university using their own CV of accomplishments based on their abilities and interests and portfolios and auditions and interviews. She is going to be judged by tick boxes and grades and levels and other peoples' agenda. But of course, the difficult thing is letting her know we are proud of her, that we like seeing her growing up and learning things (inside or outside of school) and coping and finding her place in the world. We don't really care about the targets, but she does for the moment. So we are letting her know that we love her and are proud of her because of who she is, not because of how she performs. But I think that she is a bit young to understand the distinction. She likes doing well, and if they all think she is great, no wonder she likes it there.

I do think that having people tell you how great you are is limiting, though. Sometimes its just means you stop trying, sometimes it means you forget the things you love best and do those things that get the praise, sometimes it means you reject all learning because you don't get praise for the things you are good at. It is all damaging though. And I just hope that the Meister can enjoy her experiences, and not forget who she is.

On another note, the Boy got his letter from the Music Base. He has been offered a place at college on the level 3 performing musician course. WooHoo. He is rather excited, and sent off his acceptance after taking about 30 seconds to find a pen. :-)

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