Students Falling Behind: SO WHAT?

The educators are saying “they are falling behind and it breaks our hearts”. Why, if everyone is falling behind then why can’t we do this whole year over again?

Neonbrand from Unsplash

I think people forget that we decide on the structure of our society. If we need to change a very small piece, then we change that piece.

An entire nation of children falling behind in education calls for an educational reset. It takes time to work on skills and there are no shortcuts to the acquisition of skills. You have to practice them. If we don’t want to lose the skill, we will have to take the time. We don’t get a shortcut just because the pandemic has caused changes.

The failing grades will disproportionately affect kids who live in poverty stricken homes. There is a lot of hype about how kids are not able to access computers and wi-fi. There is not a lot of resolution. Again, skills acquisition is a social construct; human beings make the rules. Human beings can change the rules. If everyone is failing, then reset the school year at day one and start again. But start again with the wisdom of the pandemic: do we need classrooms all the time? What is an appropriate schedule for children? 

Zach Vessels from Unsplash

It goes without saying that the disruption of the pandemic this year has ruined a stratosphere of activities that we have come to expect. Our expectations do not mean that the activities are correct, or appropriate.

We need to change with a changing world and if nothing else, we can use the pandemic to show us how much needs to change.

Those who believe children are failing have got it all wrong. It is us, the adults, who are failing. Children did not construct the educational system. Children did not design the classroom or the social system that is operating today. As a matter of fact, the school year was designed around the agrarian calendar to help farmers use their children in the fields to help with planting. How is that the truth in the twenty first century? Why would we continue to have a system that is based on farming?

Our social structure is a shame. The educational system is proving that. Colleges scrambling for tuition and fees that they don’t earn. School systems scrambling for tax money that it takes an MBA to understand in complexity. It’s all a shame and in some very serious cases it’s a sham too.

If you question my opinion, ask yourself this: “why are we failing in this pandemic?” What is making us end up at the failing end of the effect of the pandemic?

Being Ignored

If you are ignored by a group of people; they just don’t acknowledge you. How do you feel?

It is a very strange experience and the resulting emotions are damning. Who would not be diminished by someone who does not acknowledge their existence?

No ask for shared activity.

No discussion over shared food.

No acknowledgment of the work, the effort, the energy taken by them. The them that does the ignoring.

It’s wild. Wildly inappropriate.

Please wait while my diminished self recovers.

Parenting for Covid-19

We act like we can’t stand our own children

What the hay? Everyone keeps meme-ing about giving teachers a jillion dollars and how hard it is to spend the day with their kids. What the, what?

One little afternoon with two kids is overwhelming that is because the kids spend so MUCH time everywhere else.

We take them to pre-K, then summer camp and then after school care and then, over and over, we take them somewhere else – not home.

Parenting has fundamentally changed in the last forty years and in some ways for the better. For purposes of this essay, we talk about how parenting has changed for the worse.

For the sanity of parents everywhere, some things should be decided on with caution. This new generation of parents seems determined to entertain their kids non-stop. This is a parenting mistake, a decision that is destined to make a failure.

There is well-documented value in boredom. Boredom is a basis for creativity and imagination.

What I really want to talk about is a philosophical difference in parenting. Forty years ago, when I brought my daughter home from the hospital, she was coming to a very busy house. She has two older brothers, a stepsister, dogs, and parents who were renovating and moving. We incorporated her right into the crowd. As a family, we want her well fed, happy and invested in our family routine. At three months old, she is going to lay around with us on the couch, listen to our discussions and otherwise be a part of an already active environment.

JB Collection

That is NOT the way that parents act today. Perhaps, out of their own feelings of neglect or because of the age-old promise to outdo our own parents; new parents today are acting quite differently.

First, before pregnancy, all must be perfect. Once all is perfect and the baby is born, the world begins rotating around the child. Everything hinges on whether the child is comfortable, feeling well, entertained (in a healthy way) and on and on and on. The parents continue to behave this way even with a second or third child. The world revolves around the child instead of the child becoming part of the world.

What just happened.

JB Collection

According to teachers I know today, every child has an allergy. Parents communicate this fact loudly and redundantly. There are no careless cookies and cupcakes at any grade school functions – oh no – that won’t happen without a lawsuit.

When my kids were in school, we all agreed with each other, that our own child was the best, the brightest and the most special. That doesn’t happen anymore. Now there is competition and it’s brutal. Parents set out to prove the specialness of their own child and it must be more special than your child. There is no universal agreement anymore, instead it’s “My child is better than yours.”

Because we (the 80s parent) were up close and personal in our child’s business, we could see their bad behavior for what it was: bad behavior. Today, people have a hard time seeing their own child’s bad behavior. Instead, they give reasons and righteousness for otherwise minor behavior problems. Of course this encourages more and bigger behavior problems. Again, you will see that the parent wishes to explain it all away, rather than “manning up” and taking the medicine that goes with the crime. Parents not only allow the bad behavior; they encourage it by trying to explain it away with reasons. “He doesn’t feel well and that girl made him mad.”

The 80s parent did not send children away in order to ensure constant entertainment. Kids had bicycles and found their own entertainment, usually with another pack of kids doing the same thing. While the boundaries seemed loose, the monitoring was not, parents spent the time getting to know all of what the kids were into.

Photo by Donald Giannatti on Unsplash

The 80s parents made mistakes. It was a time when we still believed authority (think Catholic priests) and we were betrayed by that authority. Perhaps that is why todays parents are hyper-vigilant, they want to make sure that these kinds of mistakes are not made again. For this I don’t blame them.

I don’t think we need to worry about entertaining kids 24/7. I think it’s ok for kids to be bored. The most important skill we need to develop with our kids is trusting communication. That is a skill that is timeless, and it is a relationship that won’t encourage selfishness and excuses in children. When kids behave badly, they need punishment (gasp). I’ve heard some parents say that nothing in the punishment realm seems to work to encourage discipline. If that is true, then keep pursuing resolution until you find it. If kids and parents need counseling and education so be it. It doesn’t mean that you have failed as a parent. “Man up” and figure it out. The best thing you can ever do is help your child understand consequences.

Self and other honesty encourages health and well-being in every relationship. That’s a sentence that all parents can buy into.

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