Tuesday, November 14, 2006

How important are social skills anyway?

Does it bother anyone else to get a puzzled gaze from a cashier when you give not-quite-exact change, such as $20.11 for a $5.06 purchase so I receive $15.05 back rather than $14.94 to limit the bulk of my wallet? Am I the only one that tries to keep my penny-count to a minimum since they serve me no purpose other than being able to occasionally provide exact change for those rare times I use cash? Or is it just that addition and subtraction skills are not valued or considered important anymore, so much so that the cashier doesn't realize what change I'm getting back until the machine spits out the calculation?

Instances like that make me worry about my children's future in school.

My officemate's daughter is a new middle school and high school music teacher. She can't write in cursive because some of the children can't read it, and forget about knowing how to write it...their signatures are just block-letter names or some block-letters with scribbles. Apparently, this skill is not deemed necessary since it isn't part of the standardized testing administered to children. Was I the only one that was taught to write checks using cursive for the spelled-out monetary value so they couldn't be altered as easily? And yes, I did learn how to write out a check in school; I'm guessing that's probably not part of the general curricula now, though.

I hear tales of the debilitating restrictions teachers must cope with to manage a classroom. No traditional or creative discipline is allowed. You can't have a child do a repetitive sentence-writing exercise to encourage a change in negative behavior. Some "not my angel child" parents probably sued a school system after they managed to get the kid diagnosed with carpal tunnel. (It's a serious affliction; I'm not trying to downplay its painful affects; I just have a hunch that there was some child who manipulated his parents into finding a way to get him/her out of a punishment rather than trying to correct the behavior that required punishment in the first place.) You can't have the child stand at the back of the class to ensure he/she stays awake during class. Well, that's just humiliating for the sleepy kid to have to stand while everyone else sits. The schools here (and I assume in most places) have a very lengthy documentation process for counseling disruptive children before the only punishment available can even be rendered...suspension. The thing is, most kids acting out at school really don't care about getting a few days off from the daily grind, so it's a highly ineffective means of resolving behavior problems, in my opinion. I haven't been out of school that long, but even in high school we had a government teacher that used her yard stick to slap desks, her own as well as ours, and launched erasers across the room at the chalkboard in order to get our attention and return our focus to learning. I'd bet she's not still doing that, or maybe she retired.

How can children really learn when others are blatantly allowed to interrupt class since there are no legitimate consequences given? I'm not going to rush to call my children geniuses, but I've always been in gifted and advanced programs, and despite his idiotic actions as an adult, their father was not a stupid child, either, so they are not likely to be at the lower end of the the learning curve. I am so very concerned about being able to be intensively involved in their schooling because I don't want to not be aware of things that might be going on at school that could inhibit their full potential for learning. I don't want them to be overlooked for possibilities of greater challenges because of a couple of clowns whose parents are clueless that take up the teacher's time, and I also don't want them to think that I don't know exactly what they're doing at school or that they won't be in trouble with me if they are disrespectful in class, regardless of whether or not the teacher's hands are bound by guidelines designed to coddle an overly litigious society. I'm building a portfolio of blackmail to unleash upon their peers in the future...that picture of J wearing my silver heels would make a lovely addition to his classroom's wall or the school's lunch room should he decide that he's too cool for school at some point; same goes for some awesome naked baby/early toddler pics of M; and I'm not at all above attending class with them if that's what it takes...I imagine they'll love that idea.

One of the districts in this area has even banned vending machines. While that may seem wise at first thought (hey, about time they stopped enabling children's eating nourishment-lacking foods all day), why not replace the usual stuff in vending machines with healthier alternatives to allow sensible snacking since snacks are actually a good idea? Forgo the Lays and Snickers and Coca-Cola? Sure. But to discourage snacks altogether? I don't think that's a brilliant idea (maybe lack of caloric fuel is what was making that kid fall asleep in class to begin with). Just put pretzels and granola bars, milk and water or juice in those machines instead. Those items are available in bulk, too. That particular school system also reprimands teachers if caught with any drink besides water at their desk. Water is a great staple of for hydration, but it is not the only good thing out there.

Good gracious. No wonder so many people are seeking to homeschool.


Mommy off the Record said...

I don't have any kids in school yet, but I am not looking forward to it based on all the stuff I've been hearing from moms of school-age kids.

I'm with you about the vending machines. Why not just put healthy snacks there? I don't get it.

As for the other stuff, I agree that teachers don't have much room to discipline anymore (for fear of lawsuits) and that can be problematic for the classroom. My parents are both teachers and they complain about this.

The good thing is that you can be an advocate for your kids and if you see that they are not being challenged, you can work with the school to figure out a better setting for your kids or move them to a new school if necessary. I wish you much luck with it. I'm sure it's not easy working in the school system.

Jomama said...

This topic drives me crazy. There is so much wrong with the way schools are these days. The emphasis is on meeting SOL requirements instead of nurturing young minds. If it's not on the syllabus, there is no time for it. I don't know what I'm going to do when it's time for my son to start school.

suki said...

I do the same thing with when I pay cash! People just look at you and try to give you the pennies back, and you're like NO, give me a nickel or a dime or whatever.