Feb 28, 2011

What Parents want Teachers to Know: 1. Food

A while ago I read in a parenting magazine a teacher listing 10 things she wished parents know: to make her life easier.

Now the boot is on the other foot and here are 10 things I wish teachers knew about looking out for my child.

1. Food

Food: I will feed my child. I do not need or want the school to think that it can force into my child’s body on the pretext of class programming hydrogenated fats, artificial colourings and flavourings, sugar, refined grains or any other concoction, no matter what (unless it wants to pay my medical and dental bills), whether for ‘rewards’, as part of curricular activities, or to introduce children to weird cuisine.

This has come to a head for my family when my child was excluded from food-in-class activities because of her medical dietary restrictions.
• She had to watch while toast was prepared and cut (this was to teach ‘quarters’) then consumed. Teachers: there are other ways of teaching ‘quarters’.
• She also had to resist a completely misguided parent who tried to force her to eat soup she’d prepared for the class. I mean resist. She was insisting that she consume something that was effectively poison for her, despite us advising the school of these needs. Happily she won and we were spared a visit to the children’s hospital that evening.

It has taken me a year for the school to understand its responsibility under the Disability Discrimination Act to not exclude from education programs on the basis of a disability (chronic illness in this case), while they kept pumping out the pointless food events (not Canteen, or other organised things that parents can manage, but ad hoc class based ‘surprises’).

I’d also suspect the food preparation environment in a class room, and a teacher’s capability to ensure food safety practices were used. Even restaurants have killed people with lapses here, so what’s the risk when amateurs tinker with food?

Feb 8, 2011

Smoking

No, not what you thought:

I was at an opening of a community centre on Aboriginal 'land' the other day.

We started with the silly hi to elders, then went into a smoking ceremony.

A smoking ceremony, it was explained, was to scare away the bad spirits and keep the good ones. How pathetic: I felt like asking how they knew the good spirits weren't scared of smoke, and the bad ones attracted, or how on earth smoke could affect spirits...and what were spirits anyway.

How gullible Australians are to tolerate such stone age bullsh~t: and why does the government allow itself to support these weird religious practices: maybe someone should take them to the High Court and put a stop to the timewasting sop to primatives.

Feb 2, 2011

Family Homework Policy

As we approach the new school year, its time to review your family education policies. You don't have any? Well, maybe you should. The school you send your children to will, so you may as well too.

If you’re lucky, the school will have a homework policy. Odds on it is not going to be family friendly.

Given that traditional homework in infants and primary school brings no benefits (see Kohn’s website and books), and is of dubious use in high school, here is a policy that you can share with the school, right after they share their non-evidence-based ‘that’s the way we do things’ policy with you.

Family Homework Policy

1. There will be no routine assigned homework.

2. If there is homework, the [name] family will not support it being marked.

3. If there is homework, it will take second place to:
a) enjoyable afternoons for children
b) stress free afternoons and dinner times for family, and
c) peaceful evenings when we can read together, play games, explore questions of genuine and productive interest

4. If there is homework, we are not either trained or paid to be teachers, we use the school for that service, so we won’t be participating as proxy supervisors: if professionals can’t get learning to happen in school, we’ve got no chance.

5. Homework will not be attempted if the child is:
a) tired
b) frustrated with it (because there’s no benefit)
c) not getting anything out of it intrinsically
d) able to do it easily (because there’s no point)

5. If homework doesn’t get done, we’ll write a note to say that we had better things to do.

The basis for this policy is:

If the child cannot complete the homework through lack of understanding then it has no benefit.

If the child can easily complete the homework because they understand the work, it has no purpose.

If the child can move through the homework albeit finds it challenging, there’s no teacher to gauge the learning, so it has no educational point.

If they mark the homework, it's not educational, but a ratings contest. Better for the teacher to work with a child on their areas of difficulty...which they would have picked up if they'd bother to do the work in class.

The school has the child for 30 hours a week. If it cannot manage to stimulate, excite and encourage learning in this period, then it certainly is not going to intrude on family time for no compensating benefit, value or real educational purpose.