Let’s take it as read that the public schools these days worship a false idol of “safety,” trying so hard to be risk-averse that they often end up spoiling kids’ fun and making it harder for them to learn. I’ve subscribed to Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids for years.
At the same time, this morning I felt the briefest twinge of sympathy for the Toronto principal who banned all non-sponge balls from her school (via electricarchaeo) after a parent got hit in the head with a stray soccer ball. (No word on the parent’s form in heading the ball–was it a flick-on? A nicely driven shot?) The policy’s wrongheaded and should be rescinded. But still.
Reading the story, I was reminded of an incident about a month ago, when the 8yo came home complaining that recess wasn’t fun, even though the kids were playing soccer. This was shocking, because he’s soccer-obsessed, and normally the chance to play would make anything seem appealing. “They’re blaming me for things that aren’t my fault, and it’s not fun.” We pressed him about what he meant, and it turned out that some of the smaller kids didn’t want to play if he did, and a girl had scraped something getting out of the way of one of his shots (which, to be fair, didn’t sound like it was coming all that close to her in the first place).
A few relevant facts: The 8yo is a sweet kid, who wouldn’t know how to threaten someone if he tried. That said, as the picture above makes clear, he’s a bit of a giant: nearly 5′, and solidly built. Plus, he’s kind of awesome* at soccer. He plays on travel and premier teams, 50% as a goalie, 35% as a defender, and 15% as a striker. Thanks in part to his size, he has one of the strongest legs on his (pretty successful) U-10/U-11 travel team.
My wife and I reminded him of all this, and of the fact that he’s the only kid in his class who plays that much soccer, and of the fact that he’s by far the biggest kid in his class. And we asked him to consider, if the situation were reversed, whether he might be a little scared, too.
We talked it out, and he decided that he would not kick the ball when his friends played soccer, but would just dribble and make short passes. He put the plan into effect the next day, and within a couple of recesses, all was forgiven, and everyone was happy.
Which is probably the way it’s supposed to work, right? Kids should try to work out problems on their own, but when they can’t, parents should help find a constructive solution. So I can’t support banning balls in school. But I do feel for a principal who feels overwhelmed by dozens of similar situations every day, sometimes involving kids who actually do intend some malice, and sometimes with parents who are disengaged. It doesn’t excuse such an overbroad policy: The fact that you can see how anyone might feel driven to do such a thing doesn’t mean that you should actually do it!
* “Kind of awesome,” that is, for an eight-year-old who regularly wears a “Geek Kid” t-shirt, of course. It’s not like we think he’s the next Tim Howard, or are counting on this to pay for college, or whatever. And, yes, there are people we’ve met in travel and premier who are already talking about positioning their 8 and 9 year olds for college scholarships. I am prepared to agree with you that that’s crazy.]]>
Turns out he’s living in New Britain:
After decades of alcohol abuse, Dalkowski lives in Walnut Hill Care Center in New Britain, Conn., a block from the park where he was a high school star and a bonus baby in the mid-1950s.
His story’s a sad one–he hurt his arm in an era before the surgical reconstruction of pitchers’ arms was commonplace–but it’s a treat to know that he’s living here!]]>
The parent survey is labeled “Holmes Brand Survey,” and, after a demographic question about grade-level, the first two questions are . . . wait for it . . . these:
Holmes School focuses on
- Higher Order Thinking Skills
- Science and technology
- Global Community
Holmes School’s (motto/slogan/tagline) is:
- Raising Readers!
- A formula for success!
- Launching Leaders!
- Scholars at Work!
(The answers, for the curious, are “Science and technology” and “A formula for success,” respectively. And, yes, the fact that the correct answers have lower-case words is reproduced faithfully from the handout, as if it’s a tell.)
After these critical questions come more usual questions about whether the child’s being challenged, etc.
I hear the Connecticut State University system is redesigning and standardizing our student evaluations–I think we should look to the public schools! Start all student evaluations (sorry, student opinion surveys [!]) by asking them to correctly identify the motto of the system and of their particular university.* Because that’s what matters in education: maintaining your brand.
*Every single day it amuses me a little that my school’s slogan/motto/tagline (“Start with a dream. Finish with a future.”) is basically indistinguishable from my father’s community college’s (“From here, go anywhere.”). I’m *very* easily amused.]]>
The story, of course, is deeply unfunny. While I’m prepared in theory to agree that throwing money at problems isn’t always a good solution, it does strike me as unreasonable to take a state “Educational Cost Sharing” grant and apply it to . . . tax relief, at a time when the city’s high school risks losing accreditation.
The thing that nearly prevented us from moving to New Britain wasn’t the tax burden, though I recognize it’s relatively high; rather, it was the reputation of the schools, particularly the high school.]]>
I’m excited about a mini-interview with Angus McLaren (author of Impotence: A Cultural History) that I’ll be posting Monday to Re:Print.
Also, yesterday I stopped by the department to retrieve something for A. Since my own office is across campus from my department, it was the first time I’d been by since getting the iPhone. One of the department’s administrative assistants had just gotten a digital camera, and she snapped this picture (t-shirt by 30boxes, the excellent calendar web app):
Then, my chair came bursting out of his office to compare the iPhone with his disposable phone:
Good times. Back to prepping the living room for painting . . .]]>
Patrick’s post today looks at the way the budget processes of the city and the board of education impede the ready flow of resources. Reading the report, I was naturally more drawn to curricular questions (no lab science in 9th & 10th grade!) and opportunities for students. In particular, one bit jumped out:
New Britain High School provides many opportunities for students to extend learning
beyond the normal course offerings and the school campus. Students have the
opportunity to participate in partnership programs with the University of Hartford, St.
Joseph College, and Tunxis Community College. Summer programs such as the Choate
Rosemary Hall Connecticut Scholars Program and the Center for Creative Youth at
Wesleyan University are also available.
If only there were a university in New Britain . . . I am somewhat surprised not to see CCSU in the forefront of this list. I know faculty who have partnered with teachers in Hartford, and I know that there are a lot of CCSU students who work with New Britain rec sports. Plus, there are a pretty fair number of us who live in the city, and many of us have kids.
Then again, some times education people crack me up:
Several teachers report using personal funds to
purchase equipment such as DVD players, TVs, printers, and projectors in order to
deliver the curriculum as written and to allow students to participate as active learners.
I’ve heard that about TVs and DVD players–they definitely “allow students to participate as active learners.”]]>