I Don't Trust You, I Don't Believe in You, I'm Your Teacher.

Today, a teacher and an administrator told my high school child he is not trustworthy or responsible. Then they told me that they HAD to give him that message, it was board policy.

See, he forgot his ID. And at his school they are required to display their identification at all times. He realized this as soon as he got inside the door, and texted me to bring it to him. This was 2 minutes after the doors opened, more than 25 minutes before the school day started. I was still in the car, so I swung back around, and texted him to run out to the car to get it. He tells me he's not allowed.

Not allowed? The school day has not started, how could he be not allowed? He was just sitting in the cafeteria with a ton of other kids for the next 25 minutes. He could avoid a detention easily, just running to the parking lot to grab his ID. Who among us hasn't forgotten something and had to run back in the house in the morning? So I took it up to the office and left it for him. But I wondered...

If he had driven himself to school, and left the ID in the car, would he still not have been trusted to walk the 20 yards from the front door to the parking lot and back? Or would he have to take the detention?

So I asked the principal. I was sure I'd be told my son had misinterpreted what he'd been told. Her reply? Sorry, we are responsible for them once they enter the building; that means we can't let them out of our "supervision". School board says so, it's the law.

Remember, this is high school, not kindergarten.

Here's the policy as written:

Students will be under the supervision of school personnel, either certified or non-certified, at all times, including play periods and lunch periods, as well as during the school day and during extracurricular activities. Supervision by school personnel shall begin thirty (30) minutes before the start of the school day (or event) and end thirty (30) minutes after the end of the school day (or event). The school is not responsible for students outside of these time periods.

The principal shall assign students to school personnel and ensure proper supervision.

A broad mandate. And necessarily so. After all, supervising a pre-schooler is very different than supervising an eighteen-year-old voter with a driver’s license. But I don't see anything in that policy that says we can't use good judgment.

Obviously we don't line our high school classes up in the hall outside the restrooms and make them go in by twos to use the facilities twice a day. That would be silly, waste time, and not accomplish a greater degree of safety or teach them how to better manage their bodies.

Obviously we don't make them take a buddy when running the attendance packet to the office or doing other errands for teachers and administrators to keep them from dawdling.

So we are already applying this policy by using good judgment to institute age-appropriate procedures. Still, it seems to me that this "supervision" is a little selective.

When we give a student a hall pass to get themselves to class late, are they not out of direct supervision? When we ask a student to run an errand for the office or for a teacher, aren't they out of direct supervision? Yet, when it is outside of school hours, and the student requests to undertake an errand on school grounds, he can't because he must be "supervised"?

So if it benefits a teacher or administrator, it's ok, but if it benefits the student it is not?

What does this say to our kids? That they are untrustworthy. That they must be monitored every moment lest they somehow stray terribly. That they are not capable of being responsible for their actions.

My friends who teach at the local two-year and four-year colleges tell me they've never seen kids come to school less well prepared to manage their lives. They expect to be monitored constantly and told how to prepare. They are not capable of organizing themselves or taking responsibility for their lives.

Now I know why, we are teaching them exactly that every day.

"You can't possibly dress yourself respectably, let us tell you exactly what types of fabric your clothes should be made of, how high to button your shirt, and that stripe on your sweater will keep you from learning, so don't wear it." (Strict dress code, unevenly enforced).

"You can't eat lunch outside in the sunshine; you might make a break for it or something! Or leave some trash. Or talk too loud. Or act silly. Or something else we haven't thought of, so we won't take any chances." (Silent lunches, not being allowed to leave the cafeteria at lunch).

"You can't be trusted to run out to the car and back, you might leave the school grounds!" (Funny, the kids who skip classes still manage to do so despite all this "supervision". How's that workin' for ya?)

Those of us who are parents know that the way to build responsible young adults is to give them responsibility and let them fail. When they fail we let them suffer the consequences of that failure. Then give them more responsibility and see if they learned from their failure. Sometimes they have to fail multiple times before they learn, but our job is to keep trying until they get it.

Our schools have decided to stop trying.

They would rather tell our children that they are incapable, irresponsible people that require minute direction, strict controls and constant supervision.

Is that the best message we can send our kids? Do you want young people in your workplace who have been told, year after year, that they are incapable of responsible action? Do you want someone influential in your child’s life giving them that message, loud and clear, every day?

I think we can do better.

 

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