Schools should come with warning labels…

There will be no change at my daughters’ school.

There will be no education revolution.

Sorry…this post might be depressing, and will probably reflect my current emotional state, but not a permanent one…I hope.  And I apologize before you start reading, because I do not intend this post to be a reflection of all schools, just the ones that I am most familiar with.

For the last couple of months my wife and I (much more my wife than I) have been working diligently to prevent a ticket based reward system from coming to Bethany Community School. There have been blogs, Facebook pages, and many face-to-face conversations and emails.  After reading about how it is used in other schools we thought there was no way the administrators could push this by the Board of Education without them examining it closely—this would be the first they heard of it even though the school had bought the program and had been training a select group of teachers.  After the Board of Education meeting last night I have learned that there is little or no hope for change…no hope for a revolution.  There were six people who attended the meeting and spoke out against the ticket system…three were from our family.  My daughter wrote a wonderful speech and at 11 years old stood with much more courage than her father or mother, and told of stories of how ticket systems damaged her at school.  Afterwards an administrator implied she was lying by saying those things do not happen in 6th grade…I guess my daughter needed to specifically say they happened in 4th and 5th grade to be seen as telling the truth.

Here is what I leaned from the experience of trying to change a school program:

Teachers cannot make system changes from within because they fear repercussions from administrators and from fellow teachers.

Administrators will do their best to squash any opposing viewpoints from parents, teachers, or children.

Board of Education members simply rubber stamp anything that the administration gives them.  They will not ask any probing questions.  They obviously see anyone speaking(so few do) at meetings as crazy and their opinions should be disregarded.

Children are seen as non-compliant and whiny when they try to voice their opinions.  They are not valued — for the human beings they are, or as future adults, but should remain obedient children

A Parent who speaks up is seen as the crazy person.  So much so that speaking up might hasten a change in the opposite direction of what they are trying to do!

I have learned that parents simply don’t care about what happens in a school. Yes, everyone says that you have to build a groundswell of support and then things can change.  Unfortunately I feel as though any parent group going up against the school system would be like an army with bayonets, going up against an army with machine guns.  Yes, the parents could win, but you would need hundreds that would be willing to get shot down, so that eventually some could make it into the “fort.” (Ever see the movie Glory?)  And so they will not speak up.  They will not attend meetings.  They will not take on the system that has worked so hard to teach them that they are suppose to stay in compliance.  Once parents walk into a school they revert to being children and just sit-up, and shut their mouths.  I have done it so many times myself.

The reality is, that each year we think “don’t fight this year” or “there are only a couple of months left and things will get better next year.”  And then after a couple years of that…”don’t bother fighting because she only has one year left in the school.”  It is so much easier to avoid getting shot and not battle.  Unfortunately, that leaves the kids in the crosshairs of the school to take all the bullets.  When our kids come home riddled with bullets we brush it off as friendly fire.  The reality is their hearts and minds are getting murdered, and the people that are supposed to be lovingly guiding my child into adulthood are the ones who are doing the shooting.

Schools should come with warning labels.

What would the label on your school say? (positive labels encouraged)

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