Teacher’s Corner: About Home Office and Assorted People you Have to Deal With

Schools here were closed about two months ago on a Friday. Thursday night the powers that be proclaimed they would stay open, driving to work on Friday morning I heard that we were closing on the news. Nevermind that the official announcement only came at 12:00 o’clock, we spent the whole morning frantically trying to put together lesson plans, material, information etc., while halve our kids hadn’t even come that morning anyway.

Since then we’ve been trying with more or less success to teach our kids remotely (not easy when some of them don’t even have a smartphone) and keep in contact. Which means a lot of communication. Believe me, I’ve never been as busy and with normal school days disbanded, there seems to be no point at which your work actually stops. All of this requires effort on all sides. These are just a few tales of how not to.

Parents:

Informing schools of your current phone number or even address is overrated. Complain loudly about not having been contacted once you bother to call school.

Call after two months of closure to inform us that your kid didn’t get the worksheets on the last day of classes (I do remember that I sent him home early. He’d threatened to beat me).

Calling back is overrated as well. Feel neglected at the same time.

Kids:

Play dumb. If you’re lucky your parents will believe you. Like when you’re supposed to hand in your work via WhatsApp and your mum texts the teacher on WhatsApp, telling her that the poor lad couldn’t find the teacher on WhatsApp.

The worksheet that is uploaded for your group has a different class label. Claim you had no idea that you were supposed to do that, even though it was uploaded under “Lessons for class XYZ”

Colleagues:

You’ve got quite some health conditions but you’d never say “can I please not have to come in for the risky work. Let your colleagues worry and arrange schedules around you.

Here I need to fill in a bit of background. A colleague, let’s call them L, has been on sick leave for quite a while now and they still will be for a time to come. They were the tutor of a very difficult class, a situation that wasn’t improved by the long absence of their main teacher. Said colleague was the German and English teacher and just before Corona hit we had finally put up a plan which colleagues were supposed to teach them for the rest of the year. I’m not one of them because I’m not a regular teacher, but with the colleagues not having met the class yet, I took over during the last weeks. It was little work for German because they’re doing a reading diary, and more for English. Now that we’re partially up again I have a lot on my plate already, and now the reading diaries have to be handed in and evaluated (there won’t be grades, but there should at east be feedback), so I called the colleague who was supposed to take over the class in German. They are still in home office with no actual class, because they are very vulnerable and have enough preexisting conditions for three more people to stay at home. If I bring them the diaries, could they please evaluate them? “Sure, of course”, they generously said. “Just drop them off”. “Oh, and by the way, who’s actually their German teacher?”

YouTube Video: DELIBERATE DESTRUCTION – Film and TV weapons

I found this video to be informative and interesting, as well as very painful to watch. I cannot imagine doing something like this to a knife that I have spent several days making. I would do it if I got paid and the destruction were for a purpose, as it is in this case, but even so – ouchouchouch…

Teacher’s Corner: Homeschooling

Content note: Child abuse

Homeschooling is generally illegal in Germany and the longer Corona goes on, the clearer those reasons become.

A)For one thing, not all homes have the same resources. Right now you notice a stark difference in what schools can do with remote teaching. Some schools, mostly “Gymnasien” which are the elite schools in the horribly stratified German school system with a generally well off clientele are doing some fantastic things with Google Teams and all that shit. Us? Not so much. We made sure we contacted all families individually to make sure they can access learning material. In some cases that means that I print that shit out at home and send it off by mail. I’m currently telling myself that the cost is set off by not having to commute, but of course not all teachers will do that. And that’s just accessing learning material. Children still need support and an occasional explanation. I’m a teacher and kind of a “Jane of all trades” since in special ed you teach basically all subjects, though the focus is usually on Maths and German, neither of which are the subjects I actually studied. Not only do I learn easily and have years of training in teaching, but also in learning, so I know where to find resources if I’m stuck. Like yesterday when I had to do a quick recap in mechanics before working on it with #1.

Many of my students’ parents didn’t finish even the lowest school leaving cert themselves. For them school was not a good place and they are not able to do the schoolwork themselves, let alone explain it. Many don’t speak German (well) and at least one single mum is illiterate. Homeschooling massively increases injustices in education. Kids of well off, well educated parents keep learning. On the whole their situation is much less stressful right now. My kids have different rooms, there’s a garden I can send them to, for now I don’t have to worry about money or food and we have plenty of entertainment.

B) Parents are not teachers. Not even the parents who actually are teachers. Parents and teachers have different roles and relationships with a child and each of these relationships has a different conflicts. For one thing, while I am very involved in my students’ wellbeing and care for them a lot, they cannot hurt me emotionally in a profound way. While they can annoy me and even make me angry at times, I generally don’t take it personally (they often do, but they’re teenagers so they take the weather personally as well). There’s the kid who has called me all kinds of names and I frankly care more about him getting his anger under control because once he leaves school he’ll be in a hell lot of trouble for calling his boss a b*tch. With my kids things are very different. They can hurt me. they can make me worry on a whole different level. And vice versa. If I teach them at home and there’s some problem and some fight over schoolwork, they cannot go home to a safe place afterwards and complain about fucking Ms Giliell. And right now, having a safe place is much more important than ever. This would always be a problem with homeschooling, but in the current crisis, the relationship between parents and their children is so crucial, it cannot be sacrificed to algebra. When I talk to parents on the phone I tell them that this is the most important thing. School will still be there after Corona. Maths will still be there. But their relationship might not be.

C) Some teachers just don’t get it. While across the country teachers are (rightfully) snickering at parents who are currently finding out that maybe the teacher isn’t the problem, there are also teachers who show no understanding for the problems I talked about in 1 and 2. There’s a video I’ve been sent where a teen dressed up as a teacher is going “oh, homework will help them so here’s my Corona remote teaching: Do every single task and exercise from page 1 to 349! This will be graded”. My social media is full with parents being desperate about not meeting deadlines and kids crying about schoolwork.

Yesterday I was like “are they fucking kidding me” when I printed out #1’s science lessons. Not only does the teacher expect people to have a colour printer, they also expect to learn all of mechanics all by themselves. These kids have never had even the most basic lesson about power, force, mass etc. and all those other important concepts you need to understand shit like levers and stuff. Nobody is telling me that they would have been able to cover all of that in 7 lessons at school. And honestly, I needed 30 minutes of preparation before I was safe enough in using the correct terms. I also bribed her, saying that her Easter gift would come as soon as we finished this because I know that this is the thing she likes the least and she’s struggling anyway, not because she’s having trouble grasping those ideas, but because she’s on the spectrum and needs her clear structure.

Apart from that it’s difficult for teachers to asses if their worksheets are working. In class I can read the room. I can see on the faces whether something makes “click” or not, I know where to look (Is little Jeanie still paying attention and what do I need to do to get her attention). With remote learning there’s little chance of that. Many kids will ask in class, but not write an email. And yeah, even veteran teachers occasionally produce bad material. To be honest, with #1’s physics worksheets I was occasionally wondering what they want me to do. And next on the list is calculating “work”. The formula remains obscure. It has not appeared in the book pages she’s supposed to read or the worksheets up to date. She will learn about it at some later time. I’m not sure if spoilers should be a thing in physics.

And this is the most damning point: child abuse:

D) In schools, daycare, all those institutions, people see kids every day. We notice if kids don’t have food. We notice if they have bruises. I remember a mother who accused us of not having noticed sooner that her daughter was cutting herself (after we informed her, the mother, who shares a household with her daughter). We notice if they don’t have clothes or don’t come to school at all because they need to “take care” of their parents who struggle and don’t manage to give their kids the care they need. Occasionally we just plain feed them. I sometimes complain about the days when I spend more time with adults on the phone than with kids in the classroom, talking to CPS, social workers, therapists. I write “notifications of child endangerment”. None of this is happening right now. CPS is mostly shut down right now. They cannot visit families at home. If they have concrete evidence, they can send the police who are absolutely not trained in those matters (and ironically kids in good middle class homes are most at danger here because if police come to a nice home with well fed kids they won’t do shit.) All of this is happening while people are packed in bad living conditions, struggling financially. Many charities have stopped working while some still try do give at least some support. Children are no longer getting meals at school. Welfare money is already not enough and now those families lose that safe 1 buck hot meal that their children got so far. In some schools it’s even more as for example the special eds centre I belong to (but don’t work at) offers free breakfast as well. We know that while there#s never an excuse for beating your kids, such situations lead to an increase in violence. We have already seen this in China, and children are the most vulnerable. As one CPS worker who still staffs the crisis hotline said: “a four years old can’t dial my number.”

Teacher’s Corner: Teaching Languages

By Source, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=58710265

Cover of one of the most prestigious English Grammars

My blogging colleague Andreas Avester has written an interesting post on learning languages and what he found worked best for him. He raises several good and interesting points, others that I disagree with, and some that made me plain wonder about his university instructors. As you may remember, i am, in my heart of hearts, a language teacher. I currently rarely have the opportunity to teach foreign languages, and I am happy being a teacher no matter what, because I always teach kids first and subjects second, but this also means that I got the full training of a language teacher.

 

Language teaching has its history, just like all of teaching has and language teaching started out as Latin and Old Greek. For a long time these were the only languages a young man of renown would come in contact with, until the kids of the Bourgeoisie needed some modern languages to do trade. For a long time, Latin was the lingua franca ( a language used by two people of different native languages. Both Andreas and I use English as a lingua franca here), then French. German used to dominate the sciences but now the world speaks English.

Nevertheless, as modern language teaching rose in the wake of the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution, it simply took the Grammar Translation Approach from Latin and applied it to modern languages. And it’s damn amazing how long and how much of it is still present. When Andreas talks about having to memorize grammar tables and vocabulary lists, thank the fucking Romans.

Another approach was the Native Speaker Approach. This had its basis not in science or education but in the British Council’s need to find employment for tons of well educated Brits. The central paradigm is that nobody can teach a language like a native speaker. As a native speaker who taught her native language as a second language (and who still does) I call this bullshit. Native speakers often have very little abstract knowledge of their own languages and when I first did this I was very hard pressed by the most simple questions my students asked.

In Germany the Audiovisual Approach was in vogue following WWII when the West needed tons of translators for the American Forces and all the schools and universities got audio labs where you’d sit and listen to tapes and repeat the sentences. Mind you, those still have a part in phonetics training.

When I went to school the aim was to have “near native speaker competence” and the methods still echoed the old grammar translation approach. My English teacher (a full grown bully and bastard) used the following: whenever we had a unit text we had to copy the text into our workbooks and then translate the text. We also had to use file cards for our vocabulary. Front: English, back: German. I got into lots of trouble for refusing to do most of it, because at 12 I could already detect bullshit when I saw it and I developed some deep hatred for file cards. It took me 10 years to discover that they can be wonderful learning tools.

Grammar was taught deductively: The teacher explained the rule, then we applied the rule. Fun fact: the books were already geared towards inductive teaching, but most teachers are at least two generations behind in their teaching. They learn their teaching from some old geezer who teaches what was the current approach back when they were young and since many teachers think they know everything they never bothered to update their teaching.

Some time during my baby break the paradigm shifted again: Now the aim is to create an intercultural speaker: Somebody who cannot just speak another language, but who is also verse in the target culture or has at least a set of tools that allows them to notice cultural misunderstandings and navigate those pitfalls. The methods that are currently favoured are: task based, competence oriented, inductive. I’ll come to all of them in detail.

Andreas describes how he learned languages the best: not in school, but in contact with speakers of the target language:

By the time I was twelve years old, I got a Russian speaking friend. While we were playing hide-and-seek, whenever she found me, she would say the phrase “я тебя нашла” (“I found you”). Whenever I found her, I just repeated the same phrase. I wasn’t thinking about the fact that I used the verb “to find” in past tense. I wasn’t thinking about the various forms of pronouns. Instead I was repeating the words after her and using the language in order to communicate. In the process, I learned the language, I also learned the grammar rules.

What Andreas describes here is what we call “language acquisition”: it’s a natural process that we all undergo when we learn our native language. It’s also something that happens when we learn secondary or foreign languages and it is the reason why your truly will use perfect American idioms pronounced in the nicest British RP you can imagine. As Andreas says, we don’t consciously learn any rules when we do that, but we do learn the rules. That’s why all kids will form ungrammatical sentences in their native language where they’re applying the wrong rule. A typical example in English would be “sheeps” or “he catched me”.

In language teaching this approach is described as as providing a “language bath”: give the student as much input as possible and language acquisition is what follows. Now, while this obviously worked a treat for Andreas, this often has issues when applied to teaching. First of all, we get 4, maybe 5 hours of language classes a week. We are not in the target culture, we have one person competent in the target language in the classroom,  so it’s hard to “recreate” that natural acquisition. And also, this doesn’t work for everybody. I have migrant kids in my classes who, despite having been immersed in German language and culture and classes for two, three years, have not learned more than a few chunks. One approach never works for all.

Andreas said he had to take a class on how to teach foreign languages and that he keeps disregarding everything he learned there, which makes me wonder: what do they teach those kids at school?

In order to get my master’s degree in German philology, I had to take university courses about how to teach languages and also how to create language courses. As you can see, when I actually worked as a language teacher, I threw out of the window some of said ideas that my professors had taught me.

Here’s how I learned to teach a language: Create a context where the kids will want/need to use the new words/structures. So we create a shopping situation (numbers, prices, stationary, polite forms). Maybe bring the articles to class. I even have some British play money for real fake shopping. Demonstrate the forms, let them discover the words (hold up a pen when you say “pen”) , let them practise the new words and forms in a variety of contexts. One exercise my students really liked was as a quick succession of very short dialogues with a new structure. We do shopping? The kids get a card with the item they need on the front and the price on the back. They walk through the classroom and practise with a classmate:

“How can I help you?”

“I need two pencils, please”

“That’s 2.50”

“Here you are”

Then they do the classmate’s dialogue, swap cards, go to the next classmate, rinse and repeat. This gives them a lot of practise and they can practise with their peers (rather than having to speak in front of the class).

And grammar? Well, you still need to learn it. Not all kids learn rules intuitively. there are kids you can make absolutely unhappy with the answer “you just have to learn it” when they’re asking why on earth it is “caught” and not “catched” and there is no rule which verbs are strong verbs and which ones are not. In my experience they are very happy in Latin classes (which I almost failed spectacularly). If possible grammar is inductive: I give examples of a new structure, the kids find the rule. After 10 sentences “I like dogs, I don’t like slugs, I like horses, I don’t like bugs” most kids can tell you that to negate a sentence you need “don’t”.

To summarize, current language teaching prioritises tasks, active usage, cultural competences and lots of language input. Some good old-fashioned drill exercises still have their place, but a small one.

Teacher’s Corner: Why I Prefer to be Pseudonymous

On my last post about a mother sharing my private phone number with her son, brucegee1962 remarked the following:

I would never put anything on any social media that I wouldn’t want my students to come across.
This is why, aside from anonymously commenting on other peoples’ blogs, I don’t use any social media.

Obviously I have a different opinion here, and I really wanted to reply to this, but then I thought it deserves its own blogpost. This is in no way meant as a take down of brucegee1962 but an explanation of why I think having a pseudonym is a good thing for a teacher.

  1. Maintaining a professional relationship

It’s not that I’m in any way ashamed of what I write. It’s just that it’s occasionally very personal. I’m not one of those teachers who jealously guard every titbit of their personal lives. I always found that type to be quite stuck up when I was a kid myself. I share certain general information like my family status, I chat with kids about hobbies and movies. There’s a bunch of teenage boys who also play Pokémon Go. I occasionally will also tell them about times when I had problems or felt bad, because we’re all humans and I want them to know that it’s ok to have problems and that you can still make it. But we are not friends, we are just friendly. On here I will talk about health, grumble about Mr, share anecdotes  about my own kids, and occasionally well cover issues like sex and pregnancy and childbirth. While there’s nothing bad about these topics, they’re pretty intimate and nothing I want some teenage boys to know.

 

  1. Protecting my students

Writing pseudonymously means that my students are also not identifiable. This allows me to talk about some cases, to raise awareness to issues concerning education, abuse and child welfare. Just take the easy case of yesterday’s post: If I wrote this under my legal name, the kid would be identifiable. Instead of me complaining about a breach of trust on part of a parent and raising awareness about the issue of parents disrespecting a teacher’s privacy, I would be publicly shaming a kid whose friends and family could all read about it.  And that’s just the easy case and not cases where I talk about abuse and such. If I ever outed a kid like that I would and should lose my job. But we need to talk about these issues, so I will do so as Giliell.

 

  1. Protecting myself

Well, they’re teens. Not exactly the kind of people with the best decision making skills. Occasionally a kid will be angry with me and I really don’t want to have my Twitter mass reported and permabanned because I gave somebody detention. While I talk with the kids about Pokémon I won’t tell them my team or my name. And that’s just the kids and not their parents. We’ve had an older brother chasing the principal around school and the family of an expelled student making threats so they were only allowed to pick up his stuff with the police present.

 

  1. Nazis

Sadly, in 2020 that’s an issue. The right wing AfD has several portals where you can “report” teachers for being “too left” (i.e. not a Nazi and standing up against them). And while the school I work at has a high proportion of migrant kids, it is also in a place with a serious Nazi problem, the kind of Nazis with motorbikes and baseball bats. They know that I won’t let their kids use slurs or racially abuse the other kids. I guess I’m not on their Christmas Cards List.

 

I hope this makes clear why I don’t want my students to discover my online presence. Not because I’m ashamed, but because it’s better for all of us.

Teacher’s Corner: She did what?

Many things happened since the last Teacher’s Corner. I don’t always have the time or energy or emotional strength to post about them, because mostly they involve vulnerable kids in difficult situations. Today’s story is a different one. It’s one about a good kid from a good family (whatever that means) and a serious WTF moment.

Some of the boys in grade seven told me today that their classmate J (home sick) has my WhatsApp number. I was like “yeah, you’re kidding”. I thought they tried to provoke me, with J being at home and not there to defend himself, but then they went on describing my profile image in detail, and while “you with your family” may still be part of cold reading, “with some blue box around you” really isn’t.

I went straight to the phone to call his parents because I had no clue where he could have gotten hold of my private mobile number. the father cleared up the matter: two years ago we had a charity run through the local woods and as part of our volunteer group, his mum had access to my phone number. She’d then passed it on to her darling teenage son “in case of an emergency”* and left it at that.

Now I can only hope that he just bragged about it without sharing it. I’d hate it if I’d have to get a new number. But I know why “dual sim” was another criterion for the new phone.

Just in case any parents ever wonder why teachers are sometimes “like that”. Even if you are the nicest, most trustworthy people, your fellow parents have ruined it for good.

Teacher’s Corner: Fuck Childhood Poverty

Childhood poverty is something teachers get confronted with. Or some teachers get confronted with. The stratified German school system has long been linked to perpetuating social stratification. The high school I used to work at was a place that rather confronted you with childhood richness, despite being in one of the most downtrodden towns in Germany: Now at my comprehensive school the matter is a different issue. Many of the kids there are poor, and poverty has many aspects and layers. And some of the layers are more obvious than others. A lot of it is hidden. Nobody notices that a child never has any fruit because you don’t check all the food they’re eating. But you learn to notice the kids who either devour the free school fruit or look sceptically at pineapples because they have no clue what those are. And you learn to notice the kids whose clothing may be impeccably clean but is always the same. A kid tripped and tore her jacket. Now she has to tape it. The kids who will cry if some utensil breaks. Or those who are mysteriously ill just when there’s a class trip that is not free.

As a teacher you either get a heart of stone or you quitly spend a lot of money out of your own pocket. With a stash of stationery. With the winter coat that you kept for kid #2. With bake sales to raise funds for class trips.

For most kids*, childhood poverty in Germany may not be as bad as childhood poverty is in the US, at least they get more or less enough food, shelter and healthcare, but it’s devastating nonetheless. So if you want to support kids and do some good for the upcoming holidays: ask your local schools if they need anything. Here many schools have a “clothes shop” where kids can get stuff, ask if they need school supplies or maybe craft supplies from a hobby you no longer enjoy.

 

 

*A big exception here are EU migrants whose parents don’t have a job. I wrote about this before

Teacher’s Corner: How Bizarre

That’s like the only word I have for the last week.

By now you know my job is hard and stressful and you got to deal with lots of things that are often outside of everyday experience, but I think that last week took the cake.

I truly don’t remember much of Monday. Must have been a normal kind of day. I know I made it out while it was light and went for a walk. On Tuesday we had a “class day” and decided to talk about mobbing and violence with one of our classes. I think some important talks happened (one result being that when being aske4d anonymously, most kids wish for a quiet atmosphere and a good class community), but I didn’t stay till the end, because I had to ride the ambulance with one of the kids.

On Wednesday, one of my charges lost whatever self-control he has. Again. the kid is one of these cases where we’ll have to say that we cannot keep him. He’s deeply traumatised, lacks any kind of coping strategies and is always like a pressure pot ready to explode. He needs some good therapy and a different school setting with more resources than we have. The day before he had a fight with another kid and was ready to continue on Wednesday. After he attacked that kid twice within two minutes, I sent him home for the day. This was the “wrong” thing to do. he absolutely likes being in school with his friends, but we cannot spend the whole day stopping him from attacking other kids. As a result he started throwing chairs and books. I got to hear whatever slur there is and he smartly and shortly stopped himself from throwing his pencil case at me. Though that’s kind of a usual day.

We almost made it through Thursday but shortly towards the end, three girls (grade 6) told us that another girl (also grade 6) had told them that she was pregnant. It was too late in the day to talk to that girl, so me and the social worker decided to talk to her on Friday.

On Friday that girl told us she had only been playing “truth or consequences” at the youth club, and inspired by another girl (grade 7) who might actually be pregnant (stay tuned as we’ll find out this week). She kindly offered me to come to the bathroom to show me her period when she’s getting it at the end of the month. I might have slightly lost it internally at that point. Our social worker and I are still a bit puzzled. We think she might have enjoyed being the centre of the whole school’s attention, because she’s usually a girl who doesn’t get much of it.

So if anybody ever tells you that teachers just need to know their subject, kindly hit them over the head with information.

Anyway, here’s some music to match the post:

Teacher’s Corner: In case you’ve been wondering…

In plain text, for when Twitter fucks up.

A teacher’s day:
We write a class test. A student goes to the toilet. he returns 5 min later, sweaty and out of breath. There’s dog shit on his shoes. He smears it all over the floor, 2 chairs and a table.

The first kids finish the test. I tell a student to stay in his seat and not talk to another student (I told them to bring something to occupy themselves with) because others are still writing. He yells at me and runs out of the room. Everything smells of dog shit

I spend my break supervising the dog shit student. He has no explanation for how this happened. I need to call his mum.

I’m supporting a trainee teacher. After he tells some students to stay after the bell has rung, one of them kicks my rucksack. I spend my next break coaching the young colleague on classroom management.

School’s over, but I still have a parent teacher talk scheduled. After the parent doesn’t arrive, my colleague phones him. He thought it was in an hour! He’s on his way. I use the opportunity to go to another parent teacher talk. I should really be in two places at once.

Talks went well, parents have gone home. I phone the mum of the temper tantrum kid. She more or less throws her own tantrum. Her poor boy is always picked on! Teachers never do anything about the things the kid doesn’t tell us because teachers never do anything. Makes sense

It’s three o’clock now. My breakfast is still in front of me. I really need to write a report but thankfully my principal postpones the meeting until Monday. And it’s not even the worst day of the week. Except for the dog shit.

The Art of Book Design: The Green Forest Fairy Book

 

Loretta Ellen Brady. The Green Forest Fairy Book. Illustrations by Alice B. Preston. Boston, Little Brown & Co., 1920.

I’ve included all the colour plates in this book below the fold. The drawings are done in a limited palate in the Art Nouveau style and I think the artwork is charming.

[Read more…]

Teacher’s Corner: School’s out for Summer!!!

Let’s start with the obvious sentiment:

The last day of school was on Friday and now we’re all free for six wonderful weeks of holiday. The last week was damn hot and since we had a lot of excursions planned it was also exhausting.

There were report cards on Friday and one of the boys did absolutely not agree with his grade for behaviour and thought he deserved a better grade. To inform us of this great injustice he yelled swear words, threw things through the classroom and kicked over the dustbin. That particular kid often feels like Pratchett’s Carcer in the making and it’s our job to try and prevent it.

My own kids’ report cards were something to brag about, with one “C” in PE between the two of them.

Now for the first time in my life I also get paid for the summer holidays, which is a nice thing to have. On Sunday we set out for Spain, so don’t expect me to catch up on my blogging duties soon ;)

Teacher’s Corner: The Girl who Cried Wolf

We all know the story of the boy who cried wolf, which, in one version or the other is something adults tell children to warn them about the danger of lying or making up emergencies when there are none. The adults never bother to sit down and think about how fucked up the story and its message are, because if they did, they’d tell it to adults to warn about a different danger.

The boy who cried wolf is sent out to herd life stock, but children aren’t meant to be alone al day, they need company, they need intellectual stimulation, so the kid makes up stories to get people to pay attention to him. When he does so repeatedly, none of the adults asks “but why does he keep calling us, what does he actually need?” I know, the story is supposed to play in olden times when people didn’t give a fuck about the needs of children, but it’s told by adults today so I think the criticism is fair.

Instead, the adults decide to no longer pay attention to the kid at all, with the catastrophic result that we all know, and then the blame is put on the kid and not the adults who failed to keep him safe. This thinking has consequences, and it can have catastrophic consequences here and now. Slight CN for predatory behaviour.

Some kids at our school live in group homes. On Friday, those kids came to us and told us that on their way to school, three men in a red car had bothered them and talked to them and that they were afraid, with one of the girls being in tears. I called the group home to inform them about the incident and make sure the kids would be picked up after school so they were safe. The head of the home asked me which kids were affected and I told him the names, randomly starting with L. “Oh, you know”, he said, “we’re having some difficulties with L right now”. Man, do I know? I see L every day, I know she’s got her issues. “She likes to make up stories”. “I know”, I said, “but H, B and A are telling the same story.”

That was enough to convince him and they sent somebody to pick up the kids. Now imagine a world that was the exact same, except that H, B and A were with their families. In which L had been the only child those men in the car bothered. A world in which her story had been treated as “the girl who cried wolf” and they had left her alone without protection. Because she’s a kid who is in a difficult situation, who likes to make herself seem more important by making up stories.

So, dear adults, here’s the real morale of the story: When a child says they’re in danger, you run. If a child has made up stories about danger 99 times, you still run when they cry danger the 100th time. And then you sit the fuck down and think long and hard about why the kid is making up stories and you talk to the kid and try to find a way for them to deal with their issues that does not result in fake alarms. You do NOT handwave away a report about predatory men because of who made the report. If you want to talk to children about why making false alarms is bad, tell them that they’re wasting the time of the rescue services and that this may be dangerous to somebody else who is in real danger. The story about the boy who cried wolf is a story about adults failing their duty to keep children safe, so if you want to keep telling it, tell it to each other.