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.
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 ;)
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.
Every couple of months it seems a certain debate flares up on my Twitter and it keeps annoying me. It keeps being brought up by people whom I generally highly respect, who are usually kick ass feminists and right in so many things, except this one that drives me up the wall: The great debate of titles.
It usually goes like this: If somebody has a title like “Dr.” or “Prof.”, you must use them.The arguments brought forward are sound at first glance: too often women and people of colour are denied their credentials. While a (white) man is introduced as “Dr. So and So”, a woman is much more likely to be introduced as “Ms. This and That” or even by her first name. We’ve all seen this play out with the Clintons, who are “Clinton” and “Hillary”. This portrays these people as less competent, their voice having less value and them being less worthy of respect.
Another one is that marginalised people who hold these positions have overcome significant obstacles to reach them. They’ve fought an uphill battle against sexism and racism all the way and had to work much harder than the white guy who then gets paid respect by being addressed as “Dr.” while they’re not.
While both points are true on the surface, they both rely on the very premise that people with a PhD are indeed worthy of more respect than others and leaves a hierarchy that has racism and sexism and especially classism built into its very foundation intact because now those people are at the top of said hierarchy and would like to stay there, thank you very much.
Academic titles have been historically part of the self understanding of the bourgeoisie. Look, they said, we have titles as well, and ours are earned. For a long time, in many places, a PhD was a requisite for becoming someone in politics. They were supposed to show that this person was really fit to rule, a title that belonged to the new ruling class, and much like noble titles, they are inherited. Congratulations if you are the first in the family, if you are a minority that used to be cut off such opportunities, yet the overwhelming majority of people in that group come from homes where usually the father holds a PhD as well. the further up you go, the more they become. By insisting on the great importance of your title, you’re staking an allegiance and it’s not one with the communities that brought you forth.
Academic titles do grant people privileges. They, and only they (plus priests), are usually allowed to use their titles as part of their name and they demand and are awarded special respect. My brother in law has a PhD. From his own experience, waiting times for medical appointments and in the waiting room have become drastically shorter since he introduces himself as “Dr.”, but then he gets to spend more time with the actual doctor. The peons can wait. Many of the privileges will be more subtle and as usually the privileged don’t actually see them.
Academic titles are the only ones that become names. Many other people also work hard for their qualifications, often for similar lengths of time. In Germany, where professions are highly regulated everybody who finished successful training has a professional title. Mine is “Assessorin des Lehramtes” and yes, I have a document that shows it and specifically grants permission to use that title. Craftspeople have titles, especially the masters. Yet only a small minority of people are granted the right to use their titles in their names and daily lives. Insisting on them further perpetuates the idea that those other professions, teaching, crafts, nursing, etc. are of lesser value and the people who do them less worthy of respect, which leads me to my next point:
Academic titles do not make you worthy of more respect and the only reason why people can disrespect you by not using them is because you think you deserve some extra special respect. Names and naming are tools of power. We’ve probably all had the teacher who decided to use something different for our name, yet we couldn’t get away with some nickname. When transphobes refuse to use somebody’s real name and pronouns, they’re showing power. This isn’t about respect and decency, it’s about demonstrating power. Scandinavia doesn’t crumble down because most people there just use first name (always somewhat confusing for people from more uptight places when the doctor introduces himself as “Sven” and the calls the patient “Lina”). Using your partner or children’s first name doesn’t show you don’t respect them. At least it shouldn’t.
Academic titles also don’t make you an expert, except in very narrow areas. Remember my BIL, the one with the PhD? He’s a biologist. He once famously claimed that leopards and cheetahs are the same animals. Also caribous roam the African Savannah. Family joke is that if you present him with a horse, a donkey and a zebra he’ll have to do a gene test to identify them. In short, he knows the general stuff every graduate learned and then he learned a great bunch of stuff in a very narrow field. I don’t have to take his opinion more seriously on any other subject than Hepatitis, yet somehow a PhD is supposed to grant him exactly that authority. He also believed in crystals on the top of the monitor preventing headaches…
To finally sum it up, academic titles are a tool of the ruling class to strengthen their position and further the idea that they are simply better people, more worths of respect and better treatment whose opinion should be taken as authority. They are used to exclude marginalised people and their voices from discourse, since they’re lacking “proper qualifications”. While I understand the great personal satisfaction of having gained such a title despite all odds, and the frustration of people then still excluding them from their special club, you cannot dismantle those systems by insisting that you’re really part of the club now and be awarded the privileges that come with it.
As a final note, I’d still recommend you always use those titles if you are a student because apparently those people are very touchy about it and can fuck up your academic career. So much for Foucault’s production of docile bodies…
I’m home today, with the Little One having caught a stomach bug and me not being sure if I caught it as well, or was simply feeling sick from having to do the cleaning up and not sleeping all night, so I called in sick.
So I’ve got some time for a post that has been stewing in my mind for a while, on some pretty toxic notions of parenting and raising kids who fail.
One of the ingredients was a tweet on German Twitter where a woman posted that “kids don’t need boundaries, all they need is that you love them enough and they will always behave”. In the further discussion she doubled and trippled down, linking all unwanted behaviours to lack of love. Your kids eats chocolate cake instead of dinner? You don’t love them enough? (Also, healthy eating is overrated, we’ll come back to this) You disagree with this person? It’s because mummy (!) didn’t love you enough. Whatever goes wrong, it’s ultimately the fault of the parents, especially the mothers, who didn’t love their children enough.
Do I have to explain why such an idea is toxic and destroys all healthy parent-child relationships? If the blame for inappropriate behaviour ultimately resides with your lack of love, then you must at all cost prevent that behaviour. This usually means removing al sources of possible conflict, often by fulfilling your child’s every wish and desire. If a temper tantrum over no ice cream means you don’t love your child, you give them ice cream. Here we come back to what I wrote above, because the person literally said that i should just let the child eat the cake, nutrition is overrated anyway. This is the second coping mechanism of this philosophy: move the goalposts. Everybody who ever parented knows that your kid will still show behaviours that are inappropriate. Even if you obey their every command, they will have temper tantrums because the world does not indeed revolve around them and most of them will still eat sweets, no matter how much you love them. Therefore, the behaviour that was a sign of lack of love a minute ago is redefined as benign.
And as an aside, some people are just damn lucky and have children who hardly need any parenting at all. I know this because I have one. I also have one who needs a lot of parenting. And I don’t love the former more than the latter. If anything, the latter had 2 years of my love all to herself before her sister was born.
This “philosophy” gets even worse when seen in the context of disabilities like AD(H)S or also kids on the spectrum. Those children will show lots of “inappropriate” behaviour because they often cannot deal with the world, or with themselves, and if parenting of neurotypical and able children is already hard, then those parents’ lives are in expert mode fro the start. If their behaviour is no longer a result of their disability but an indictment of your lack of love, then seeking the help you need is twice as hard, especially if an ADHD kid is raised on “no limits or boundaries”.
Linked to this, and therefore my second “ingredient” is the idea of “snowplow parenting”, which is apparently the kind of parents even helicopter parents curl back from in disgust. In the wake of the US college admission scandal, where the only surprising thing was that some people were surprised, the NYT published an article about parents who baby their kids well into adulthood. The results are devastating for the young adults, who are dropping out of college because they cannot cope with the presence of sauce in the cafeteria. But least you think that this is a phenomenon of the American upper class, I know similar complaints from doctors, who have parents accompany their mildly ill adult kids to a doctor’s appointment or even to a job interview. I see it on a smaller scale when parents try to protect their kids from the consequences of their actions (where every consequence we throw at them is ridiculous compared to what the world is going to do. Missing out on some fun because you got detention for being late is nothing compared to losing your job), or parents fretting over their big bulky 12 years old son waiting for 45 minutes after school before some activity starts. Because a meteor could hit him or something.
Now, I don’t doubt that all those parents mean well, that they truly love their children. But they don’t do them good. Especially when the boys, but not only them, grow up, the parents lose all their chances of turning the wheel around. I have parents who are obviously afraid of their sons, who keep doing their bidding so they can avoid the dreaded conflict or the consequences.
Nothing here says “don’t love your children”. Love them, a lot. Tell them often. But don’t mistake helicopter or snowplow parenting for love, consumer goods for love. Give them what they need, and occasionally also what they want.
March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is #BalanceforBetter.
A balanced world is a better world. How can you help forge a more gender-balanced world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.
There are events worldwide to celebrate the day and I encourage you to check the site International Women’s Day to see what’s happening in your area. They have a search feature by country and city so plug-in and see what’s up. The site also has a wealth of resources and they’re hosting an international photo competition.
The world is still a dangerous place for women and there is much work to be done before that will change. International Women’s Day is a chance for us all to stand up and say we want a better world; a world where women are paid on parity with men, where access to birth control and abortion services are freely available, where rape is regarded as violent assault and no woman ever is accused of “asking for it.” Every woman I know has a story of inequality or harassment or worse. Let’s change that so that the stories of the next generation reflect a world where people are judged by the content of their character, not the content of their underpants.
This Teacher’s Corner is going to be a bit different from the usual ones as it will breach out to a broader topic, but it all starts with teaching.
Actually it starts with Twitter and an annoyed paediatrician tweeting that since it was half term he would get lots of primary school kids’ parents who’d been told to get their kid tested for ADHD and such*. I replied something along the lines that if teachers could diagnose ADHD they’d be psychiatrists and not teachers, which is why we’d like parents to get a professional opinion on the matter. After all, the only thing we see is that a child has obvious problems paying attention and following the classroom rules.
While this is an interesting topic in and on itself, it was only the starter for a conversation with another user about introverted kids. Her complaint was that the German school system punishes introverted kids via the “participation” grade. In Germany almost all term reports have two separate grades that are “participation” and “behaviour”. All teachers teaching in a class submit their grade, the mean gets calculated and then there may be adjustments. To be honest, till the end of the conversation I couldn’t quite get what she actually wanted, because she kept contradicting herself, but I got that she was fundamentally unhappy, either from her own experiences or because of somebody else, and wanted CHANGE, even though she was not quite clear as to what should actually change. I’ll try to talk about why “just leave the quiet kids alone” isn’t a good idea from a teaching point of view and then move to what bugged me about the whole discussion. [Read more…]
Sorry for basically having played dead last week, but work was intense and long and I had a cold. I still do bbut I only feel like almost dying, not completely.
Ever so often users on FtB remember the bullying they received in their school days and say they wished the adults back then had done something. Now, teachers are adults whose fucking job it is to stop bullying, and I can tell you, it’s fucking hard.
There’s basically two kinds of bully: the loud and violent ones and the smart and sly ones. You can now guess which type is easy to deal with. When somebody calls someone names or becomes aggressive, we can act quickly and without hesitation. You broke the rules, I saw you! Or heard you. Whatever. We can now both talk to the kid about why the behaviour was wrong and deal out sanctions. that kind of bully will usually go for the obvious low hanging fruit of calling kids fat, stupid, gay, you know the drill, and because they basically insult everybody, nobody will side with them.
And then there’s the smart bully and I can tell you, dealing with them is more than complicated. Smart bullies are like ice bergs: 70% is under water. The kid is rarely at the centre of conflict, but always in its periphery. They try to “help”. I have one who mysteriously showed up in a couple of “let’s try to talk about this and solve your conflict” meetings. And they often seemed so very reasonable, trying to mediate, until I and my colleagues caught up and excluded them from such talks unless the conflict was especially about them.
They still and increasingly try to stir up shit by pulling strings and spreading fake concern about some thing or other.. They choose their victim very carefully. Usually it’s the simple kids with a short temper. Kids that they know will react loudly and who will therefore be in the wrong (yes, sorry, but you need to control your temper as well). Kids for whom the idea of a double take is one too many. And most importantly, kids who have little support in their peer group, though these kids will often do double shifts by being the victim one half the time and the partner in crime the other half of the time.
When conflict is finally here, the victims and co-perpetrators will wear their heart on their sleeves. The bully will operate with plausible deniability. They will even publicly condemn bullying, do a “I was wrong” speech and thus shift the responsibility. And as a teacher, my hands are pretty much tied. I cannot sanction behaviour that I cannot prove. I cannot sanction stirring up shit, the little needle pricks that will make kid A ill disposed towards kid B until the situation escalates over something minor. I cannot protect the victims who will good-heartedly and good-naturedly accept a fake apology only to be pulled into the next drama the very next day.
The only thing that can stop that kind of bully is a peer group that shows solidarity towards one another. It#s easy to call on adults to intervene, but reality is complicated.
These are my recollections of a life behind the iron curtain. I do not aim to give perfect and objective evaluation of anything, but to share my personal experiences and memories. It will explain why I just cannot get misty eyed over some ideas on the political left and why I loathe many ideas on the right.
Not only the Christians have realized that trying to ban solstice celebrations that have gone on for thousands of years is like pissing against a hurricane. Communists realized that too. To my knowledge, they did not even try to eradicate or co-opt it. They just went along with it as it was.
I mentioned already that the regime was in fact actively anti-religion and anti-theism in general. This had little to no effect on the general population though. Czechs were heathens before, during and after the Iron Curtain, Slovaks and Poles were strongly catholic before, during and after the Iron Curtain. And since I live in one of the most heathen parts of Czech Republic, my childhood Christmas had nothing to do with any religious mumbo-jumbo whatsoever.
So how did we actually approach the Christmas? As a family holiday, a time for spending time together and gift-giving. The TV run mostly light entertainment (and still does) for three days straight, with emphasis on fairy-tales, whose airing on TV literally became a new christmas tradition in itself. There are fairy-tales that are expected to be aired for generations, and when they ceased to be aired after the fall of Iron Curtain, because they do contain some propaganda stuff hidden in them, they were nevertheless demanded by the public and thus got aired again.
My parents tried, not very enthusiastically and therefore with little success to bring some “magic” to the gifts appearing under the christmas tree by being brought by Ježíšek (Baby Jesus), whom they never defined to me. However it did not last long and I in fact remember nearly nothing about it. By the time I started to go to school one girl in our class got mercilessly mocked by most of the class for openly saying she believes in Baby Jesus bringing gifts. Most of the kids by that time already knew how gift giving really works.
First time I have learned what Ježíšek is actually supposed to be that I remember was when reading the book by Josef Lada “Kocour Mikeš” (Mikes the (male) cat). The book contains the whole biblical story of how Jesus was born in Bethlehem, sanitized for children audience into a fairy-tale form. Which is how I got exposed to most of religious ideas – as fairy tales. Which is what they are.
As soon as I gained some skills, I was trying to make christmas presents for my parents and siblings. The first succesful attempt that I remember was making simple paper models of a church (for my Mum) a castle (for my father) and a fort (for my brother). Blast it, I completely forgot what I have given to my sister that year. Nevermind, this was and remained for me the true meaning of christmas, but I grew up to resent the mandatory gift giving because life obligations are not so kind as to align with arbitrary date in the calendar, so nowadays if I come across something that would be suitable as a christmas gift, I give it on christmas, but I do not fuss about it. I give gifts to family and friends when opportunity and/or need arises, Christmas or no.
The one tradition that endured all political changes in our country, and which even our heathen family still observes, is eating of fish – specifically carp – for dinner on 24. of December. The fish are generally sold alive a few days prior. And since my mom was the boss at local food store, she was in charge of these yearly fish sales. So as a child I have spent a few adventurous days from 4:00 a.m. till 5:00 p.m. with my dad and a few other people outside, near the huge vats in which the carp swam. I learned to kill, gut and dismember fish before I finished school. I learned to recognize a few fish species that way too, because other fish got occasionally caught with the carp. I had a lot of fun there and I looked forward to that part of Christmas the most – when I was healthy enough to actually participate that is.
I like the fish soup and less so the fish steaks, but what I do not like at all is the killing and dismembering the poor animal. I am not opposed to eating meat and killing animals for that purpose, but I do not enjoy it either. However since my father has a really bad eyesight now, it is nowadays my duty to do these chores. I usually let the fish being killed at the stall however, so the poor animal’s suffering is over quickly
A tangent – how Chuck Norris was unable to kill christmas carp. The man at the end says “Everyone can be tough on TV”. I know Chuck Norris is a bit whacko and a Republican, but there is no denying he does have a sense of humor:
Happy whatever, everyone.
As you might know by now, being a teacher can be “exciting”. From wrestling out of control teenagers over having misogynistic slurs hurled at me to a mother and adult brother trying to beat us up (fortunately I was in another parent-teacher talk). Still with that level of violence, there’s some things I don’t have to worry about. A big one is guns. While there have been some school shootings or massacres in Germany, the number is low, and actually yes, we’ve tightened gun laws after the first big one in 2002. The one in 2009 could only happen because the father of the shooter had disobeyed those and was subsequently convicted of manslaughter by negligence. Never say never, but absolutely don’t worry about somebody shooting up my classroom with a military style assault weapon (and no, I’m not interested in the discussion of technicalities. You all know what weapons I mean).
I am worried about knives. They’re easy to get, easy to carry and can be deadly. But my chair is a very good defensive weapon against a knife. There’s a good chance I can get my students out of the room when somebody draws a knife while I try to calm that person. There’s a good chance that I will survive the extreme case of being hurt by a knife, which gets me to another thing I don#t have to worry about:
Healthcare cost. Should I or my students get hurt , we wouldn’t have to worry about who is paying our bills. I wouldn’t need to worry about losing my job for being sick or not getting paid because I used up my “sick days”. And I wouldn’t much need to worry about people blaming me for not having had a gun and killing somebody first.
It’s an open secret that female teachers often have a harder time than male teachers*. Not because we’re worse teachers, but because society tells kids, especially those assigned male that men have to be respected and women not so much. This is especially obvious when there are serious clashes, like it happened today.
As usually, the matter at hand was pretty unimportant. During class one boy put a handkerchief in front of his mouth, like the bad guy in western. I told him to put that thing away and that if I saw it again that day I’d confiscate it. As the bell rang for recess, he had that thing in front of his mouth again and I told him to hand it over, which he did. But the hanky wasn’t his, but a classmate’s, who now protested loudly. Now, since he knew what would happen if I saw that thing again and still lent it to his classmate, I saw no reason to hand it back there and then. I told him he could pick it up after the 6th lesson, as it is usual in our school when we confiscate things. I had momentarily forgotten that they only had 5 lessons that day, but before I could correct myself, he yelled “are you fucking kidding me?”
I told him that I had just been about to correct myself, but for that disrespectful yelling, I would stand by lesson 6. Now, many of our students have problems with the difference between owning something and possessing something and the right to use something. They keep thinking that us taking stuff away from them for a defined period of time is theft (sadly many parents think the same). So the kid tried to threaten me with calling his mum who would pick it up for him! I called his bluff and invited him to do so. After lesson 6, because then I would have time to talk to his mum.
At that point he yelled the German equivalent of “go fuck yourself, bitch!” Well, he got part of what he asked for, I called his mum and told her to pick him up because he could no longer participate in school that day. I still have the handkerchief.
What was kind of surprising was my internal reaction. I’m used to a lot. Again, I work with kids with many issues in a neighbourhood with many social problems and I don’t take their shit personal. If they yell at me I usually shrug my shoulders, wait until they calm down, tell them about the consequences and move on. And I’m also not angry with that boy. He actually apologised and I accepted it, but for 5 minutes, I was completely shaken. Not because a kid had yelled at me. Or insulted me. But because for those words that cause a gut reaction in me and many other women, because we know that they are so often accompanied with violence. Because they are meant to put us into our place, to make us afraid. Just for a moment he succeeded. And there are no equivalent words that would do that to a man.
*Exceptions apply. I once had a male colleague who had serious problems with a class with whom I went along fine. One of the boys in his late adolescence chose that particular colleague to have his dominance fights with.
Potholer 54 delivers an excellently researched video, as usual. I have just watched it and since I have nothing better to post at the moment, here it is.
Unfortunately there is still one big hurdle in the way progress here. I wanted to actually buy an electric car, but unfortunately the upfront costs are still to prohibitive for me. No matter how much the prices of electric cars have fallen, the purchasing cost of an electric equivalent of my current car are three times higher. Whic means I would have to save up money for three years to get that car. And in the mean time I would not have any car whatsoever.