Sylvia's writing to freedom

Russian scenes or simply taking an exam? 24/06/2011

I watched a video clip of Russia Today about Russia having the highest teen suicide rate in Europe. The video talked about increases of suicides around the late December and early June exams. Teens experience these periods as highly stressful and for some it is too much to take or to cope with on their own. Russian experts say that these emotional stress builds up over time and when parents are able to see what their kid is dealing with they rather be not confronted with it and want to continue life as normal. Russia is quite underdeveloped when it comes to psychological help and according to the video there is not much  to do about it in the current Russian society. Yearly 4000, mainly
girls, take their own life’s due to exam related emotional stress.

I myself have a teenage daughter that is going through her final Middle School exams, right now. I also, just as the Russian parents, saw that the stress was building up. Where my daughter A. had this attitude of “all is going to be fine”, during the school year, she now is aware that she can’t make a huge difference anymore. Just not fucking up the exams. She payed attention in the classroom during the years, wasn’t a big fan of doing homework. Therefore she reduced homework to a minimum. This year she had to choose her future school career, is it going to be High School or all the way up to University. A lot of stress when you’re just 14.

So 2 weeks ago I asked A. if she wanted to talk or blow off some steam. I couldn’t look the other way like the Russian parents in the video. I knew that with a little bit of common sense we could tackle A.’s problems. Not that I’m a magician, but simply because common sense takes things apart without emotions and feelings involved. And of course I did also, many years ago my exams, which was indeed a stressful and emotional period in my life. Though never to this point of wanting to end my life. Probably because kids nowadays are moving in such a fast interactive multi media world and they’re constantly impulsed by tv, social networks, mobile phones. Looking at it now I had quite a protected youth, simply because cell phones were not yet normal in the streets-cape, internet was not yet for the average people and still in its research phase, television had only 3 channels in Holland. We simply had to entertain ourselves, on which my generation did a better job than when I look at my own kids how they sometimes get bored due to overstimuli and an excess of virtual entertainment.

Anyway back to the exam stress, A. and I sat down and A. started to cry. It was indeed too much at this point, no suicidal too much, but emotions and feelings pulling and pushing her all over the place. While explaining after she calmed down what was kind of holding power over her, was this feeling of being tossed around by her own energetic charges. During the year she did her stuff, but as most teens nothing more then required. A. has been debunking a lot of her textbooks for what was written in it, but of course that was a no go area with her teachers. However when you see how you’re being fooled it’s even harder to try and learn the stuff. A. went into her exams with a 7 ( out of the 10) as her average mark. Not too bad for doing the minimum and being down graded as a foreigner. Nevertheless according to A. not high enough to not worry for her exams.

A. told me that for the last 6 months the teachers had been scaring the students for the exams and told that they didn’t work hard enough and that flanking was a real possibility. This fear management of the teachers was quite severe and in a way I do understand this kind of psychology to try and get these youngsters to work. But fear is not the tool to learn them self-responsibility and even enjoying to master information and see where to apply it. Of course being able to apply the learned information is an utopia in our current school system. So the teachers on one hand scared the shit out of A., it was feeding into her insecurity. Did she put enough effort in her school work or not, was a constant question on her mind, now she couldn’t change that anymore and only work with the consequences.

On the other hand a lot of the students who did their exams last year and the years before said that the exam was really easy and they didn’t have to study for it, everybody was passing anyway. This message was one that A. wanted to hear of course, but she didn’t trust it due to the information the teachers had been giving in a agressive way. It was simple A.was trapped in a polarity going from one side to the other, the exams are difficult versus the exams are easy. Further more this polarity was opening up all kind of teenage insecurities, till a point that the only future projection A. could do was fear. Not even anymore being able to name the fear game. No wonder she felt overwhelmed by her own accepted and allowed manifestation.

We dissected the polarity and all the turmoil that was attached to it and now she was able to see what it was that was holding her in place, within this fear. Really cool to do this with your child and to see that she was capable of opening up this point with a little bit of “objective” support from outside. If A. a 14 year old girl can do it, then all of us can do it and interpret our world according to what is really here and what needs our real attention to be an effective being and become of value for society in an equal way, where outcomes are best for all, because we understand life and know what we’re doing or dealing with.

A. did her 4 written exams, a national multiple choice exam and her oral exam is scheduled for the 28th of June. She said, till so far the teachers did lie to us about the exams and till so far everybody was allowed to attend the exams. All of a sudden all had an average mark of at least a 6, while their marks could impossible lead up to this average. Hhmmm, a nice introduction to society, showing the students what corruption in action is, because that’s the point they will remember.


The teacher on a pedestal 06/12/2010

After a week sick at home my daughter A. went to school again today. She had been within a trifle with one of her teachers and today it was the first day she saw him again.

A few weeks ago in her design and technology class A. got homework to make a technical drawing with two squares. After trying out possibilities with her squares she tried to look it up in her books. No luck, because it was a topic her new class had already covered last year. She decided to ask the teacher next time.

A. tried to ask the teacher for several weeks about this design problem of hers, but no luck. Than after these weeks of not being able to do the design work and not asking and telling us about it, the teacher found out that she hadn’t done her homework. It wasn’t a refusal from the side of A., but teachers tend to see it that way. Whenever a pupil doesn’t do her homework, it’s simply a matter of refusal and being “wrong”.

The whole issue why A. wasn’t been able to ask the teacher about it, was the following. Pupils are only allowed to speak within his class when it is their turn according to the alphabetic surname list. A. is listed under the V, so it took a while before it was her turn. When it’s your turn, you are also allowed to ask other questions. How does one come up with such a method/strategy? Is common sense still existing here?

The teacher was quite pissed with A. and wrote a note in her special communication book to inform us parents that A. hadn’t done her design homework for a while. A. was speechless, she couldn’t understand what she had done wrong. She felt like the victim of his inflexible teaching methods, what made her incapable to direct herself. Even if she was able to respond she wasn’t allowed to speak within the classroom towards this teacher.

Later that morning during the break A. saw this teacher in the hallway and figured, now I’m able to speak to him. The hallway is neutral space so I’m allowed to speak. She explained him that her former teacher never had covered this topic at her old school and asked him to explain it to her. She wasn’t sure if he had understood her.

At home she finally told us the whole story, she had to because we had to sign the note in the special communication book. We had no idea about the teaching methods of this teacher. So sad, a middle aged man that needs to feel more than his 13 year old pupils. I heard also my son J. complaining, but A. is more the one that gets into conflicts. The kids had even made up a nickname for him at home. They pronounced his Italian surname in Dutch and than you get: weird egg. So through spitefulness they tried to handle this feeling of inequality, which is hard to struggle with for kids when it involves adults.

I asked A. why she hadn’t asked her classmates for help. She said: “We are not allowed to speak, the break is ten minutes to eat a snack. There is just not enough free space to ask this”. A second disadvantage is us not living in the city where the kids go to school. So it’s not easy to meet up after school.

My partner P. signed the note of the teacher, but wrote first a response. He wrote: “A. explained to us that she hasn’t been able to make her design homework due to lack of material and understanding. Last year her teacher didn’t cover this topic. A. has been asking you to explain this topic”. When today the teacher read the note he almost choked. He refused to believe that A. really didn’t know how to draw these designs. Than he told A. that parents weren’t allowed to speak to him in this manner. He told A. that he’s counting on our appearance in January/February when there are parent interviews. We will be there, he can count on us. We will explain and answer his questions in equality, no need for superiority from his/our side.

Today the teacher explained the whole designing issue with the two squares to the whole class. In case the others were forgotten how to do it…


How are schools demotivating youngsters? 13/11/2010

Today my daughter A. came home from school all worked up. What had happend was the following. She forgot to bring one of her copybooks. Her homework which she had done for today was written in the copybook. A. found out that she had forgotten her copybook just before class started and told the teacher she forgot it, but informed the teacher that she had done her homework. The teacher told her basically that she lied. What A. does in these kind of situations is suppressing her madness and feeling victimised by her surrounding, which results in  a feeling of empowerment. Also this time she couldn’t think of what to say, other than stating that she had done her homework and that she wasn’t lying. Not bringing certain materials to school is one of her weaknesses, she isn’t disciplined within getting ready for school. We talked about this in the past, but in the end it’s up to her. So today the teacher had written in the special communication copybook, to inform us that A for three times since September, had not done her homework. A. was really pissed, because one time she was misinformed after being sick by her classmates, once she hadn’t understood the materials and this time she did her homework but forgot to bring it to school. The purpose for this communication notebook is to verify the parents before things escalate, the parents have only to  sign the book. And when things get ugly the school does not have to take the responsibility.

I saw that I was reacting towards this incident, the whole story felt really unfair to me. Last year A. changed schools and ended up here for the last 3 – 4 months of the school year. After her old school had denigrated A. and this new teacher believed all that was said by her colleagues from the old school. A. and we as parents had to do a lot of talking to restore the “image” of our child.  This year A. started off really great and she is still doing great and getting mostly A grades. Out of the blue this teacher fell back in her negative behavior of last year. She told A. that she had to work harder, while A. is one of the few kids that does her homework and gets straight A’s. This teacher is teaching A. 4 subjects, how can it be that she doesn’t remember what grades A. got in her classes over the last 4 months. And at the end of the conversation or shall I say monologue the teacher told A. that she had to do better, who was she to believe that she could go and study at the university in 5 years from now with this behavior. This teacher is preparing the class for a vocational choice and A. had just told her that she wanted to go and study further instead of choosing a school for handcrafts. To me it felt as a really rude behaviour to speak like that to a student. This teacher who states that she is treating every student equally, but treats them according to her first impression of bad and good.

I told A. that she can ask her teacher about this equality thing of her in such moments, because three other classmates hadn’t done their homework but the teacher believed them without checking. It’s dishonest when one needs all kind of ugly talking to get ones point across to make oneself bigger and more than ones students. We discussed how to react and how to act towards this teacher as parents. We shall write in the special copybook that we agree on the point of forgetting materials has to be followed up with consequences according to the rules of the school. That’s how the system works. However we will not sign for the homework that supposedly hadn’t been done, because that’s just a lie. I would almost say a compulsive lie, because the same teacher did that also last school year, without checking A.’s copybook and putting the other teachers up against A. forming opinions within the school about A. The school system is fucked up even when you do your best to be a good student and finish middle school within the prescribed three years. There are so many kids that do not put any effort into school and finish middle school without staying down, that’s hard to take for teenagers. These grown ups are giving off a really fucked up message to the kids. And than the teachers are questioning why they have to teach a bunch of demotivated teenagers, isn’t that the cause-effect or you reap what you sow which is crawling up your sleeves?

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to react towards this incident  with a feeling of unfairness.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to feel unfairness, while seeing that I’m participating within the same victim role as A. does and taking away my own directive powers.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to feel spiteful towards the teacher who is in my opinion breaking down what we had been building up together.

I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to blame the school system for creating inflexible teachers and school rules. Knowing that I cannot change it in this moment, instead I have to focus on generations to come so that we will not repeat these ineffective patterns that we call education.