Sylvia's writing to freedom

A corrupt school system will not judge fairly 10/02/2011

A corrupt school system will not judge fairly and nevertheless I’ll keep believing in my own fairy tails that kids do learn relevant stuff in school and will be rated realistic and fairly. That’s what I’ve been taught, but it isn’t what I’ve been experiencing throughout my school time.

Dealing with school issues when it comes to my kids brings up  suppressed emotions and feelings, which I will explore later in time. I was a good girl in school, but inside I didn’t always feel that cooperative. I could see where the unfairness was and ineffectiveness, though I was not allowed to say so. I even didn’t come up with the idea to speak out.

I have no idea if this corruptness is nowadays more than back then or that I just feel it as double now it concerns my kids?

Today my partner P. and I had a meeting at school with the mentors of both of our kids to collect their first reports of this school year. For my son J. it was even his first report at middle school. These meetings are not scheduled in a time frame so you have to wait in big groups in front of the classroom. This waiting is like waiting for a dentist appointment, you know it will be ugly even if there is no reason they will let you know that your condition could get worse or stay bad.

We already heard from our daughter A. that the music teacher had given her a four on her report. She found out later after being sick at home. Also J. wasn’t sure about his grade, but hadn’t heard anything. Music lessons are split into two, one is to play the recorder and the other part is to learn about music history. My kids never learned to play the recorder and at this point the disadvantage or inequality starts. If you can’t play, this teacher will ignore you in class instead of teaching and stimulating you to be able to join the group. A. had already asked several times for help, but he didn’t honor her request. Together my kids practised at home to become more experienced in playing the recorder, but the level they had to reach was much too high. This teacher doesn’t give any written papers only two oral tests a year, that doesn’t give the students a real change to make a nice average for music. So both my kids weren’t able to play the recorder and both hadn’t done yet an oral test. To the music teacher it was cristal clear, both had failed. J. got a five and A. a four, grades that are almost impossible to improve without real help from this teacher.

When the music teacher told A. her grade he said: “I’ve given you the lowest grade on your report.” A. told that he kept repeating himself for several minutes, but that she hadn’t cried. The teacher did put the total responsibility on A.’s shoulders and she saw how unfair and ridiculous he was, but she didn’t speak out. When a teacher gives a four or five to a student who hasn’t been able to fairly perform, this four and the five are saying more about the teacher than the students. He isn’t the only teacher who refuses to explain things to the students, but isn’t that the job of a teacher? Here in Italy it’s normal to buy yourself a tutor, out of the simple fact that the normal teachers are not willing to explain the materials. What are they doing then in class? Quite a lot of them talk about themselves or their relatives, talk with other people in class or are highly inefficient within time managing the materials due for that term.

So we have to deal with a four and a five and we will out of the simple fact that these grades are ridiculous and when taken seriously A. could not do her final exams if she doesn’t make an eight next term to have an average of six. How can a student who is so bad becomes so good the next term? P. said that he will talk to this teacher in common sense. Both kids have an eight in attitude so that can not be the excuse either, bad behavior. We all have to take our responsibility within this, lets see how cooperative this teacher is in a male to male conversation.

It’s simply impossible to really succeed in middle school, your grades are far from the reality and you’re handed over to the antics of your teachers. It’s a reflection of society so in a way it gives you a warm welcome into the real world. It’s also giving of the messages that you fail even before you start which turns our next generation into quitters and non-believers in real change. We can not let that happen, our youth is still our future, they can not quit before they start.

Let’s put this situation through an Equal Money System. The school would have had enough means to teach the students in a practical interactive way. Teachers would only be teachers if they liked what they were doing, they didn’t have to earn their living with teaching their basic income would cover that. School books and materials wouldn’t be about opinions of others, only facts and tested or even self tested information. School would be about how to live life, how to become effective within life, how to live and work together and to see what it is that you are causing while you’re here on earth, taking your own responsibility. School would become a place where you could safely grow into a responsible human, the start for playing your part within society. School would be a party every single day and it takes only one vote from the majority to establish an Equal Money System. I’ll wish this upon every child on earth so count my vote in.


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…


Italian lesson 25/11/2010

Tuesday was the evening that I together with our American friends had decided to finally start Italian lessons with my partner P. as a teacher. Tuesday evening A. called to say that they had made a lot of pasta with Italian friends and that they were supposed to eat dinner with them. She asked if we could reschedule the lesson to another moment this week? P. suggested Thursday evening at nine to give it another shot and he confirmed it with a text message. Tonight it’s Thursday and around nine o’clock nobody showed up, at 9:16 we sent a text message and tried to call. No response what so ever. I made Tuesday already the commitment to start with the lessons no matter what, it’s time to direct myself and not using somebody else as an excuse. So P. and I did the lesson.

P. checked my verbs, but they were almost non existing. I know bits and peaces, therefore within a few minutes I’m totally lost. From now on I’ve to use every spare moment to study my verbs. I’ll be looking within my daily life to determine which verbs are used more by me than others, to make a ranked list from which I’ll be doing my studying. I’ll also be looking in my day to day life to see what kind of sentences I’m not able to make in order to ask for help. When I do have a little bit more of a base, I’ll be chatting with some of our friends on the internet. In order to get more practise in writing spoken language and to achieve some what more depth within my language than I had before while talking to the ladies of my village. It’s all communication, but I will not be focussing on dialect and housekeeping idiom from now on.

I didn’t had this overwhelming feeling or the feeling of suppressing the overwhelmed feeling tonight. I was able to be equal to the language. Although I did speak out loud where I didn’t have any clou of what P. was talking. This way I directly confronted myself with the issues I had to face. When I did some exercises with P. I noticed that the mucus on my vocal cords became more and more. I didn’t feel less than the language, but I experienced a feeling of almost not being able to complete the sentences through lack of information/knowledge. It was hard to grasp the words P. spoke and I had to put in a lot of effort, till I realised that this is what the situation is. I have to work with what is here and if it’s not much than I have to realise that and not get stressed or disappointed about it. That way it won’t push me further and I’m only able to go further, there is never ever a way back. So the mucus decreased and I started to translate all kinds of sentences P. gave me, as far as I was able. The kids started to give me all kinds of hints and we enjoyed ourselves.

I still have a long way to go, but one day I’ll be ready and at that point I’ll have access to the language and the culture through my own effort. I’ll never be one of them, because the Italians will always refere to me as “the Dutch lady” as so many foreigners who went before me. I do have Italian roots, something that’s really important to the people here. To me it’s no more than a nice family story as any other story. I’ll see them as my equals, treat them equally and do what’s best for all.

I’ve been struggling with the fact if I should do video’s also in Italian. In the end we need to communicate in one and the same language and that will be English. I saw right a way how that was a nice distraction of my mind to talk me out of doing video’s in Italian and not to study too hard on my Italian language. I got you mind!


A “normal” day in a “normal” world 16/11/2010

Today I went probably for the last time to my cleaning job at C.’s. She gave birth her child through a caesarean 4 weeks ago and she’ll be able to clean her house by herself again. After the first time when I went there, I was bringing my own vacuum cleaner with me. She has or a broom or a broom stick model vacuum cleaner. I was amazed at first, that so many Italian women in my region, don’t have a proper vacuum cleaner. Their houses are full of all kinds of cleaning products. At first when I started cleaning for others I had to study on which product I needed to use for doors, floors, kitchens, bathrooms, windows etcetera in every different household I worked for the preferences were different. I use simply water and my house is clean! So I brought my Dyson vacuum cleaner with me to C.’s place, she looked at me as if I was a time traveler. After watching me use the machine for several times now, she was astonished about the possibilities of the machine. Today she asked if she was allowed to use it, sure why not. First of all she wanted to know how to turn the vacuum cleaner on. The Dyson has one big red button the other button has a picture of a cord on it. I imagine that she wanted to be sure, while using other peoples stuff. I went to another room to clean, when I came back I saw her vacuuming the couch. For the couch there is a special nozzle to use, she has seen it many times now. Instead she used the complete machine, instead of ungearing the main vacuum tube. She was working over her power and it was such a funny picture. It looked like she was cleaning the couch with some heavy duty DIY machine. As if I had my Dyson given to a monkey who was finding out what to do with it. I saw evolution at it’s worse case scenario. We think we have changed through time and evolution, but I see stil the same human throughout the years. Give us humans technology and we don’t know what to do with it. We react the same way as our ancestors would have done when a time traveler had introduced them to my Dyson. Who dares to say that technology is man made and therefore evolution exist, I would say:”Think again and research”.

Also today my daughter A. went to school with our return note for the teacher who says that she treats every student equally. A. said that she read the note and said nothing, she checked A.’s homework of that particular day and that was it. What else could we do than approach this situation with common sense and pointing out to the teacher that she has to take responsibility for her words. No idea if the message came across, but that’s up to her.

The kids showed the girl next door the video/movie they had made this summer. My son J. filmed and edited the movie into a YT video and into a DVD with menu’s, bloopers, photographs etcetera. My daughter A. and a Dutch girlfriend that stayed with us were the actors. It was fun to see how they played, had fun and learned a lot of new things. The girl next door wanted to make also a movie so the three of them sat down in front of a computer and they wrote the script, later they started filming with the camera. They are not finished yet, but they really enjoyed themselves. The girl next door kept saying how much fun it was. Playing with your Nintendo, X-box or Wii can be fun too, but kids who direct themselves and come up with what to play that’s something I like to watch.

I assumed that the Italian lessons started today, but after sending a SMS to J&A we found out that they were still in Sicilia and not able to start the lessons till next week. If something happens next week and the lessons won’t continue I’ll start on my own, I’m waiting already since the beginning of October. I realise more and more how I fucked myself up by not learning the language to a certain extend. Reading a book is still rather difficult, the Italian written language isn’t the same as the spoken one. Watching  a dubbed movie, is too fast and therefore too difficult. Watching tv is too fast spoken Italian with too difficult idiom and I do not even have a tv. Discussing or listening to a conversation on a higher level than discussing the weather is not yet possible. I positioned myself in a blind alley with my back to the entrance. I’ve got to turn around if I want to be effective in this world, I can not accept and allow this behaviour any more.


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.