Monday, December 14, 2009

Getting Schooled At Home

The government issued, rather formal looking, sign which lived on the outside wall of the building, said 'Tough School'. I laughed out loud because, as a former supply teacher at the Cambridge-Narrows School, I knew a tough school when I saw one. Or, at least, I thought that I did.

The irony in this situation, and I'm not sure that it's actually irony (Alanis Morissette and I suffer from this confusion...and we both blame our public school teachers...isn't that ironic?), is that the school may or may have not been tough, but it happened to be in a Scottish town called Tough. It's pronounced 'tewk' or something like that. Spit should fly out of your mouth when you attempt its pronunciation.

Ach, yer bum's oot the windae, Ian.

Thanks for that, now I have to clean my glasses. And the window glass, apparently. The Tough school may or may not be all that tough. Some schools in North America have metal detectors at the that's tough. I always insisted that Julian leave his Ak-47 at home, before heading off for his morning classes.

At the Cambridge-Narrows school, I never worried that a student would bring a piece of scrap metal to school. I was more worried about fire...with just cause. I had three fires in my classroom in two years of part-time supply teaching. And, no, I wasn't teaching chemistry at the time, in case there was any doubt.

Okay, kids, today Mr.Varty is going to teach you how to build a bomb. We need a about you, Johnny? The rest of you kids, stand back, I think this could get messy.

The fires that I had in my classroom were not caused by me. They were caused by dumb little shits who thought that it would be fun to start a blaze in a building full of children. This happened three times! I got into the habit of wearing non-flammable clothes to school.

Ian, were some of the other teachers, and by that I mean the ones of the opposite gender, turned on by your Teflon teaching togs?

I won't be answering that, but if I did, I'd have to say 'yes'. Teaching is a tough (tuff) job, and I have a lot of respect for teachers. I, like most people with their grade twelve diplomas, have seen a lot of teachers over the years. In elementary school (1-6), I would have had one teacher per year. Junior high (7-9) and high school (10-12) probably saw me being taught by five teachers per year. That means that I've been taught by approximately thirty-six university trained experts in their field.

Not all public school teachers are shining lights, some are dead wood, but the vast majority of teachers are wonderful and they bring a lot of their personal experiences to the classroom. It's a healthy environment for learning, but not everyone is enamoured of the public school system. It's not uncommon for wealthy families to send their kids to private schools. Private schools do everything that public schools do, plus they provide cardigans and ties for the boys, and mini-skirts for the girls. They charge $15 000 per year for their fashion advice.

Some people don't like the public school system for other reasons and they decide to home school their children. Some kids, for whatever reasons, don't seem to fair well in the public school system. They may have learning disabilities, or social disorders, or whatever. Often these kids are better off being in a home school environment.

It seems that many kids are home schooled because their parents have rather unconventional religious beliefs and they don't want their kids being exposed to outside influence. Or they don't agree with the curriculum.

Are you talking about the public school system's failure to acknowledge the validity of a Flintstonian world where man and brontosaurus co-existed, Ian?

Yeah, pretty much.

Some people view home schooling as a soft form of child abuse. I see their point, but I'm not sure that the facts support the claim. I don't know much about this. I do know that I'm a highly intelligent, well educated person with a broad platform upon which I've piled many pallets of life lessons. Having said this, there's no way that I could possibly offer my son the breadth of knowledge or expertise that his previous thirty-six teachers offered.

Could I have offered him a learning environment at home that was better suited to learning? Perhaps, as there are many distractions at school, but I see the distractions as the attractions. This is real life. This is the life that most people will have to deal with as adults. The workplace is not much different than school. There will be personalities that will be challenging, and many that will be enlightening. The learning never stops, that's for sure.

My father is a brilliant man...a scholar in my eyes, but I'm awfully glad that he didn't home school me. Had I been home schooled I never would have seen Sandra Clark puke up alphabet soup in grade one. I never would have seen Bobby Cusack get the paddle in grade one. I never would have learned to appreciate the bounty of the Easy-Bake Oven. I never would have had the hots for Jane in grade two. I never would have got the strap myself in grade four, or a black eye in grade six. I never would have marveled at Ms.Spinney's banana boobs, or watched my classmate, Mary Ann Fletcher, put a shoe lace in the grade seven home-ec class casserole which was fed to the teachers. I never would have won the best actor award in grade eight, or had the opportunity to be the class clown in Granny McGer's grade eleven math class. I never would have been kicked out of phys-ed class in grade twelve for my stubborn refusal to square dance properly.

Have I made a good argument for home schooling? Absolutely not. Isn't that ironic?

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