We went to the Santa Parade on Sunday. I can remember going to the Santa Parade when I was a kid except it was called the James Smith’s Santa Parade and everyone got small, bright orange pennant flags to wave. Aside from the flags I don’t remember much about the parade itself, but I suppose I last went 30 odd years ago.
Eleanor had a fine old time (Rosamund slept). She was pleased to see Dora, and Peter Rabbit, and the characters from the Wizard of Oz, and Santa, but the highlight for her by far were the gaggle of faeries that cavorted past throwing faerie dust at everyone (cut up bits of shiny stuff). This had Eleanor scrabbling about on the ground desperately picking pieces up which she then thrust into my hand for safe keeping. As other floats went by Eleanor would periodically check that I was still holding on to her faerie dust. I dutifully clung to it in my pocket, and I am happy to report that it made it all the way home.
The following morning I happened to be in town walking down Willis Street as all the office workers marched off to their offices with their morning cups of coffee in little cardboard cups, and I noticed bits of faerie dust all over the footpath, blown into the gutters and eddying about in the doorways of shops, and I wondered if any of these people knew how lucky they were to walk to work with magic sprinkled everywhere.
After school on Tuesday I had a meeting with two girls in Year 10 and their parents. One had felt bullied by the other but, as is often the case in these matters, there had been a bit of aggro going both ways. It started over something said about the other on someone’s Facebook account. What they said wasn’t particularly out there, but it hit a nerve. At a certain point in the meeting I asked one of the girls how she was feeling (she was looking particularly upset), and she suddenly burst into tears, and all of her hurt and anger over what had seemed the slightest of remarks on Facebook came flooding out in gasping, hot, teary bursts. After that I knew the meeting would go well because real things were being said and real feelings were being discussed.
There is a dean a little further up the food chain who is very wise in these matters, and she has two sayings which I intend to appropriate and use as my own:
- It’s not a good restorative meeting unless someone cries, and
- If they feel no anxiety about what they have done they will not change
Obviously there doesn’t always need to be actual tears, but there needs to be a substitute for this, there needs to be some sign that the weight of the matter has had real impact.
Anxiety. If you get a kid who has done something and they don’t care what you say, and they don’t care about a detention, and they don’t care if you call home, and they don’t care if they get stood down – then there is no possibility that you can change that student’s behaviour at that time. You may as well tell them to leave your office, because you will be wasting your breath on them. If, on the other hand, one of those things on the list above causes them to squirm then there is hope that you can work with them.
Unfortunately I am seeing some of my hard core naughty kids drift right off the edge, and I am almost feeling myself say the words: “I give up”. Whatever anxiety these students felt about getting a growling from a teacher, or a dean, or a parent has gone. They don’t come to detentions for anybody, they don’t fill in daily reports for anyone, they are indifferent to stand downs. As you can imagine they are the worst part of my job.
On the other hand there was some satisfaction today in walking around fourth spell today and talking to a whole lot of students. I asked two girls if they wouldn’t mind not sticking their oar in every time their friends argued because it really wasn’t helping; I told two other girls that no they couldn’t change their option in Week 6 of Term 4 and consoled them with the fact that they probably only had five more lessons in that subject anyway; I talked to two boys about how it would be a good idea not to tease each other about which girls they fancy if they were going to get angry about it and want to punch each other, and I ran the inter-form class tug-of-war at lunchtime.
It always amazes me how controversial a tug-of-war can become.
It was fun. Fulfilling even. I think this is about half of what being a dean is – walking around and having a quiet word to people.
On the radio the other day there was some report (there always is) about workplace productivity and absenteeism. The report found that most productivity was not lost through people have sickies, but through people who were actually at work but doing a crap job. I couldn’t help but feel that this related to my post about wagging. Sometimes I think we expect too much of our students. If it is true that adults wag work, and that quite a few adults are lazy and negligent in their jobs why are we constantly amazed by the fact that some students wag school, and that quite a few students are lazy and negligent in their school work?
Not of course that I take this line as a dean.
After texting the parent of one of our worst traunts today to inquire where their son was we got the pithy response: “F*K off”. I suggested to the higher-ups that perhaps we should start the prosecution process for chronic truancy.
Either that, or get the kid in my office and see if that faerie dust works.