For those of you who tuned in two weeks ago I relayed a conversation my teen daughter and I had about some of the things that were happening in her high school. Turns out she watches a bit of television--okay a lot. In fact, if she probably deserves an honorary degree in broadcast and communications based on the number of school hours she's spent in front of a screen and judging from the amount of comments the post got I touched a nerve.
I hadn't exactly intended to, I was just frustrated with the situation and what can I do when I feel completely impotent but mouth off to the great and powerful Internet? But I thought you might be interested in what has happened since then.
First of all, the television thing is still going strong. In fact, her German teacher is probably the worst offender because she'll put in a DVD, switch it to the German language option and then let the machine run for days at a stretch and last week it happened again only this time they watched a German silent film.
Did you catch the irony? A silent film. They're not speaking English, they're not speaking German, they're not speaking at all. Seems like the perfect option for teaching German in the classrooom, ja wohl?
And then for the week of Thanksgiving her history teacher (if you remember the Shirtless Wonder I mentioned previously) spent Monday, Tuesday and part of Wednesday showing the class Glory as a wrap-up to their study of the Civil War.
This was the part that particularly interested me because I remembered the movie from the 80s and knew that it happened to be R-rated. We don't let our kids see R-rated movies and it was my understanding that the school district's policy was that no movie over PG was to be shown to students without parental consent.
So I sighed deeply and wondered if maybe it wasn't time to get involved.
The weird thing about me though is that I'm a complete wimp about confrontation. If the choice is fight or flight I'll take flight every time and though I tend to talk big I'm Jello when it comes down to addressing issues face to face. I might be angry or frustrated but as soon as I'm dealing with a human being with their own feelings and concerns I get rather nervous.
But I thought this time it was important so I wrote an email to the principal telling him I was concerned because it wasn't an approved movie and that they seemed to be watching an inordinate amount of television anyway. Then I might have mentioned somewhere in there that I also thought Mr. History Teacher was slightly creepy for his shirtless pictures and talking about his binging weekends (I think I might have left that part out of the previous post but yea, he likes to brag).
Well the principal wrote back and asked to speak with me. By that time my cowardice was kicking in and I seriously thought about dodging his call (how many times have I said we needed caller ID?) but I sucked it up and spoke with him.
He was nice enough and our conversation went something like this:
"I understand you're concerned about the movie Teacher X will be showing this week?"
"Yes, my daughter said it was a movie that I understood to be R rated."
"Well don't worry, it's actually an edited version of the movie that was put together especially by Pepsi for educational purposes." (and I'm quoting this line verbatim).
"Oh. Well if it's Pepsi . . . " (okay that part I didn't say though I wish I'd had the guts to deliver it with all the sarcasm it deserved).
While he was very nice and treated me politely I could tell that he saw absolutely nothing wrong with the idea of taking three days to watch a movie as the culminating activity for a study of the Civil War. While I'd concede grudgingly that showing a clip or two might be acceptable (or perhaps I should say it's at least not poisonous) I don't understand how watching Hollywood's shaky retelling of an historical event is better than reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, Andersonville or Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass. The class could spend the last days studying the works of Lincoln, creating a time line of events, studying the military figures or mapping the geography of the states. And if they had to watch something the Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War is at least a better choice. There are so many other ways to have spent that three-day period and if the principal, a man trained in the field of education, couldn't see more profitable alternatives to Matthew Broderick sipping Pepsi for three days how was a conversation with a frustrated mother going to change any of that?
But the good news is that they're not showing R rated movies to the kids, if you want to look at it that way.
The principal assured me he'd speak to Teacher X about being more aware of propriety, not showing pictures of his tattoos, yada yada yada but to be honest it was a frustrating conversation. He was polite but seemingly without the same concerns, we were looking at the same picture but seeing two very different things.
However, ultimately I came away with an epiphany. She's going to have good teachers and she will also occasionally have duds but regardless of who is teaching her the responsibility for her education ultimately rests on me as her mother and on her as an individual. I've always believed that education begins in the home so it's up to me to make sure she's learning even if it means making up for what isn't happening in the classroom.
And now, I will leave you with one more thought:
It's not a real message but it's funny nonetheless, striking a blow for frustrated teachers everywhere.
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