What sort of “punishment” is appropriate at school (in 2016)?

I was chatting to a friend earlier when she recounted a story that shocked me. She told me of her son (about the same age as S), getting into trouble at school. The headmaster went up to her a couple of days ago and said I just want to let you know your son was sent to my office because he wasn’t listening and he was splashing water in the bathroom. His clothes got wet and he had to be changed.

“Listen, there’s nothing to worry about, he’s a gorgeous, lovely boy but we just wanted to let you know. I’ve told him that we have good boys and girls at this school and that next time if he was sent to my office, I’d call mummy or daddy and he didn’t want that.” said the headmaster.

This mum accepted it and picked her son up from school as usual. At first he didn’t say anything to her but later on in the afternoon he mentioned he’d been sent to the headmasters office and that he had to face the wall. *This is the part that shocked me* The kid isn’t even 4 yet.

The mum chose not to make a big deal out of it in front of her child but the next morning she went up to the headmaster and the conversation went something like this:

Mum: My son told me he got sent to your office. But he also mentioned that he had to face the wall?

Headmaster: Yes, he had to sit on the floor and face the wall because (and he said this quite dramatically), I was too angry to look at him.

Mum: *shocked face* Okay

Headmaster: He has to learn that he needs to be compliant.

Mum: But I don’t think shaming him is going to achieve that.

Headmaster: He is a strong willed child, you know that! We have to try different methods.

Mum: Yes but it’s also the kind of thing you heard done in the 60s.

Headmaster: I promise you, we’re not doing anything harmful here. He needed to face the wall so that he had no distractions, nothing to see, nothing to think about, except what he’d done. It’s tough love and sometimes it needs to be done but the key word here is love.

Now, is it just me that’s fuming or is this appropriate “punishment” for a top private school in North London. In some circles this child is still deemed a toddler. He’s at nursery, he’s not even four. He got pulled in to the headmaster’s office for essentially being playful.

As a parent, am I over reacting? Should schools be allowed to deal with children’s “bad” behaviour in a manner they see fit? Should the headmaster have been upfront with the mother about what happened rather than wait for the child to tell the mother?

As most people know, I’m an advocate for gentle parenting. That’s not to say I don’t raise my voice or get angry/snappy at S from time to time. But I try my best to approach his tantrums from a space of understanding, using my words to explain what I deem appropriate/inappropriate.

I went to boarding school in India and was punished in a variety of manners. I had to kneel, I had to kneel holding a stack of books up in the air and I once got smacked on my palm with a metal ruler because I was sticking up for my friends. I was a good kid in school and that happened to me so you can only imagine what happened to the kids who weren’t so compliant.

And that takes me to my next point. Compliant!? How boring would the world be if all children were compliant? We’re in 2016, surely school’s should be finding new ways to challenge “strong willed” kids rather than shame them into believing they are not good because they’re not doing as they are told. What ever happened to thinking outside the box?!

This is a subject that I’m quite passionate about (in case you couldn’t tell). I was having a conversation with another mum 2 weeks ago who referred to the English system as “Victorian”. She was comparing it to the more laid back casual American approach. She couldn’t understand why children as young as 4-5 were given home work everyday and pushed to write in a certain manner and be reading at that age as well. That’s not to say all English schools are bad but having seen 3 children go through school and excel, she did feel a lot of pressure was being put on her 4th child by this school.

Look, it takes all sorts and I’m sure there are many parents who would be happy to have the school deal with their children as they see fit. But I’m sure there are many who wouldn’t. I’d love your opinion. Am I being too soft about this?

 

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Why are we hothousing our children?

I’ve noticed that every time I meet up with other mom’s, the conversation inevitably strays towards schools and getting into schools. S is at the age now where I have started considering schools for him and so I’m very open to discussing the different schools in our area and what might be the best fit for him.

However, what I do take issue with is the hothousing that appears to be part and parcel of getting your child into a “good” school. I say “good” because really everyone’s definition of the word is different. But to generalise, parents usually refer to good schools as those that prep your child for the top prep schools, followed by London’s top secondary schools and then on to the best universities this country offers.

Children as young as 3+ are being “assessed” before they are accepted into said good schools. At that age I don’t even think the children care so much where they go but I’ve seen it come as more of a blow to the parent’s whose little cherub didn’t get into their choice of school. In case you haven’t gathered, I’m anti-assessment at such a young age. Although it’s not lost on me the fact that I’m partly anti-assessment, not just because I don’t want my child to be put through that, but I also don’t want to be made to feel like my child is not good enough.

S can sit down and do a 35 piece puzzle on his own but put him in a room full of strangers at this age and I doubt he’ll want to show off his skills. My child shouldn’t be judged for essentially just being a toddler.

I recently went on a school tour and at the end the headmaster pointed out that this school (which takes children at 5+) don’t assess the children anymore but rather they have a “get to know you” session. As my friend B pointed out…”So when your child doesn’t get in, it won’t be because they weren’t up to assessment level, it’ll be because the headmaster didn’t like them in the ‘get to know you’ session?!” I’d like to see how they answer to that one.

The fact is, although many schools have come under scrutiny for assessing such young children and have now changed their terminology, parents are still having their little toddlers prepped for these meetings with the schools. School assessment tutors are very common and growing.

Don’t get me wrong, of course I want my child to do well and will put him in the best school I can in order for him achieve that. However, I believe there needs to be more of an emphasis on the child and not just their ability to read, count or write their name by the time they are 4.

In today’s day and age, what is more important than that grade A is a child’s good social skills, self-esteem and emotional intelligence. Hothousing is a new term which refers to the undue pressure that parents put on their children. Although many schools claim that children should learn through play, their curriculum shows otherwise.

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I want S to thrive academically as well as in a sport he chooses but it’s about finding the line between him wanting to do it and me wanting him to do it. As parents we should always be encouraging our children to be the best that they can but knowing when not to overstep the mark. When parents all around me are enrolling their children in football, rugby, piano and drama, it’s difficult not to question whether I am doing right by S by not putting him in a different class every afternoon but I constantly remind myself that all children are different, as are all parents, and as long as he’s thriving doing what he enjoys, then I’m happy (and more importantly, so is he).

I read a really interesting article about how Finland is changing their teaching methods. You can read it here.

I was really impressed and I think we’d do well in the UK to start adopting this method of learning. Because I can tell you I learnt trigonometry but I don’t remember the last time I ever had to use it. I wish I knew more about the E.U. though!

What’s your views on schooling?

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