Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Traumatic Year Two and the Wicked Witch of the West

It was the Traumatic Year Two, when Speedy met the Wicked Witch of the West (henceforth to be known as WWW). At first she just looked like the WWW - all flaming hair and rainbow stockings.

Yes, Speedy hated her from the beginning, but we knew by then that he didn't suffer fools, and trotted out further 'life lessons' on how to deal with the fools you will inevitably meet, often, for the rest of your life.

Next thing you know, we were in the principal's office, where Speedy was suspended for two days for throwing scissors at the teacher. Say Wha'?

Does it sound better if I say (with hindsight):

After months of frustration and put-downs and verbal bullying, 6 hours a day, 5 days a week, by a person in a position of power, a 7 year old child couldn't take any more, and threw a pair of plastic, snub-nosed, child's safety scissors in the general direction of the bully.

There was a meeting.

The counsellor was chirpy, enthusiastic, and pushing for attendance at a Behaviour Management/Parenting Techniques Program.

The teacher was horrified and hurt and in punishment mode.

The principal didn't know where to look, but did look like he was in the cooking pot and the water was heating up.

We insisted that Speedy did not need a Behaviour Management Program, and wanted to know why he threw the scissors.

Of course, the answer to problem behaviour at school was to teach the parents how to parent, and so we were railroaded into agreeing to the Behaviour Management Program, and it was the best thing that could've happened.

Day One was a 'benchmark' exercise. Parents and child were locked into a room - very reminiscent of a padded cell, including the padding. Parents were instructed to direct the child to do something, while the program facilitators watched and listened from outside, via video camera. The parents were judged on their parenting technique. From this, the facilitators would plan a program to teach techniques for managing the behaviour of the child.

So, we played along. No choice, really.

At the end of the first session, when we were let out of jail, it was to find a group of facilitators with their jaws on the ground. But, you're already using all the techniques that we teach in this program! they said.

On we went. Subversively. Now aware of what the program was about, we enlisted the help of the intelligent Speedy. We discussed what they were aiming for, and how to give it to them. The chats in the car while driving there and back were of more use than the Program.

We learnt more about the WWW during this time - from Speedy, and from other class parents, and from parents who'd previously had a child in her class. A classroom helper confided that she hated the way the WWW treated Speedy. We heard that the WWW was heard to say to the class "Oh, the girls are my sweeties- they're so neat at colouring in". Speedy reported that an artwork he'd done, involving action figures and guns, was confiscated as being 'inappropriate for year 2' and told that "he should draw flowers and animals". You get the gist.

Meanwhile, back at the Program, we were getting on very well with the facilitators. I think they may have picked up some new behaviour management techniques!

Not that they were stupid. They were looking at a bright kid, and parents who knew and could apply all the latest parenting techniques. So they puzzled out where the problem may lie. And being an education department program, they announced that as well as working with the parents, they'd like to work with the teacher. All under the guise of managing the behaviour of this 'orrible little kid in class, right?

You see where I'm going here?

Now, a school principal's duty is firstly to their staff. They are not allowed to side with parents or students against a teacher. Conflict of interest and all that- have to support your staff. The facilitators were education department colleagues, consultants, if you will. They were able to go places that we couldn't. They started doing classroom observations. I expect they were horrified.

The WWW started taking sick leave, and more sick leave. She started looking stressed and losing weight. And taking more days off. And pulling her head in when she was in the classroom.

I'm sorry to say I enjoyed that term.

Nothing more was said to the parents. By anyone. Ever after. But at the end of the year, when it came time to allocate classes for the next year, the principal wanted a long chat about who would be best suited to teach Speedy. I believe it was his only way of apologising.

For the next 5 years at that school, Speedy was allocated hand-picked, fabulous teachers. He learned to love school and learning. It did take all of year 3 to catch up academically, but once the spark was back he powered along and hasn't looked back.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

I don't believe in a Normal Life

I believe that 'normal' is something that people pretend. A social construct. Conform  to the average, aspire to the above-average.

I don't believe that most people (or families) think much about it. They go on pretending, and aspiring, watching the neighbours, the newspapers, the TV, and most of the time they come close enough, without too much effort. It's the done thing. Just do it.

For some, though, the reality is too far away from the normal. Aspire as they might, it isn't going to happen. Sometimes never. Sometimes maybe one day.

What do you do?
Try harder? Rail at the injustice?
Yearn for the moon? Wish it wasn't you?

Then you have to get off that road to nowhere, and take the road less travelled.
Ouch. Sorry 'bout that. But now that I've gone there, I may as well continue. Ha ha.

You get sneered at on the road less travelled.
You get left behind.
You lose bragging rights about winning.
You lose sight of those on the main road.

You don't have to worry about the traffic jams, speeding, hustle, stress of keeping up with the traffic.
You see others on the road, and have time to meet them.
You can pull over whenever and wherever you need to.
You can take your time and go at your own speed.
You'll get there in the end.

Where is 'there'? I don't know. I'm not there yet.

I believe that those on the road less travelled are the thoughtful ones. Instead of speeding along conforming, they have chosen another way. They are not doing what they are supposed to do, or what society tells them is normal. They can't just follow the car in front. They must think deeply about every little thing, and make their own choices. Choices that are right for them, and nobody else.

It may be easier if you just stay in your lane and keep going straight, at 100km/hr, but you miss out on so much.

So if you've been forced off the highway onto the side-roads, don't sweat. Have a picnic, stop and chat with the other drivers, enjoy the scenery, choose your own direction at every crossroads, oh, and watch out for the pot-holes.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Another day, Another dollar

It is another day, and it's calmer around here. After I wrote yesterday's post, I got down-and-dirty practical. No use sitting around with the 'whatifs' spinning and multiplying in my brain. A few phone calls later, I found out what I'd lose if I quit my job. This close to retirement, it's a big number of dollars.

Well, it's not really that big, but it's much bigger than anything else I could make in the next few years, and I could double that number by switching back to full-time work. Now that would be hard. Work, sleep, work, sleep, do NOT get involved in office politics, let the bad days go, wave hello to the kids in passing. Nickname would be in charge of the household. Not much different to now, he says. (I hate housework.)

Time to suck it in. Keep my eye on the big number. I can always blog and play computer games after I retire.

So that was that. Funny how it was such a weight off my mind - making a decision. A sunny mood burst out from the storm that had been raging since Saturday.

As part of the decision making, I went trawling online for jobs - researching what type of jobs I could possibly get, and what pay rates were out there for comparison purposes. (It wasn't pretty).

I was searching by location, looking for work close to home, because I also hate my current 45 minute commute. I was hating everything about my job, as you do while hiding in a black storm cloud.  Apprentice caught my eye. Electronic. Suburb (close to home).

Now Dreamer has applied for another job.
That's not quite correct, is it? I did the online deed, and then I told him what he had done. Sneaky mummy tactics.

Keep moving, keep moving, and serendipity happens.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

New = Scary

Work is on my mind.

We managed to get some feedback on Dreamer's failed job application. It was the yawning gap in his resume- nothing between finishing school last November until now- that was mostly what failed him.

He needs to do something. Anything. Enrol in a course, find a part-time job, volunteer, whatever.

Me too. After a month's holiday, I don't know how many people look forward to going back to work, but I was dreading it. Then shit happened, and it became a return to hell. Management style has long been on a trend to where the job was almost untenable. I think it's just tipped over the edge.

I did spend a bit of time on holidays browsing the online job boards. Damn it if I didn't find something interesting, and believe it or not, it's with a company related to my current employer.

Now I don't know what to do. Carry on in my current job, trying not to let management niggles get to me, and take a punt on the likelihood of being made redundant? Or jump ship now?

I need to do something.

I keep yo-yo-ing Should I stay or should I go now? Pros, cons, pros, cons. The idea of going back to full time work is frightening, not least because it would mean I lose my 'own time', my house-to-myself, write a blog, no interruptions time.

Applications close Friday. I don't even have a resume, because I've been in the same job for 20 years. I can't even decide if I want the new job. It might be worse than the current one.

But... a resume would be a good thing to have done. And it's only an application - it doesn't mean I have to take the job (talk about getting ahead of myself, I haven't even applied yet!).

I'm feeling much more sympathetic towards Dreamer's avoidance and inaction today. I understand.

I need to just do something. I need to not worry about failure. I need to not double-triple-guess what the future holds. I need to not be frightened of the unknown.

It'll be good role-modelling for Dreamer.