fund-raiser flap

January 23, 2015

Earlier this week I spent two hours volunteering at Percy’s school.  About a dozen parents gathered in the staffroom.  We spent the morning sorting through lunch orders for the coming spring term.  (The orders were for a once weekly order of pizza and/or a once weekly order of sandwiches.)  When I arrived at 9:30am most people where already there and working.  When I left at 11:30 more than half where still working.  I draw your attention to this because I want to make a point of the actual hours spent on this particular activity.  For ease of the addition let’s say ten people worked three hours each for a total of thirty hours.

It’s not terribly taxing work but you do have to pay attention to detail.  The payment was made by cheque so each one had to be checked for correct amount, payee, date (I alone had a handful of cheques dated 2014), signature etc.  Then the individual order forms have to be transcribed to a master list for each class.  I’m not sure exactly but given what I do know, there are over twenty classes in the school.  It’s surprising how many of the forms where missing information or had the wrong information on it- mostly the classroom number.  I even had a completely blank order form!  We managed to piece together the necessary information from the info on the cheque and the encyclopedic knowledge that the co-ordinator carries in their head.  ‘Thank you’ for such a dedicated and amazing memory.

We all worked steadily with a little chat now and then while we transcribed and added and totalled and squinted at the bad handwriting.  (As an aside- if you are ordering something through your school, do everyone a favour and write very neatly and double check what you’ve written!)  It was a pleasant morning, I sat next to a mother whose child is also in Percy’s class.  Someone even brought cake.

Then the amount on a cheque was queried.  It didn’t match any of the pre-set ordered amounts.  We puzzled over it for awhile until it was noticed that on the accompanying order sheet was a handwritten (badly) note saying one week’s amount had been deducted because the child was not to receive the food order for the week when passover fell.

This got me all boiled up.  And not because you think I’m anti-semetic.  You can wear anything you want on your head, including a pasta strainer, and I won’t care.  You can ascribe to whatever religion you want, and I won’t care.  You can or cannot eat whatever food you want, and I won’t care.  (well, I’d prefer ethical, organic, free-range, pesticide-free, cruelty-free food, but that shit costs a bomb, so we all get a pass depending on how much we can afford.  And I’ll pity you for missing out on the deliciousness that is bacon, but I’m getting distracted.)

What I did care about is that the lunch orders are actually a fund raiser for the school.  The people/companies that supply the food get paid for a full order whether your kid eats it or not.  The money that this wanker parent felt entitled to deduct would come out the portion that goes to the school.  That’s less library books, less sports equipment, less field trips, less special needs resources, less classroom resources and the list goes on, that the school doesn’t get because you feel entitled to enforce a kosher rule in a secular school.  Well, fuck you.  By this reasoning should every kid that stays home for whatever reason (sick, buses cancelled, holiday, funeral, you name it) on a lunch order day, get a refund?  Perhaps when a child doesn’t attend school for a day the teacher should get one twenty third less pay that day (assuming a class of 23 kids)?

The argument was put, in the staffroom, that we do have a lot of Jewish families at the school, perhaps the order could be changed to accommodate them?  Not this round, of course, but next time.  To that I say; if you accommodate one lot, you’ve fairly got to do it for everyone, and give refunds to those kids that are unexpectedly away on lunch order day.  The thirty person hours we just spent would, I confidently predict, triple.  Good luck finding enough people to wade through the level of headache personalised orders would create.  And finally, I say again, IT’S A FUND-RAISER!  Either join in and cough up as stipulated, or bugger off.


My gripe with school uniforms

September 5, 2014

In and of themselves, school uniforms don’t sway me one way or another.  There are certainly a couple of positives- no dressing decisions every morning and no variation for people to pick over in the playground.

But there is variation, and that is a big problem.  The variation is between the uniforms singled out for girl children and boy children.  And in that there is another whole concern about children that prescribe to neither strictly boy or girl sex or gender.  What pieces of the uniform does the inter-sex, or simply undecided, child wear?  I am not knowledgeable or experienced enough to comment on this conundrum.

I do feel enough qualified to comment about boy/girl school uniform differences.  My gripe is the reinforcing of sex roles and gender stereotypes that school uniforms play into.  Here it is:

Girl uniforms often include lots of white, boys generally do not.  WTF?  Who wears white when they know they are going to be playing in natural/grassed areas, with paint, textas, play-dough, clay, glue, glitter, ink, and any other manner of potentially staining materials?  This colour-coding reinforces the notion that girls and women should be careful not to get their clothes dirty.  It’s fucked.  You can’t stitch wounds on a battlefield, paint murals, change alternators, gut a fish, drive a race car, collect volcanic samples or dig for gold and keep your clothes clean.  Or, oh my, are those only male pursuits?

The insistence of white usually extends to socks.  Jesus wept!  The only professionals I can think of that routinely wear white socks are tennis players, and I bet they swear come laundry day, too.

I also can’t stand fricken’ peter pan collars.  These fuckers are impossible to iron and only reinforce the idea that girls should look “pretty”.  It’s what’s in their heads, above the collar, that counts!

If uniforms are intended to equalise children then they should be identical, regardless of who’s wearing them.  Everyone should wear skirts for sport- they allow more movement than shorts.  Everyone should be in the same colour, and it shouldn’t be white.  Everyone should have the same shirt, collar, pants, jacket, hat, socks, bag, ribbon and tie.  I’d be tempted to go so far as to say all staff should wear it too.  From Principal to janitor, can we insist for all casual volunteers?  The kids have to be there, they’re in uniform, the staff are paid to be there, they’re in uniform, volunteers neither have to be there and are not paid to be, but surely they should support the level-playing field?  If schools are about equal opportunity for learning, with no-one advantaged or disadvantaged based on clothing or worn self-expression (standard haircuts, jewellery and tattoos for all) shouldn’t every outward thing be standardised and identical?

Okay, perhaps I’m getting a little carried away.  Tho I don’t see it as that much of a stretch.  School uniforms generally peeve me because they tell little girls they are limited.  Limited in imagination, in scope, in possibility, in ability, in expectation, in dreams, in potential, in options…  and they tell little boys that it’s okay to put and expect adherence to limits, on little girls.

I don’t need to reiterate the sexism argument here.  Suffice to say, what a little child learns is very hard to shift out of their minds when they are grown.

Particular pieces of clothing have a purpose and a need; like a wielder’s mask, or a mechanic’s coveralls, a surgeon’s gloves or a builder’s hard hat.  I’m yet to be convinced of a purpose or a need for a school uniform that is categorically not uniform.


fi 2nd thoughts

November 4, 2013

in recent years the demand for french immersion schools in ontario has increased ahead of long term trend forecasts.  seems more and more parents are either finding the francophile in themselves or seeing the benefit of bi-lingual (or for plenty of children in ethnically diverse vaughan, tri- and multi-lingual) language skills for their children.

but i have a doubt.  (quote from the planetary prez from ‘fifth element’.  all my movie references are likely to be old ones, don’t see many new movies.)

my doubt springs from a little research i have been doing on french immersion school and pupil outcomes.  the stats all show that fi students from about grade 4 onwards consistently outperform their english language school peers in not just french language learning but english, music, maths, science, pretty much all school subjects.  sounds awesome, doesn’t it?  so what is there to doubt?  it’s not a level playing field!  the kids that are still in fi in grade 4 are likely to be the higher performing kids anyways.  what’s that?  “still in fi?”

it seems by grade 2 or 3 in fi (remembering fi in vaughan starts in grade 1, in toronto in senior kindergarten) the fi schools have filtered the students enough to know who will be a success and inexorably pressure the less-likely-to-be-successful students’ parents to put them back in english language schools.  you see in fi schools there is no extra support, if you don’t get it in the classroom you’re not going to get it at all.  no reading support, no learning support, no disability support, nothing.  so either you keep up, very likely with your parents paying for supplementary education, or you slip further and further behind.

i’d like to see all the extras that resource english instruction schools available in fi schools too.  seems there’s not the money or enough french speakers.  perhaps in a generation when all these new fi pupils graduate they’ll take up jobs to support a new lot of fi pupils.

by the time a kid is transferred back to an english school are they behind in the normal english school curriculum because they have spent a year or two going back to basics and beginner levels in a fi school.  they are also in a new school, probably without friends or relationships with staff, and more than likely feeling disenfranchised and frustrated about their learning and going to school at all.  it’s no wonder to me these kids score poorly, thus contributing to an overall lower score for the school in general.

those kids that remain in fi schools, studies repeatedly show, come from higher socio-economic families, with greater disposable incomes and tertiary educated parents.  these kids would, more often than not, do better at any school regardless.

my doubt centres on percy (and tally should he start fi too) changing from fi in canada to an english language school back in oz and suffering from being behind the usual curriculum milestones.  yes, she’s a generally smart girl but i don’t believe she’s any sort of genius and she’s just as prone as any other kid, if not more so, to meltdowns of frustration and despair if she doesn’t learn something at what she believes is a quick enough rate.  will all this add to a disillusionment with school and learning and lesser outcomes for her for her entire life?

still, the concern may be taken out of our hands, and come sooner than our return to australia if, coming to the end of this school year, we are one of the parents that are ‘strongly advised’ to put our kid back in an english school!

in nsw, australia kids start their first year of formal schooling, known as kindergarten, generally about the age of five, they must be in school (or home-schooled) by the time their sixth birthday rolls around.  they then progress to year one, right thru to graduating about the age of 18, from year 12.

prior to kindergarten aussie kids have a range of options to occupy their time; they can stay home with a carer, go to day care from as young as six weeks old, attend pre-school between the ages of 3 and 5, go to family day care, stay with a grown-up friend or bounce around a mix of these.  it’s all a bit of a juggle, pretty expensive and can be hard to source.  finding an employer that is sympathetic to a parent saying, “no, it’s 5pm, i’m going home to give my kid/s dinner and put them to bed” can also be very hard.

in the five years that we utilised pre kindergarten child care these are the services we bounced around between: two long day care centres, two nannies, one extended hours pre-school, three baby-sitters, two sets of grandparents, one brother and sister-in-law, and a host of friends.  and i would say we had a fairly straight-forward time of it.  then of course i got turfed out of my job and am full-time parent now.

percy started kindergarten when she was 4 years and 10 months old, her birthday being at the end of march and the school year starting in january in oz.  there is a lot of angst about sending kids to school too early.  i do get it, however, in our case, if percy hadn’t gone to school when she did, she might not have made it to the next year!  we were both ready (her and i) and staying in each other’s company full-time for another year would have been disastrous.  percy was the youngest in her school.  she’s been fine.  in fact i’d say she’s thrived.

tally will turn five in august and start school the following january when he’s five and a half.  i think starting him in kindergarten at four and half will be too difficult.  plus he won’t be allowed.  you must have marked your fifth birthday by the end of the june of the year you begin school in nsw.  so the decision is easily made for us as to when to start tally in school.  of course this means that tally will have completed three years of kindergarten by the time he’s six and a half.  and this brings me to the ontario school system…

ontario has two years of kindergarten, junior and senior.  tally will do both years while we are here and then start kindergarten again back in oz.  poor kid, i hope he doesn’t get confused!

the canadian school year runs from september (after a long summer holiday over july and august) to june.  the method used to determine when a kid starts junior kindergarten in sept of any given year is if their 4th birthday falls in that calendar year.  hence, tally will turn four in august and start jk three weeks later.  kids in his class will have turned four back in january and others won’t be until december.  putting him nicely in the middle, i suppose.  likewise percy was put in senior kindergarten this school year because her sixth birthday was in this calendar year.  she’ll be going into grade (year) one next school year; this september. are you keeping up?  she was a bit upset to have started year one in january in oz and then in march be put “back” into kindergarten.  i think she’s fine now, she has made friends and is with her peer age group.

despite previous communiques to the contrary we don’t live in toronto, not for civic purposes.  we are north of steeles avenue, the northern boundary of the city of toronto.  we are in vaughan.  kind of like baulkham hills, hornsby or liverpool to sydney.  city of vaughan public schools start their french immersion teaching in grade one.  percy’s current school is not a french immersion one.  if we wish her to go to a fi school she must re-enrol elsewhere.  today i discovered that our designate fi school can fit her in and she could catch the bus to this school.  canadian school buses are a very different affair to catching a school bus in australia.  as far as i know, catching a bus to school in oz means pretty much getting on a public bus on a route that hopefully runs from near your home to near your school, and walking the missing bits.  not something i’m going to let my six year old do alone!  canadian school buses are those big yellow things we’ve seen on tv forever (i looked it up- they legally have to be painted that colour) that only ferry kids to and from school and camp and on excursions and to after school activities.  there is a website where i punch in my address and the school and i’ll be given a route, including a stop either right outside our door or very close to it, and a time to have percy waiting to get on.  the younger kids apparently sit nearer the front and are dropped right at the front door of their school, where they are met by teachers.  it’s all quite safe.

french immersion schools teach the same curriculum as any other school, but all in french.  the teachers are all native french speakers.  they know most of the kids don’t speak french at home, and neither do their parents.  tho paul thinks his high school french may come back to him if he tried to speak it again.  i’m concerned that percy is already coping with enough change to then have her learn in a new language, in a new school.  on top of which, when she moves on to grade two in sept 2014 she’ll have to change school again because our designated fi school is only that for grade one.  for grade two and onwards it’s a different school.  i’ve also sold the attraction of going to school with his big sister to tally.  he’s pretty happy about that idea.  i think he’ll be devastated to learn she won’t be going with him.

i suppose percy could start at the fi school and if it doesn’t work out, she can just come back to our local, walking-distance, already-made-friends-at, knows-her-way-around, school.

the paperwork is downstairs on the dining table.  i’ll fill it in tomorrow…