FoxWeb Blog

Foxborough, MA
The ramblings of one community member

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Live 8

Those interested in Live 8 can find info here.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Schools & Discipline

I just read an interesting survey (Teaching Interrupted: Do Discipline Policies in Today's Public Schools Foster the Common Good?) available at http://cgood.org/schools-reading-cgpubs-polls-3.html

regarding school discipline, or lack thereof.

Some of the results of the survey state that:

  • Nearly 8 in 10 teachers (78%) said students are quick to remind them that they have rights or that their parents can sue.
  • Nearly half of teachers surveyed (49%) reported they have been accused of unfairly disciplining a student.
  • More than half of teachers (55%) said that districts backing down from assertive parents causes discipline problems in the nation's schools.
  • 94% of teachers say finding ways to hold parents more accountable for kids' behavior would be a very or somewhat effective solution to schools' discipline problems. (69% said very effective.)

Most of us above a certain age can remember that the trouble we got into at school was nothing compared to what was waiting for us at home. Parents of that time demanded respect for teachers. If the school said you were misbehaving or being disrespectful, that was enough for Mom and Dad. I can still remember my mother's reaction (or overreaction, as I saw it then) when she heard me call a high school teacher by his first name, as the teacher had requested of all his students. (It was the '70s; explanation enough?) Disrespectful behavior wasn't accepted or excused by parents of that generation, and certainly threats of lawsuits were unheard of.

I can't tell you when parents stopped being held accountable for their childrens' behavior, but my awareness of it can be tracked to my older child's elementary school years. Two instances stand out:

  • I was informed by another parent whose child rode the same bus as my child that my child had teased a younger child by taking the younger child's hat. When I called and asked the principal, an educator whose viewpoint I otherwise agreed with, why this incident hadn't been reported to me by the school, the reply was that I would have been informed had the behavior continued over time. Asked to clarify that answer, the principal said that I would have been called the third time. As I said at the time: "By that time, it's become a habit." The administrator explained that experience had taught him that many parents react poorly to reports of their child's misbehavior, so his policy was to call only when that misbehavior had passed a certain point. I requested the school to inform me of any further misbehavior by my child, and also required my child to write a note of apology to the other student and the bus driver. (Note to parents: This is considered by a child to be worse than taking away Nintendo, t.v., and sugared snacks!)
  • While acting in my capacity as a monitor in an after-school program at the elementary level, I was put in charge of a child who had been asked to leave a classroom because of misbehavior. As I was explaining to his mother that he could return next week if he promised not to repeat the offense, he slapped me across the face. Mom's response? "Oh, (child's name), I know that you're tired and hungry." No apology by Mom or child was ever forthcoming.

Years ago, in trying to instruct my children on public behavior, I cautioned them that inappropriate behavior would result in our leaving a restaurant, supermarket, or playground. Each of my children tested my resolve on this issue, sometimes more than once. While inconvenient to me, I considered it a favor to my children. We are, none of us, the center of the Universe. We are traveling through life with other passengers, and we all have to get along. We have to show others that we respect their space in the world by not imposing the worst of our inclinations upon them.

My children weren't born with angel wings, and they haven't grown them in the years since. There have been plenty of instances in which they needed to be reminded of family standards. I'm at a disadvantage if I don't know about the misbehavior. I'm willing to be accountable for my child's behavior; administrators need to include me in the communication loop. It seems to me that those of us who are willing to deal with our children's misbehavior are being held hostage because of administrators' experience with parents who are not. All kids will misbehave; the adults around them need to be swift and certain in their response.

All this rambling is to make one point: Discipline at school is in the hands of parents, and administrators should treat us as the partners we are. We should expect and demand the best of our children from day one. They are capable of it. And some day they will thank us.

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Saga of the Bored Mother

I sometimes wish that my children had more imagination. Their wrongdoings are getting boring. Non-compliance is hard enough to deal with; the least they could do is make it interesting for me! I'm not suggesting that they throw a little wilding or drug use in there, but they could mix it up a little so that, instead of having to say repeatedly: "Stop running on the stairs." I could say: "Stop hopping on the stairs." See, I'm not asking for much.

My children could be parented by a tape recorder. I have no doubt that, were I to set up a tape recorder with a continual loop of Mom's Top Ten Hits (Put your shoes away, your socks don't belong in the kitchen, flush the toilet, wash your hands, put your dishes in the dishwasher, wear a hat, zip up your jacket, etc), my absence would take a while to register with my boys. It does my ego no good to know that it's hard to say when they'd actually report that absence!

I had no intention of being this kind of parent. No, flush with pregnancy and with no real understanding of the funkiness of children (even though I'm the oldest of seven and should have known better), I dreamed of a relationship with my children that had no basis in reality. I should have paid attention to the looks of pity that experienced mothers threw my way as I broadcast my stupidity in conversations with them. Perhaps this level of naivete is necessary for the survival of the species. If we knew that our children could bore us to death at times, would we have still had them? Every parent knows that the day will come when our children develop beliefs on matters such as politics that will differ from ours. We know there's a strong possibility that they will break our heart. We know that someday they will leave us and go on to create their own place in the world. But someone should have warned us that we would have to tell them 123,857 times to stop spitting on their brother!

Saturday, December 18, 2004


Hearing the forecast for snow naturally brings to my mind the view from the deck at our summer vacation cabin on Lake Champlain.
Copyright 2004 Pattiann Malynn No distribution allowed.

Friday, December 17, 2004

What Do We Owe Each Other?

As fellow community members, what do we owe each other?

Do we live in a bubble in which our needs are paramount, or do we fashion a world in which we give at least as much as we take? Do we respect the space we each need, or do we see our needs as overriding those needs of others? Do we allow for others' foibles, or do we pounce on every mistake, every inconsistency, every misstep?

Community standards are set and accepted in a complicated dance that is acknowledged by all but the most arrogant and selfish of us. We accept this way of doing things because, among other reasons, meaningful interactions are necessary to our happiness and growth. Meaningful interactions cannot take place if we are not seen as contributing to the community's overall good. We may not understand why we're being seen in this way, but we must be introspective enough to see that maybe this time and place is not our time and place. Perhaps we need to step back and reflect on a way that our needs can be aligned with the community's needs. None of us are so flawed that we can't redeem ourselves; it merely becomes harder over time. But not impossible.

What Community Members Owe Each Other

1. Respect for space, privacy and ideas.
2. Intellectual honesty.
3. A sense of responsibility for how our actions play out in the community.
4. A recognition that silence is sometimes the better choice.

What do you think community members owe each other? Submit your idea by clicking on "Comments". Contributions are not tracked by IP address tracking; you may submit
anonymously.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

A Reminder of What's to Come


As cold weather settles in, a reminder that Spring will be here . . . . eventually.
Click on pic to see an enlargement.
Photo copyright 2004 Pattiann Malynn. No distribution allowed.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Walk on the Wild Side

I have taken to calling myself The Invisible Pedestrian. I must be invisible; drivers don't appear to see me as I attempt to cross the street. It can't be because they don't know the law; it can't be because they're so busy that they don't have 20 seconds to spare a fellow traveler; it can't be because they're incredibly rude. No, the only explanation is that they must not be able to see me.

I'm a walker. I walk all over this town. Much of my walking time is relaxing. I listen to music or take photos. But crossing the street, any street in this town, is never easy. I try to cross in a crosswalk, if available, but still I'm guaranteed to have to wait as car after car passes me by. I allow that the first car to go by as I step to the curb won't be able to stop, for fear of getting rear-ended. My patience level is about 5 cars; after that, I start talking to the drivers as they pass me by: "I know; you have someplace important to go", "Yes, I know; you don't see me." As you can see, sarcasm is my weapon of choice. A feeble weapon it is, too.

After the 7th or 8th car, I accompany my monologue with gestures (no, not that) that leave no doubt to drivers who choose to look my way that I'm a little ticked: arms akimbo, with a "what, are you kidding me?" look on my face. This will sometimes shame a driver into stopping.

Years ago, moving from my small hometown in Vermont to California, I was surprised to find that as soon as I stepped off the curb, cars would stop. Asking a neighbor about this strange West coast behavior, I was told that severe fines are levied against those drivers silly enough to ignore a crossing pedestrian. Would that Massachusetts had the wisdom to have such a law.

After 15 years of walking in this town, this is what I know about who will stop and who won't:

Won't, ever: Town employees in town vehicles
Who will, always: Commercial truck drivers

In your daily travels, keep a lookout for a woman talking to cars as she waits to cross the road. The Invisible Pedestrian will thank you with a smile and a little wave.