Sunday, 21 February 2010

Half Term

It's been the half term holiday this past week and, although I no longer need to*, I've taken some time off. Someone had to get my daughter out of bed, after all. Normal service will now be resumed.

Talking of getting people out of bed, has anyone else encountered an adult walking down the street in broad daylight wearing pajamas? I saw this for the first time last summer, and presumed the woman was mental. But I have since since seen several more, and heard recently on the radio that Tesco has had to ban people from shopping who are wearing only nightclothes. What on earth is happening to this country?







* And, thank goodness ... British parents of younger children have to cover a total of around 60-70 days of school closures in the year which -- if you consider the typical annual leave entitlement from work is 25 days or fewer -- can be a considerable challenge. I have nothing but admiration for those saintly people who elect to teach our children, but the arrangement of school holidays is so last century... Reconsidering the need for those 15 days of half term breaks would be a start...

17 comments:

May said...

Luckily no one walks around in night clothes in this corner of the world (Southern Europe). I heard it happens in China.

As regards school holidays, as a working mother I see your point. But I wonder what is better for the kids. Should school and pre-school be a sort of "parking area" for the young ones, even for toddlers?

Dave Leeke said...

Speaking as a teacher going back to school tomorrow, I was thinking that as we spend so much time at school during term time, we might as well sleep in our classrooms. Perhaps I'll have a legitimate reason for wearing pyjamas in class tomorrow.

Sorry Mike, I prefer the English spelling!

Mike C. said...

May,

"Should school and pre-school be a sort of "parking area" for the young ones, even for toddlers?"

Oh, yes! Both of our kids attended day nursery from the age of 6 months -- but we could afford it. I think they benefited from the stimulus of other children, and not being stuck at home with a bored and resentful parent.

Dave,

I have a vague memory of seeing a teacher with his pajamas (oh, all right, pyjamas) sticking out the bottoms of his trousers, but maybe that was really on TV.

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

At least it gives me something to talk about tomorrow.

May said...

Although my children attended daycare from the age of 15 months, if I could go back I would only leave them there for two or three hours a day instead of picking them up at 4 PM. Even now, that they are older, I think that the best solution for them would be to spend half of the day in school and the other half at home with friends and family. Why did I choose differently? Because my teaching activity did not allow me to work less than four days a week. On the other hand, staying at home would have deprived my family of the nice things that money can buy.
From what I have heard, this dilemma is very frequent among working mothers.

Mike C. said...

May,

It is a dilemma for all working parents: it is increasingly the norm that two salaries are needed to fund even a modest way of life, and part-time jobs (especially "term time only" jobs) are much sought after.

As it happens, I went part-time myself when our son started at school, as I wanted to collect him from school and enjoyed spending the afternoon with him. For many years, I was the only man waiting in the playground!

Much as I sympathise with teachers, I do think the school year (and day) needs rethinking with working parents in mind. When I was little, primary schools finished at 4:00 pm. Now, 3:00 is the norm, and my daughter's secondary school finishes the day at 2:40!

(your English is very good, May: are you an English teacher?)

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

All joking aside, as an English teacher in both senses of the word (being English and a teacher OF English) I know that at Secondary level there's a lot of discussion about timings of the school day and holidays. Essex mostly works what is effectively a six term year (when we all go to that Easter will probably have to be stabilised) but here in Suffolk we're still working with "stretchy-time" half terms. Also, we finish at 3 but many of us would consider finishing at lunchtime. However, I am also a parent and used to be the only father in the school playground, so I do sympathise.

Perhaps taking the Icelandic/Australian view of education and teaching everyone via video conference or distant learning is the way forward? On second thoughts, who wants to sit in front of a computer all day? Er, wait a minute . . .

May said...

It is nice to know that fathers experience the same strong need as mothers to spend time with their children. For me it is often hard to go to work knowing that I won't see my boys for the whole day and fearing that they will miss me.

Distance learning? In general I am against it. Occasionally it can be a pleasant diversion.

PS - Thank you, Michael! I am an academic and applied maths, not English, is my field.

Mike C. said...

Dave,

"Perhaps taking the Icelandic/Australian view of education and teaching everyone via video conference or distant learning is the way forward?"

Well, universities may certainly be heading that way -- it won't be long, I think, before you'll be able to follow a Harvard Business School franchised MBA at a more convenient location (like, at home) with all texts and teaching delivered electronically, perhaps with accredited teaching assistance based at local institutions (if that sounds like the Open University, it just shows what pioneers they were).

The idea of a university as a residential finishing school for the top 10% has been overwhelmed by the reality of mass education. It just doesn't work any more.

May,

Well, now I'm really impressed! It is so shameful (for us) that foreign non-specialists can speak our language so well, when we have pretty much abandoned the teaching of foreign languages in school (it is no longer compulsory).

At my school in the 1960s/70s, I was taught French, German, Russian and Latin; my daughter had to make do with just French, and my son just Spanish -- they had to choose one or the other, and no other options were available. Shameful.

Mike

May said...

In my part of the world, blended learning had its spike a few years ago and it is now declining. Platforms are mostly used as a repository for didactic material.

Languages are a must for those who are born outside the UK and the US. I know three languages well, one not so well and, like you, I have studied Latin for many years.

Mike C. said...

Of course, as educated Europeans, our lingua franca would once have been Latin. As Latin is lost to new generations, so whole areas of mediaeval and renaissance culture and history become inaccessible -- it's not really something you can pick up in a couple of years casual study.

I was literally in the very last group of boys to be taught Latin in our school -- after the subject was officially dropped (after we had been taught it for four years), eight of us carried on being taught for a fifth year in our lunch hour. I'm proud to say we all got As...

Mind you, I can hardly remember a thing now...

Mike

Dave Leeke said...

Actually, Mike I was taught "Ancient Languages" at Alleynes in the first year. It included Greek and Latin - and, I could be wrong (usually am) Egyptian Hieroglyphics (didn't help much on the Nile last year). By the time I hit the second year (Year 8 in new money) it was all over and the school had gone comprehensive.

By the way, don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating distance learning, but I can see it coming. The amount of people pulling their children out of mainstream education currently to be taught at home is phenomenal. Ofsted are already sniffing around.

Martin H. said...

An interesting debate. Dave mentioned, "The amount of people pulling their children out of mainstream education currently to be taught at home is phenomenal."

My daughter and son-in-law are seriously looking at the home education option. It's difficult to see how things will improve in schools until there is a radical change to a system originally set up to make human widgets for the smooth-running of our now defunct manufacturing base.

Mike C. said...

Good grief, mention the words "pajamas/pyjamas" and "school" in a scant two paras and I'm knee deep in comments... Tomorrow, I may just put two randomly chosen words together, and sit back and wait for the reaction.

Back to pajamas/pyjamas: Home schooling is one of those waves that has happened in the States, and may be on its way here (sounds like it's breaking on the Suffolk coast). My impression is that in the US it's partly to do with standards and discipline, and partly to do with that very American resistance to "state interference" -- seen in that perspective, the idea that OFSTED would seek to get its hands on home schooling is quite amusing. In the States, they'd probably gun down an OFSTED inspector as soon as he set foot on the garden path.

Frankly, my experience of state schools is that they're OK if (a) you don't live in London and (b) you are parents who believe in the value of education and (c) your kids are either quite bright or in need of some special attention. Kids in the middle can seem to pass through without touching the sides.

My son (currently studying at Oxford) spent 5 years at a school which failed its OFSTED (not helped by an excluded boy beating someone up in the playground in front of the inspectors) and which has one of the grimmer white "underclass" catchments in Southampton (itself not a byword for leafy suburban bliss), leavened by some children of university employees and a number of kids from aspiring Asian families. Nonetheless he left for 6th form college with eleven GCSEs, nine at A* or A, and he wasn't the only one.

Yes, he was bothered by some bullying, and, yes, the bright kids formed a defensive clique within the school and did get some extra attention. But any panic over our schools is unjustified, in my observation.

It is government policy that has screwed up public sector financing, stripped the heart out of the curriculum, put a straitjacket on teachers' professionalism, and made schools compete in idiotic tables based on idiotic targets. Grrr. And all we have to look forward to is more of the same or a Tory government.

Pyjamas, indeed.

Mike

Gavin McL said...

If I remember rightly a Belfast head teacher had to ban parents from picking dropping off/ picking up their children in their night clothes a couple of years ago. I haven't seen it myself but it seems part of that living in a bubble divorced from others trend in society. It's like the whole world is your living room and nobody else is there.
Puts paid to that old classic anxiety dream of realizing you are out and about in your PJ's
Like the tree shadow photo
Gavin

Dave Leeke said...

I have spent my 17 or so years of teaching in Suffolk schools with their fair share of "problem students". One of these schools has been a failing school and is now an Academy - many of us will be carrying that yolk soon enough. Interestingly enough, I often meet kids that were unteachable and wrecked many other students' education - where do they end up? Well, yes, some in prison but I'm constantly surprised by the amount that choose to go in the army.

They recognise the fact that as teachers have no power (think of the fear generated at our old alma mater) so they need to go in to the most disciplined service they can find out sheer need for it.

And, by and large, they are mostly nice blokes now.

Dave Leeke said...

The last sentence requires an "of" between "out" and "sheer".

Apologies.