Not Participating

It’s Tuesday morning, and back to school (for most), so I don’t know if this is going to come to fruition or not.  “Sex-ed protesters plan to keep kids home from school Tuesday“.  I’m sure that there will be news reports on it one way or the other later today.  In the meantime, the news seems to be focused on the fiasco with the Conservative Party candidates.  There’s always something.

But, it did make me stop and think.  What would I have liked my parents to keep me home from school from?

Now, just a little background.  My parents revered my schools.  They were the teachers’ and school’s biggest supporters.  In the case of Doug versus anyone with the school system, Doug lost.  But that was OK.  It gave me a deeper respect for the profession.  Even things that were just normal life went against me.  We always had a family doctor and dentist who had evening and Saturday hours and I was scheduled appropriately.  The only time I can remember going to a doctor during the school day was an appointment with a specialist in London.  It was a big deal because it meant that Dad had to take time away from work.

But, the concept has stuck with me.  When we finally moved here, we were fortunate enough to get a family doctor with late afternoon appointments.  So, I never had to miss work time to go although I remember reading my first collective agreement that indicated that there was coverage for doctor’s appointments that had to be scheduled during the school day.  I never used that but I do remember getting the dreaded “on-calls” to cover a class for someone who did.  Ironically, one of the coverages that I still remember was covering a health class where parts of the human anatomy were covered.  It actually was a pretty easy coverage as the kids were fairly interested and the approach was pretty clinical.  I’m not a fan of worksheets but I was that day!

So, with this background, you’ll know why my parents never allowed me to miss school.  Even on the days that I might be sickly, the first question was always “is there a test today?”

But, I sure would have liked to have stayed home for the following:

  • Singing!  I remember an elementary school class where everyone had to do solo singing.  I suppose if you had a musical bent and even a modicum of skill, it was no big deal.  When your singing sounds like a flat tire, it’s just embarrassing.  Even today, the dog looks back over his shoulder to see what’s coming if I happen to sing with my outside voice during our morning walks.
  • Cadets!  Going through elementary school, I’d always heard of the myth of cadets at secondary school.  You had to wear those heavy wool uniforms, do fancy marching, and learn how to shoot a rifle.  Rumour had it that there was even a rifle range in the basement of the school.  As luck would have it, this was an event that I didn’t have to be a participant.  They scrapped the program when I was in Grade 8.  To this date, the only rifle I’ve ever shot is one of those BB guns that they have at carnivals.
  • Initiation!  All Grade 9 students had to go through initiation.  We had to wear our mother’s night gown for the day to be humiliated appropriately and easily spotted.  Once you were in a classroom, you were safe but you were fair game for the Grade 12 and 13 students if they caught you in the hall.  “Grubby Grade Niner – carry my books” was what it was supposed to be about.  Some of the other things inflicted were a little more hurtful.  Thanks to published reports of abuse at universities, this practice is pretty much banned any more.
  • Skipping!  This goes to Grade 4 or Grade 5 where we were marked on our abilities to skip rope, something I could never master.  It was timed in the spring because the school yard always flooded and we had to stay on the blacktop at recess and lunch.  The classrooms were given a supply of skipping ropes to practice with instead.  Can you remember “never-enders”?  Well, I always shouted “ever-enders” so I didn’t have to show how bad a skipper I was.  While I generally did well in Phys. Ed., this was one skill that eluded me.

And, I had to participate.  No notes for me.

As for the events scheduled today, only time will tell.  I recognize that it’s a different day and time but I can’t help but think that the message is directed at the wrong people.  Teachers and schools can’t do anything about it.  School districts have to comply with Ministry of Education Curriculum materials.  There are reports that some school districts are making adjustments in their delivery but, with a provincial curriculum, they can’t cherry pick what they actually want to cover and still give a credit.

Directing the ire at schools and teachers just encourages bad relationships there.  If it’s a legitimate concern, the proper route would be through the MPP, Minister of Education or Premier and presentations by their governing bodies directly to those that control the content.  In the meantime, what message is given to the students that they can just boycott things they don’t want?  What message is given about the parents’ opinion of the school and its teachers?  Can a student tell the difference?

Oh, and one more thing to add to my list – any really hot day.  I never had the pleasure of going to an air-conditioned classroom.  Hot is hot and add 30 bodies only makes it hotter.

4:30 am update before this post goes live:

6 thoughts on “Not Participating

  1. I would have liked to skip the dance classes in PE when I was in middle school. I didn’t appreciate it at the time. I might now.

    New York City high schools used to have rifle teams. I was really looking forward to that but they shut them all down the summer before I entered high school. I still think that was a shame. If you ever some to New Hampshire again I might be able to arrange for you to try shooting a rifle if you want.


  2. Thanks for the offer, Alfred, but I have no desire to ever do that. In our Phys. Ed. classes in the winter, we did square dancing and it was a big social event.


  3. thanks for the thought prompt, Doug. I am having a really hard time with the whole reaction to the new curriculum – and particularly to only focusing on one strand of it, and not looking at what the document actually says. As a parent, I have only had one experience with a teacher who actually opened the conversation up in health to talk about healthy relationships, and answered the kids questions. Most people, if they teach that part of the curriculum at all, are still using the worksheets and focusing on the plumbing, which I think is kind of counter-productive, but that’s my particular soapbox. I’m one of those weird people who actually likes teaching sex ed. 🙂
    There’s so much about the conversations that we’re not having with communities about this curriculum,and the media feeds the hot buttons, and people let their kids stay home – I’d love it if they’d ask their kids what they’ve actually learned in the past in health class – I think it would put minds at rest if they knew anything about what it usually looks like in a classroom setting.

    I need to say that it hadn’t hit me until I read your post that part of why older boy’s transition to high school this week has been easier is that initiation simply doesn’t exist anymore. He didn’t have to be anybody’s “slave for the day”, or dress up in a humiliating way, or anything that was inflicted upon or by his parents in their high school years. It was a big, exciting first day – little bit of nervousness, but not keep-you-awake stress.

    And I’m happy to say that there were no solos in yesterday’s music class, taught by me – we had a lot of fun singing some silly stuff together – Grade 7 and everything!

    Much of the “I don’t want to” that I see coming from my students is coming out of fear of risk and fear of failure. I think if we can work on changing that climate, we might see less of the “opting out”.

    For me, it was track and field day. Huge opportunity for humiliation for me. 🙂



  4. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Lisa. I, too, am puzzled by the response as all that it takes is a read of the newspaper or watch the news to see how quickly kids are growing up and they need to be informed. I also understand that it’s just my opinion and that there are others. It disturbs me that a hard working teacher is taking the brunt of it with student absences. They’re not the ultimate decision makers but, I guess, as the federations say, they are the face of education.


    1. I was appalled today to hear the numbers coming out of Thorncliffe Park in Toronto. 700 kids away yesterday, 400 today – hopefully that will keep shrinking, though the “community” (largely Muslim) has said they will keep their children out for the month of September. I struggle with it being okay to keep your child out of math, language, science, etc, because you don’t want them to be in health class. Most of the teachers I know don’t teach that unit until June anyway! There was an amazing, and painful, interview with an obviously caring principal on Here and Now (CBC radio drive home show) today. It was obvious that he had done a great deal to build bridges with the community his school serves, and that he was distraught about the situation.


Please share your thoughts here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.