A post from the discussion about people who left for private school got me to thinking about another issue. What about kids, their dress and their behavior? Someone mentioned how on a tour of AS#1, they saw behavior they didn't like. When my older son first went to Eckstein, I was very surprised at how some kids dressed and behaved.
What did I see at Eckstein? A lot of girls with pajama bottoms, midriffs or, worse, visible thongs. Baggy pants on the boys (which, of course, induced laughter in me because of the odd way the boys have to walk to keep them up). Eckstein does have a dress code which does get enforced. (Principal Campbell has a set of oversized, ugly tees for the girls who have problems covering up. Not much fun to wear one of them all day.) I also heard a lot of mouthiness from kids which really surprised me. I know now that Eckstein is pretty normal and actually not half as bad as some other schools. (And if you don't have a middle schooler, just wait.)
Here's where the old school part of me comes in (or maybe just the old). When I was in school, we did not talk back to adults. Any adult, not just teachers. We did not attempt to just walk away when an adult was talking to us (and let me say, nearly all kids I have encountered in middle and high school try this). We did not argue about what we were going to do next in class or moan (at least outloud) about homework. So when I first went to Eckstein as a volunteer and tutor and encountered students who did this stuff, I was shocked.
Okay, so what's happening? Is it parenting? Could be, although I have wonder if half these kids would pull this stuff with their parents. (Although someone has to be paying for the clothes so at some level parents have some responsibility.) One thing I discovered is this about schools and teachers; there may be a dress code, a code about Ipods, cell phones, etc. but is it enforced? Nope. Many teachers have come to the conclusion that some battles are not worth fighting about or they don't want to be considered a pain. So, at Eckstein, even though there is a no headphones rule, many teachers allow kids to listen to music either while either doing silent reading or doing individual work. Some teachers will call kids on their dress and others just don't want to be bothered or more likely, just don't want to get into it. So you have kids getting mixed signals and more likely to push the envelope simply because there is no across-the-board enforcement.
Here's another example. In most elementaries, there are sponges on the tables and kids have to clean up after themselves before they can go to recess after lunch. However, this ends in middle school so at Eckstein, at least, it can look like a hurricane after lunch. This may be because they don't have enough adults to tell kids, "Pick up after yourself." The few adults there have enough to do just monitoring behavior in the cafeteria.
At Eckstein (and likely most other middle schools) there is a no hat rule. No hats, no bandanas, no chains on the pants and no sunglasses. So my son gets to Roosevelt and yes, they wear hats, bandanas and sunglasses. I asked one teacher about it because I would think it might bother a teacher to not be able to see a kid's face. She said she just didn't want to fight that battle and some kids do it when they are having an off day and don't want to look at anyone.
(I thought about this issue of seeing someone's face with the Virginia Tech tragedy. The shooter frequently wore sunglasses to class and would not speak when spoken to. It certainly made his professors uneasy and I have to wonder how long he had been doing it. Since high school?)
I remember touring Salmon Bay and noticing a lot of gum chewing. Surprising because it normally is not allowed at most schools. I asked about it and was told by the principal that it was a teacher decision. Frankly, it put me off.
So, what is too old school? Is it too old school to want kids to dress as though they are at school and not at home in their rooms? (And if you don't think a 15-year boy sitting behind a girl with a pink thong isn't distracting, then what is?) Should students be required to show their faces in class? Why would a teacher not send a student out who is swearing? Is there a gray area in schools among allowances for teen angst, teen oppositional behavior and just bad behavior? Who decides? The teacher? The principal? And if your child is at an alternative school, does that mean alternative behavior?
I don't know the answers. Like a lot of things involving parents and schools, we bring our own set of experiences and expectations to the table. Clearly, things have stood out to a lot of your during school tours.
What are your expectations about behavior in schools?