Sept. 14, 1999

Walkout!

Younger Son phoned me at 10:30 this morning to tell me the students in his high school had "walked out" and he had gone to the mall with his friends.

This wasn't entirely unexpected.. there's an impending teacher's strike and other labour problems in this province (Quebec).. the nurses were on strike for part of the summer, and the hospital pharmacists very nearly resigned en masse. We fully expect teacher walkouts beginning in October, and the teachers are so far refusing to participate in extracurricular activities, thereby effectively cancelling them all. Students have walked out in nearby schools, and I'd heard they were thinking of doing it here, too. Their reasons are twofold: to protest the cancellation of their activities, and to show solidarity with their teachers' demands. That may sound mutually exclusive, but their protest is aimed at the government, not at the teachers themselves.

My first instinct when I got this call was to get myself over to the mall and... do what? Talk some sense into them? Fat chance.. I'd only have ended up embarrassing the poor kid, and discouraging him from making a similar call next time. (I really was impressed that he called, and told him so!) My second instinct was to go over to the school, as I'm active on parent committees there, and... do what? Give the Principal my moral support? That poor man sweated blood over the past 5 years or so to revamp that school's image, and now it looks like he's lost control. But he'd probably think I was there as a parent, trying to soften any impending punishment, or worse, as a critical committee member looking over his shoulder. So, I phoned a friend with a younger child in the school, to let her know, and after that went about my own business.

I might be wrong, but I see this walkout as an excuse for playing hookey. It's way too early in the year for the kids to get so worked up about activities. My son hardly participates at all anyway, except maybe for a talent show, which wouldn't be until the spring. Neither am I angry with him for following the crowd.. as long as he doesn't make a habit of it.

He ended up (after the mall) at a friend's house with 3 other boys, where they watched a movie, ordered too much pizza and ate it all, and participated in that weird "guy" ritual of having a farting contest. When I picked him up he was much more defensive than he needed to be.. he is an excellent student, after all, and I don't begrudge him the occasional 15 year old folly. I really mostly wanted to know what happened (the facts, ma'am..) rather than the excuses he was making, so I'd be at least somewhat informed for the next meeting. I think he was disappointed that I wasn't more critical of his exploits.

He and the more mature kids in his group spent rather an uncomfortable evening, speculating on possible punishments. One girl phoned the Principal, pretending to be her own mother, to ask about it. There's no way I was going to call.. let him sweat it out! The Principal is going to HAVE to make an example of them, as a deterrent, and I'm a great believer in facing the consequences of one's actions. The kids are starting to panic a bit with regard to their "record" and the effect this might have on college admission, but I really doubt that one transgression will make a difference. My son even told me that upon reflection, he felt bad for the Principal, who has won the respect and often the affection of the kids. Perhaps he learned more today than he would have, had he stayed in class.


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