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Shift

Every once in a while my brain gets a deep insightful thought. By once is a while I mean never. I cannot even remember the last time I had an original idea. It might have been in my early twenties when I first lived away from home. I figured out if I only used tooth paste every other day while brushing my teeth, I could save enough money for extra beers at the pub on the weekends.

The title “Shift” might be a little misleading to some. Those working long painful shifts at there place of employment, may have hoped there would be solid strategies to adapt to this situation. You will be disappointed.

Professiional racers may have thought that this title might offer superior approaches to shifting gears around tight corners as they craved that checkered flag. Again I wave a red flag to suggest you have come to the wrong place though Like Rainman, I would brag, “I’m an excellent driver!”. The Shift I am talking about is a much slower transition. It has happened over the past couple of generations, where positions of authority have been challenged. Let’s blame Woodstock.

Every once in a while I get invited to weddings. By once in a while I mean when the wedding couple is desperately trying to fill tables to meet their 250 seat minimum, my name occasionally comes up as an option. As I sit at table 47, I often engage other guests in conversation. I use reliable ice breakers like, “Could you please pass me the salt.” “Sorry I meant the pepper.” And “Are you going to finish your beef tenderloin?”.

Lately I have had the pleasure of meeting retired teachers at these weddings, and an interesting theme occurs after the speeches and the bar reopens. These former school employees talk about a rather dramatic shift in the parent teacher relationship.

For perspective allow me to share my experience as a young student.

My five siblings and I waded through our early education, with little drama. We all did our homework, because our parents only had to remind us once about this after school exercise. Though none of us achieved academic status that our parents could brag about at neighbourhood barbques, we all did reasonably well.
There was only one conversation each child dreaded to hear during those formative years of schooling, “Your teacher called and she wants to meet your parents tomorrow night”. When this rotary assisted phone call occurred, the reaction of the children was consistent and predictable. To quote the opening lyrics of the song, I Will Survive, “First I was afraid I was petrified’. And like the song title suggests, all the students did survive the severe consequences for their poor behavior.

Any trip to meet the teacher or the principal always ended the same way. The teacher would talk to the parents about some unattractive incident the child had been part of and the parents would support the teacher’s point of view. The parents would return home and the punishment would often supersede the school recommended discipline. The student would never behave that way again.

The Shift.

My conversations with numerous teachers have exposed a dramatic shift in the parent \ teacher relationship. I am hardly an academic researcher, hell I don’t even own a clipboard. The information I heard from retired and soon to be retired teachers is clear. The parents today no longer support the teacher’s conclusion and every meeting now shows that most parents are determined to refute any unpleasant observation of the teacher. The student is right, the teacher is wrong, and a meeting with the principal is made. That meeting echoes the stance of the earlier meeting and phrases like “teacher suspension” “My child would never do that” and always end with a parent question “What are you going to do about this?”

Today when the home gets a call from the school the student is thrilled with the possilbilty of a meeting, where the parent will show irrational support for the wonderful child. The child anticipates an open demonstration of their parent’s love by chastising the teacher’s opinion and dismissing all evidence as prejudicial and flawed in its conclusion. This parent child collaborative approach, bonds the generations as a strong alignment to the teacher’s poor behaviour solidifies the saintly status of the student.

Teachers will also whisper that manners and discipline are now the responsibility of the class room as the parents all both have to work long full time jobs, and spending quality time with their children will not include such trivial things. “Please”, “Thank you” and “chores” are now similar to the electives, or options students choose when filling out their annual school intenerary.

This shift in responsibility for courtesy, manners and discipline is a shift for others to analyze, but the previous pre-computer generation were forced to play games like “Mother May I”, and “Please Mr. Crocodile, May we cross the river?” Geez, even our games forced mannerly language to be demonstrated.

The world evolves and things change. Old antiquated approaches are replaced by a more modern culturally progressive stance. Perhaps the strap and supsensions are a little archaic in today’s educational systems. I am not suggesting my teachers were perfect even if many of them were nuns. None of the nuns ( I Love that phrase) were adverse to whacking their students with a ruler, when they discovered Johnny was chewing gum. As with all controversial positions, the answer lies somewhere in the middle of what was and what is.

As I conclude this unsubstantiated observation of a shift in educational relationships, one might rightfully suggest a more balanced piece of research is necessary to remove the “when I was a kid” bias. I am slowly approaching my 60th birthday, and I too may be going through an unexpected shift. Rapidly I am transforming from a cool guy to a grumpy old man. As many of your friends will tell you when you are facing difficult issues to deal with … Shift happens.

Cue the Blong… Whatever Happened To A reinforcement of my newly discovered Grumpy Old Man status.

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