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  • Susan May

The tale of the Organization Infringement

I sometimes shake my head at businesses using technology and not considering the cons more as much as the pros. The latest shenanigans with my children’s school have me shaking my head. My kids attend a private college and my youngest son told me Tuesday night he had an hour of detention on Wednesday afternoon.

We live a forty-minute round drive from the school and that's an inconvenience for which I need warning, as my eldest drives now and they come home together.

I'm told by the son that I was cc'd on an email to him about the detention, but I never received notice. The kicker that annoys the heck out of me is the detention is because he had broken his protective glasses for his woodwork class last term and so didn’t have them for the last class before school broke for winter holidays.

Upon his return this week, after holidays, he’d forgotten to tell me to get some new ones. So again, he turns up without them. Yes, he is a little forgetful, but he is fifteen and that’s an age and hormone thing. I remember getting away with a lot of memory moments while pregnant, and in the first few years of being a mum, by claiming ‘mummy brain.’ So it is a thing affected by hormones.

That's only two 'Organization Infringements,' as they've chosen to call them, that he knew about. When he asked what the third one was for, his home room teacher couldn't tell him and said they would find out. They never did. Seems a little disorganized to me. Could she possibly have forgotten to get back to him? If that's the case, I give her a Disorganization Infringement for poor communication.

I wrote an email yesterday morning to the head of his year telling him my son had commitments and was unable to attend detention, and how about advising a parent prior to the detention. By the way, I wrote, what were the infringements, since I hadn't been advised?

He replies this morning advising they had issues with their emails. This meant I received the notification of his detention at the same time on Wednesday when he was meant to be attending the detention even though the emails stated that it was a 24-hour notice. Seems a little DISORGANIZED to me. Emails going missing, kids being giving detentions they don’t understand? Not to mention, the email from him still didn’t answer what the detention was for. I guess it slipped his mind to respond to that.

Now they've moved to a Parent portal thing on the school’s website where I'm meant to check on whether he has infringements or not. I have so much time, of course, I do that every day, twice a day. NOT. I didn't even know I was meant to check. When I do log-in yesterday, I see he has three Organizational Infringements but no information on why they were given or what teacher gave them or what they’ve done to assist my son in becoming more organized. I mean, they’ve taken it upon themselves to run the whole thing without referring or advising me, so they could at least counsel him.

I would have thought they would send a notification of any 'infringement' to a parent and advise what it was for, so that the parents could then become part of the solution by discussing with their child. I mean, something as serious as forgetting glasses or a book really requires my immediate attention.

What I’m annoyed about is two-fold. First of all, schools distancing themselves by using electronic portals instead of personal contact is bound to create communication issues. Yes, I understand this is the world and progress and I must endure mistakes happening with technology. However, we are talking about children and their relationship with education, and parents’ relationships with an education facility. You want to be very careful with all of that before you create websites supposedly to better communicate.

Education is a three-way partnership. The child, the parent and the school. We must all, including the child, trust each other within that relationship. I don’t trust a school that relies on communication via a portal. If my child has erred so egregiously that he is given an Infringement Notice three times and then detention, I expect a phone call.

My second issue is, for goodness sake, what is the world coming to that kids aren’t allowed to forget things? How do they differentiate between the misdemeanor of being absent-minded (like that’s something that doesn’t occur with adults or teachers) and bullying, being disrespectful or disrupting a class, when they are all fulfilling their ‘punishment’ in the same room? They are not equal transgressions.

Image copyright Mark Parisi

Image copyright Mark Parisi:

There’s another issue too. What draconian world are education facilities living in these days? They are supposed to be preparing our children for the work force and living responsibly in a community. Most progressive companies and all the parenting books will tell you, that punishing an employee or a child doesn’t work. Sheesh, with all the employment laws now, if someone does something wrong in their job you have to spend enormous time and money in coaching, rehabilitating and assisting that person to perform better.

I’m not saying there shouldn’t be ramifications for doing the wrong thing or not performing in your job or at school, but every circumstance needs to be examined on its own merit. I remember years ago in a business I owned one of my staff left the door unlocked overnight to our store. Now we sold video-games and that’s a very desirable theft target. We could have got angry at him, punished him, even fired him, but what would be the point? He was a good employee and he already felt bad about forgetting. If I never forgot a single thing or ever made a mistake, then I could have gotten angry at him. However, I recognized we hire humans and humans are fallible.

What I find incredible is that this school is punishing my son for that big brain in his head having a glitch, probably due to hormones, and forgetting his glasses; not punishing him for his general behavior, because he has glowing reports on that. Yet, the very system the school is using to notify me of his fallibility has turned out to be fallible. Their emails didn’t work and their portal doesn't send me advices when he does something wrong. So my human son is not allowed to make a mistake but we are happy to shrug off computer and email errors.

Something is wrong with this picture. If a child is continually doing something detrimental, then we need to discover why. If a child forgets something three times in six months of school, then I think we know the answer. They’re just being normal kids. Let's please move on and deal with important issues.

My son won’t be doing a detention for something that I haven’t been advised about in the first instance. Therefore, all the infringements are invalid and voided in my book. I certainly don’t blindly allow my kids to get away with bad behavior. I don't treat them like precious darlings but I'm all about fair and using common-sense. If they do push the boundaries I call them out. But as we all know, you should pick your battles.

Apparently, I'm told, if he doesn't do the detention then it will be escalated. Good, let's go. Let's waste more time on a teenager's forgetfulness. In their corner, the school is defending non-real life rules and systems, while claiming to be preparing my children for the real world. In my corner, I'll be arguing the poor communication, badly-thought-out technology and lack of common sense.

I'm happy to waste time on that because it's a worthy debate when it comes to my kids and their school. Maybe I can help improve their systems. Trust me, them punishing my son for forgetting glasses is not going to help him become more organized. So I win because there may be some solution to my problems with them. There is none for their tiny problem with my son, unless we can find a way to stick a micro-chip in his memory slot that never fails.

Me being me, I will pursue this with the school because I believe that sometimes institutions and companies get so caught up in technology and the time and money saving aspect, they are blind to what they forego.

Forgetting items may not be a sign of disorganization, it might be just a sign we have a living, breathing, young human being, whom with we should take every opportunity to teach temperance, patience and kindness. These are my sole goals with my children. I just wish I could rely on my school to practice the same.



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