My Blog List

Monday, March 30, 2015

Time To Hit The Books, Again.

It seems like ages since I last posted a blog here.  Perhaps one of the longest periods of silence ever.  

I haven’t had the time to write lately.  Not because of a lack of content.  As anyone with a child will quickly tell you, there’s always a story to tell.  Children have an unending appetite for adventure and excitement so, there’s never a dull moment around our home.   

I haven’t written for quite some time because, I’ve decided to return to university and study to become a teacher.  Elementary education is where I think I’d be most beneficial, especially as I’ve spent the past nine years + raising our son.  Plus, all the time I’ve invested in the various parent groups associated with school, gives me an edge. I think I know what parents expect from elementary teachers.  I’ve experienced it from the view point of a parent, now, I’d like to see it from a teacher’s perspective.

My studies started middle of this month and will take about three years.  Making the transition back to “student” has been a challenge for me.  I last studied some ten years ago.  I’ve literally hit the ground running—hard!  I honestly don’t know how these young kids do know, party and study at the same time?!

Managing a household and a nine year old is tough.  Now toss in a professor who also demands your attention and time becomes even more limited.  

So there you have it.  My excuse for being silent for so long.

We’re off to Rome tomorrow.  A trip my wife and I made some eighteen years earlier.  Rome was a lovely city back then.  I’m guessing it’ll be even better this time around.  What makes this trip so special for us is that we can share Rome’s beauty and charm with our son.  He has no idea what the next few days will bring, or how culturally enriching this trip will be for him.

I’ll try and post a few pictures.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Cultural Divide

Cultural differences between German and American schools, never ceases to amaze.  I regularly see, for example, kids as young as six or seven, riding public transit alone, to/from school daily. Throughout the school year, I’ve eased up a little, allowing my son to ride part of the way to/from school by himself.  Another example of cultural difference is young teenage kids hanging-out with school friends, all hours of the day and night.  Eventually the day will come when my child will want to do the same.  The cultural gap seems to be at its widest when it comes to swimming pool etiquette, particularly at German schools.  What happened last week during swimming class left me speechless.

Our son has one swimming lesson per week, as part of the school curriculum.  I got the shock of my life when, my son revealed to me that he was made to sit in his underwear and t-shirt during swimming class,  despite having came to school with a note from home, asking his swim teacher to excuse him from all water activities.  He not swimming was, on the advice of a doctor, due to a persistent cough.  Our child wasn’t ill enough to remain home but, according to the doctor should avoid getting wet---meaning no swimming.  Unbeknownst to us, children aren’t allowed to enter the pool area wearing street clothes or shoes.  And since our child came to school without swimming trunks, he had no other option available to him other than to strip down.

We were completely unaware of this policy. And from what I can gather from a few other parents, they too had no clue. We did know that any student not participating in swimming that day is required to bring a note from home.  Had we known the consequences beforehand, our son would’ve come to school with both an excuse note and swimming kit. 

The school’s response was immediate and swift, when I contacted them for answers.  I received a reply, within hours of writing.  Several email exchanges took place between me and the school that afternoon.  None of the explanations they gave seemed to satisfy me, or that they too were fully aware of the policy so; I personally showed up the following morning and had a cordial conversation with a senior school official.  The school agreed to look into the matter and get back to me as soon as they had clarification on the swimming policy.

True to their word, they did; I received an email later that day.  According to two swimming teachers, the swimming hall’s policy, set forth by local government in Berlin, policy they must adhere to, have strict rules and regulations which clearly states that no one is allowed to enter the swimming area wearing shoes or street clothes, for hygienically reasons.  And since my child didn’t bring his swimming trunks, the teachers had no choice but to insist that he wear the bare minimum. 

As it was explained to me, the swimming instructor’s hands are tied.  And as they don’t have anywhere else to put the kids who can’t swim (lack of adult supervision), non-participates are forced to sit in the swimming hall for safety reasons.

Had this bit of vital information been communicated to parents, this would’ve never happened.  The swimming teachers say they forewarned parents, earlier in the year during an initial meeting with all parents at the beginning of the school year.  I’ve attended every meeting offered to parents by the school and cannot remember this EVER being mentioned.  I remember the part about writing a note, but nothing about having the kids sit in underwear and t-shirt. 

I understand the need to keep public pools and swimming halls clean and disease free however, the current guidelines need to be revised with the best interest of the children in mind. 

Here’s why.

First, kids at the age of eight and nine are becoming self conscience, not only of themselves but of everyone else.  Imagine having to sit next to someone you don’t know, especially if that person is older or of the opposite sex, wearing minimum clothing. How would you feel?  Second, picture your own child sitting in front of all their classmates, wearing skivvies and a tank-top.  How do you think they’re feeling?  Would you want to sit in front of your peers, fellow classmates from college or co-workers, dressed this way?  I wouldn’t.  And finally, it’s just down-right humiliating and embarrassing.  My own child said he felt uncomfortable and awkward by it all.  

I swim at a local swimming hall three times a week, here in Berlin.  Rules and regulations require swimmers to remove their shoes before heading to the changing rooms.  Removing your shoes helps to prevent the introduction of foreign objects into areas in and around the pool.  These and other precautions make perfect sense to me and I’m more than willing to comply.  Anything that goes beyond this doesn’t make sense.