Up Front by Emma Hart

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Up Front: Absence of Malice

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  • snakeoil,

    Hi Steven, mr half-ounce I presume.

    Blue Lynn • Since Dec 2008 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    In the 5th form, I was the chair of the divisional council, and thus able to conjure excuses to be out of classes I was bored with.

    Between conveniently timed flute lessons and a couple of jobs I "helpfully" volunteered for I managed to only go to about 1/4 of my fourth form social studies classes.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    I loved convenient timing. If only there were more of it now..

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    Hi Steven, mr half-ounce I presume.

    Indeed.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • snakeoil,

    I will retain my flimsy semblance of anonimity, and wish you well my old friend...I enjoy your stories.

    Blue Lynn • Since Dec 2008 • 10 posts Report Reply

  • James Francis,

    Northland College, Kaikohe, 1970 to 1974. Bunking.

    It was the fullas in the big city schools who did the wagging, eh?

    I was a desultory bunker - mostly in the 7th Form when it wasn't very difficult. Hopping in a schoolmate's car and heading out to the Ohaewai pub.

    A friend and I were caught once by one of the senior teachers. Peter Coupe, a big bearded bear of a man who wore a white lab coat. He growled at us, "How many times do I have to tell you? If you're going to wander around, always carry a piece of paper." And with that, he wandered off.

    Peter Coupe was one of those signal teachers who are never forgotten by the students he taught.

    His lessons were a feast of knowledge - most of it off curriculum. But we lapped it up. Some of the things he taught me I was reintroduced to in my third year at University.

    A good and great man.

    St John's, Newfoundland • Since Nov 2006 • 121 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    You know the best thing any teacher taught me was one day in 3rd form when our english teacher sat down, pulled out his check book and explained how it worked, how to balance it and why that was important

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2605 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I will retain my flimsy semblance of anonimity, and wish you well my old friend...I enjoy your stories.

    Why, thankyou, and your anonymity is an interesting riddle.

    Atlantis • Since Nov 2006 • 4163 posts Report Reply

  • Felix Marwick,

    Hutt Valley High and Motueka High - mid to late 80's - wagging on both counts.

    And for Mark T; maybe I've got you wrong but I get the distinct impression you believe all authority figures have to be given respect. Well if that's what floats your boat then I wish you all the best.

    For myself, I believe respect has to be earned.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 200 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha,

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19667 posts Report Reply

  • Isaac Freeman,

    Do you mind if I ask why? That sounds weird, I know, but... did it not occur? Was it out of fear? Did you just never really want to?

    I never bunked. Never got a detention either. In my case I suspect it all comes down to having a loving father who happened to be a teacher, sometimes at the same small town schools in which I was a student. He deliberately avoided teaching my class, but my own teachers would occasionally come round in the weekend, and I'd sometimes be brought along to staff parties and such.

    The upshot was that I've never developed a particularly strong sense of Authority as a collective force opposed to my freedom. To this day, I tend to assume that teachers, cops, bureaucrats, politicians and so forth are all real people doing their jobs, and I instinctively sympathise with them if I feel people are being unfair to them. I walked away from more than one student protest because somebody started hurling personal abuse at a cop.

    So I never saw much personal mileage in sneaking out of school, because I didn't see much joy in making extra paperwork for a teacher. If I got bored, I talked too much or interrupted the class with jokes, until my Dad pointed out that this was also making life difficult for my teachers, because managing a whole class was more work than I realised. Eventually I learned to draw comics, which worked for most teachers because it was quiet enough, and I wasn't falling behind. I likewise avoided detentions by being smart enough to shut up on the second or third warning that I was too noisy.

    I guess I see a certain amount of disobedience as a positive, and I do worry about kids who will be 'good' even when the rule they're obeying doesn't make any sense.

    I don't think there's any inherent virtue in disobedience or obedience. You can disobey authorities who actually have your best interests in mind, and you can obey ones who don't. The important thing is to try and understand why the rules are the way they are, beyond whether they happen to be convenient for you.

    Good schools teach that with sensible rules and teachers who can tell you which one you broke and what you need to do about it, and will listen if it turns out they've misunderstood something. Failing schools are full of arbitrary rules and punishments, and teachers who apply them without common sense. Most of our schools are pretty good.

    Christchurch • Since Feb 2007 • 134 posts Report Reply

  • Susannah Shepherd,

    Marlborough Girls', 1980s, wagging or skiving. I didn't wag much at high school, just the occasional day or extended (liquid) lunch-break here or there.

    I was however a persistent truant at primary and intermediate, with my parents' full knowledge - for reasons not unconnected with an item in today's news. Being moved from one class to another a week into the year, because my original teacher refused to teach me on the grounds I was too clever (and let that be known around the school), didn't exactly inspire me to spend much time there...

    After that, high school was a relief - at least if you got beaten up there, you weren't made to believe that was *your* fault.

    Emma said:

    I thought we might discover a fair number of high-achieving trouble-makers here.

    Not just here. We were discussing this at work amongst the grey Wellington bureaucrats, and a fair proportion of us had a history of extensive truancy.

    Wellington • Since Jan 2008 • 58 posts Report Reply

  • Isabel Hitchings,

    Good schools teach that with sensible rules and teachers who can tell you which one you broke and what you need to do about it, and will listen if it turns out they've misunderstood something.

    Really good schools get the kids involved in forming and evaluating the rules.

    Christchurch • Since Jul 2007 • 719 posts Report Reply

  • tim kong,

    Have tried getting students to help make rules - but sometimes that becomes part of the game as well. So you get specific rules, like "Don't distract others." "Make sure you have all your tools." "Respect others opinions." - That the students put up because they know that's what the teacher wants to hear.

    When I was in a decile 2 school - had a chat with the class, and made the first rule: "Turn Up." We painted it across the wall above the board in 2 foot high letters. I said - that's my rule - if you're not here, you won't succeed here - I'll be here - the rule applies to me as well - I hope you choose to follow it. Not sure if it was that or what I did in class that was the difference - but I didn't have a truancy problem.

    The best set of 'big thinking rules' that I've found, were from:

    http://hi-and-low.typepad.com/my_weblog/2008/01/a-new-year.html

    I used them with my students this year - and I think it confused them mainly. Some loved it - some went "Huh?"

    1. Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.
    2. General duties of a student: pull everything out of your teacher, pull everything out of your fellow students.
    3. General duties of a teacher: pull everything out of your students.
    4. Consider everything an experiment.
    5. Be self-disciplined. This means finding someone wise or smart and choosing to follow them. To be disciplined is to follow in a good way. To be self-disciplined is to follow in a better way.
    6. Nothing is a mistake. There is no win and no fail. There is only make.
    7. The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things.
    8. Don’t try to create and analyse at the same time. They’re different processes.
    9. Be happy whenever you can manage it. Enjoy yourself. It’s lighter than you think.
    10. “We’re breaking all of the rules. Even our own rules. And how do we do that? By leaving plenty of room for X quantities.” - John Cage.

    ===
    On topic.

    1986-1990: High school in Metro Manila. Lots of places to bunk off too - never did though, school was small enough that it would have been noticed.
    1991: Christchurch - Too cold to bunk off. Not that I relished my first year of secondary education back in NZ. But I couldn't be bothered wandering the streets of a town I didn't really like.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 153 posts Report Reply

  • Deborah,

    Sacred Heart Girls College, New Plymouth, and yes, I can say the Pater Noster in Latin.

    I have no idea about whether it was wagging or bunking, because I never did either, and only ever had one detention, when the whole class was detained, contrary to the Geneva convention, as the smart arses amongst us pointed out to the poor harried nun. I'm the original goody-two-shoes, and an academic over-achiever to boot. So there goes any anecdotal correlation between wagging / bunking and high grades.

    New Lynn • Since Nov 2006 • 1445 posts Report Reply

  • Kerry Weston,

    very cool rules, tim kong. It's the intrigue of them, don't you think? They're open-ended, riddles almost, so you are hooked into thinking about what they mean - quite different to being told what to do.

    And they address the vexing question of how one is 'meant to be', how you might go about it.

    Authoritative teachers aren't all bad, though. My favourite high school teacher, for ss and geography, was rather peremptory, short-tempered and quick to blow a fuse with the naughty boys in class, but on the plus side, was a fascinatingly good imparter of knowledge and v. witty. Sadly, he was killed in the Erebus crash. RIP Charlie Jennings, Colenso High School, Napier.

    I never wagged Charlie's classes - wouldn't have dared. But as one of the Quiet Ones, I got away with a bit of wagging, in 5 & 6 forms - looking for adventure. Mostly i couldn't align the worlds I read about in books with the excruciatingly dull real one.

    Manawatu • Since Jan 2008 • 494 posts Report Reply

  • 81stcolumn,

    I don't remember much wagging or bunking the local kids in Wales called it "dodgin"; I seem to remember the odd bout of skiverlitis though.

    Nawthshaw • Since Nov 2006 • 790 posts Report Reply

  • Kumara Republic,

    Believe it or not, just before I left Scots Col for ChCh, I created a to-scale map of the College in the early 1990s (with the state-of-the-art MS Paint), jokingly depicting detailed plans to burn it down. Funnily enough, the HOD of English, who took in submissions for the school annual, took it as a joke. We're still waiting for someone to actually carry it out.

    If I'd done the same thing at the elite college I'd gone to in ChCh, I probably would have been put in a padded cell, and Deborah Coddington would probably have written a magazine article about me.

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 5414 posts Report Reply

  • Peter Ashby,

    Original writing is not all about writing only about what you want. It is about writing originally about any topic. I never felt so restrained in English at school because I could take just about any topic and write originally about it. in 7th form the English teacher wanted to give me full marks for an essay, she took it to the deputy principal who used to write critical reviews for the Herald. He deducted 1/2mark, just on principle. The teacher was still mad about that when she told me the story.

    So I don't buy that one Emma. It's like poetry and styles and metre and rhythm. They are only chains if you let them be so. Instead they force you to think harder than in free verse and often the right word is so because it is right on more than one level. A sonnet can be an absolute joy to write even though it can be hard work.

    Dundee, Scotland • Since May 2007 • 425 posts Report Reply

  • mark taslov,

    And for Mark T; maybe I've got you wrong but I get the distinct impression you believe all authority figures have to be given respect. Well if that's what floats your boat then I wish you all the best.

    yeah Felix, you've got it wrong. Not at all. I'm more of the thinking that all authority figures have to be challenged, generally on their own terms, but that it does no good teaching your kids not to show respect to authority figures if they can ruin your day.

    There was a misunderstanding a couple of pages back, where a couple of folks misread respect, interpreting it to mean that adulation type of respect as opposed to the courtesy kind of respect. As you do..

    Te Ika-a-Māui • Since Mar 2008 • 2281 posts Report Reply

  • Rob Hosking,

    Waiuku College, 1977-81 (and a big hi to Dave Patrick)...

    I don't think I ever wagged from high school except maybe in the 7th form. I was in the s**t a lot in the 7th form. 'Attitude'.

    The rest of the time...well I was a fairly dreamy kid. Very Very good at mentally absenting myself when I felt like it.

    I did run away from primary school after three weeks though.

    I'd been sold the idea of school on the basis they would teach me to read, which I was busting a gut to do. Back then the official thinking was parents should not teach kids to read before they started school but should leave it to the experts.

    Anyway, I'd been at school three weeks. They hadn't even started teaching me to read. I was feeling quite short changed by this whole school thing. The fact someone kept stealing my lunch didn't help. Also having to sit on the mat with everyone else for story time when I could hear perfectly well from my seat. (I remember getting whacked for that).

    Then after lunch one day we were sat down on the mat (very grudgingly in my case) and shown either different colours or how to tell the time, I can't remember which. I just remember it was something I already knew. I was utterly furious.

    So when 'little playtime' at 2pm came around I was off. Walked home, which was 6 miles away (that's 10kms in New Maths).

    I nearly got there, too. School noticed my absence, phoned home, Mum was on the way in when she saw me walking the other way through 'the cuttings' a hilly bit of road near home. She probably spotted the little black cloud above my head a fair way off.

    I remember the ensuing discussion, one of the main points of which was I had to go to school. There was a law, apparently. Also because they would teach me to read eventually, when they got around to it.

    South Roseneath • Since Nov 2006 • 830 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle,

    I just remember it was something I already knew. I was utterly furious.

    This is just about the cutest story ever. Awww.

    Oh, I forgot to answer the question. Rangi, 1988-1991 (no seventh form - I skipped it, much to my teachers' disgust). We called it wagging and I think I did it occasionally in the last year of school, which was the annus horribilis. Lots of authority-questioning (my side) and weird power trips (teachers' side). I was a high achiever in everything except maths.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3828 posts Report Reply

  • Emma Hart,

    A sonnet can be an absolute joy to write even though it can be hard work.

    When I was looking at ways to present the crossbow story, someone suggested setting it as Shakespearean drama, given the elements of melodrama inherent in it. As a result, I have a couple of scenes of that written entirely in iambic pentameter. I love doing stuff like that.

    Sixth and Seventh form, I don't remember writing much of anything at all, even essays. We did a lot of recognising different registers and types of languages and being able to pull out features - this is legal language, because it has these phrases - because that was what was on the test. We read plays aloud and then were fed Cliff Notes for them so we could answer those Cliff-Note style questions.

    So there goes any anecdotal correlation between wagging / bunking and high grades.

    Never said there was one. But the focus of the new education bill is that the problem is truancy, and I don't think it is. I think it's a symptom. The problems are disengagement in the capable, and a lack of learning at the other end of the scale. Those things can happen whether or not your body is actually physically present at school.

    Christchurch • Since Nov 2006 • 4650 posts Report Reply

  • Ngaruna Kapinga,

    ... "Turn Up." .....I said - that's my rule - if you're not here, you won't succeed here - I'll be here - the rule applies to me as well - I hope you choose to follow it. Not sure if it was that or what I did in class that was the difference - but I didn't have a truancy problem.

    Love your work! I expect this is the exact reason why you didn't have issues with truancy because you had created a relationship based on mutual respect with your students - which far outweighs any other form.

    I used them with my students this year - and I think it confused them mainly. Some loved it - some went "Huh?

    Hmm can't say i'm surprised even i'm confused. I'm certainly no expert but i do live with 3 teenagers whose language/slang and colloquialisms change from month to month. eg if you call someone handsome your actually saying they're ugly. If you put the prefix 'Joe' in front of a word it means the opposite e.g Joe-good means you suck. Perhaps an exercise of getting them to interpret these rules and re-writing them in their own language will improve their understanding and give them a sense of ownership over them? As i said i'm no expert, just an intrigued observer.

    Wellington • Since May 2008 • 26 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Back then the official thinking was parents should not teach kids to read before they started school but should leave it to the experts.

    I'm not sure what the official thinking is now, but personally I'd endorse that.

    I knew how to read before I got to school, and my brother had taught me my times tables.

    It wasn't until intermediate school that I stopped being bored with school teaching me a bunch of things that I already knew, and started to actually work.

    Oh, I forgot to answer the question. Rangi, 1988-1991 (no seventh form - I skipped it, much to my teachers' disgust). We called it wagging and I think I did it occasionally in the last year of school, which was the annus horribilis. Lots of authority-questioning (my side) and weird power trips (teachers' side). I was a high achiever in everything except maths.

    Same school, except I stuck around for our final year. I never wagged, though I had umpteen orthodontist appointments, so I was away from school in Takapuna at least once a month, and not necessarily hurrying back to school.

    Also a high achiever, though mostly in the non-arts subjects, until I hit university.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6243 posts Report Reply

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