Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bud Stop

I started learning German yesterday as you do when you go to bed at between two and three in the morning every day and you are so busy you think your head might drop off. A couple of months ago, it seemed like a really good idea. One of my closest friends just moved to Germany at the behest of her husband (sounds somehow familiar) and I thought: "I will be going to see them regularly," (I have managed it once so far,) "I must learn German." I really like the idea of learning German and another mother from school agreed to teach me. Sitting at her kitchen table, I learnt: "Guten Tag", the word for tour operator "die Reiseleiterin" and how to say "Mein Name ist Hannelore Herzog" - ofcourse my name is not Hannelore Herzog but it might come in handy. Perhaps I will call myself Hannelore when I visit my friends. I had the lesson and walked back through brilliant morning sunshine to the house. I thought to myself: "How I feel right this minute is probably uncomfortably close to insanity." When I got back my husband asked quizzically : "Why are you learning German? You know there's no time for self- improvement." I growled at him, in German.

Later, we went up to school to discuss strategies to address our concerns about our son's various injuries and relationships. The meeting went well on a number of fronts not least the fact that I managed not to cry during it. Close run thing at one point but just scraped through. I do not think a parent is ever at their strongest in a staffroom, even with a china cup of tea in their hands. Part of you is thinking: "Should I be here?" and "Now I'm for it". I wonder whether teachers ever feel that way.

Thank God though for teachers who do not want to see an isolated child stalk their corridors and haunt their playground. The school is determined to stop the hurt. Among various proposals, playground buddies and a friendship bench were mentioned. I love the idea of a friendship bench. An honest place where you admit a primitive need. A bench on which to sit while you wait for someone to cross the painted asphalt and take your hand with its bitten down finger nails in their warm and grubby one. Someone who will say those magic words: "Come play." There is an idea for an up and coming politician. Pledge to buy a friendship bench for every school. Call it Gordon's friendship bench, or Dave's. Think of all those votes piling up in the future - talk about the Jesuitical "get them while they are young". How grateful would you be to a politician who gave you a friend to play with every time you were lonely as a child?

31 comments:

Maggie Thatcher Fan said...

I dont think its "Dave" who needs friends right now......
;)

PS

great Blog, compulsive reading. Were u listening to 5 live this morning, there was a section on bullying at school, you can hear it again on listen again>>>

Lizzie said...

Great that the school is addressing your son's problems. It's hard, being a parent. Worth it all, though.

P'raps you could teach him how to swear in German? While practicing his karate chops in mid air?

Monica said...

good choice, the bbc course! if u ever get bored, choose this one too! as interesting as the first;)
http://www.dw-world.de/dw/0,5825,2469,00.html

alles gute!

Cathy said...

Well you did better than me. I have managed to cry in three meetings with teachers in the last six months and my son is now out of school due to extreme anxiety.

sunshine said...

Yesterday I needed a friendship bench -- but there don't seem to be any for adults. Perhaps that is what blogs are -- friendship benches for adults.........In thinking about it, Wifey, your blog feels like a "friendship bench" and that may be what is ringing true with so many of your readers.

Anonymous said...

Oh how fantastic!

It's kind of surprising that they didn't have a friendship bench or pupil mentoring already, you know.

But it's ultrafantastic that they are prepared to do it now.

Do you think they would have made efforts to implement an effective anti-bullying policy without the public outcry?

They might have done. But then again, they might not. or not so quickly.

Hugs for your little boy. Hope the nightmare is over soon.

Anonymous said...

You really are a glutton for punishment, wifey...

I found on a trip to Germany that as long as one could ask for a cup of coffee and a piece of chocolate cake, one wouldn't go too far wrong.

Their quality of English is, in any case, better than that of most kids leaving school in England these days.

By coincidence, The Guardian has a feature on bullying on today's front page. Worth having a look at the 'whole thing', but one sentence is very thought-provoking..

'The MPs condemn schools which exclude the victims of bullies for 'health and safety' reasons, while failing to tackle the initial problem'.

Crikey, talk about shooting the messenger. There is also a debate about whether schools should gather figures - some want to protect their reputation, and some want to address bullying with a 'no blame' approach as they feel it is more effective. Good to see it is getting attention at a high level.

Anonymous said...

I was bullied at school and taunted for being Pakistani and of a different colour from my caucasian peers. It made me stronger as an adult even though I still shudder when I think back to being called a "paki" and told "go back to your own country"...that was in the 80's and I hope that things are different in todays school. The friendship bench would have maybe been a godsent when I was suffering at the hands of bullies. aisha

Mr Zip said...

Which language do you start to learn when you go to bed at between three and five in the morning every day? I need to start soon before it's too late.

jules said...

Dear Frau in the North
I did German for four years at school and the only thing I remember is the word for dialling tone - das Amsteichen. Very handy. Also, there are 16 ways to say 'the'. So good luck with that. Don't know how you have the time between the breastfeeding and the builders, not to mention sorting out the bullies. Good luck with that too.

Dorothy said...

I wish they had friendship benches in cities specifically for the wives of men who relocated for job changes. I've done that twice in 5 years, and seem to be about to do it again. My husband has an interview in another state in 16 days and it seems pretty sure that we'll be moving there.

Also re the German. I just rented a very good but sad movie that was in German, with English subtitles, called "Sophie Scholl: The Final Days." Once you get more adept at learning German it might be a good one to rent and listen to.

Anonymous said...

jules - dare we suggest that if breastfeeding were offered to the builders they would sort out the
bullies...

Anonymous said...

Great ! You will be able to translate Knut's polar bear blog for us !

http://blog.rbb-online.de/roller/knut/

In the video of the stars visiting I could just make out the words 'Pop Star', 'After Party' and 'Golden Retriever'.. But he is so cute.

Let us hope that he gets a little bit of peace and quiet now..

aims said...

Hmmmmm - you said...

"How I feel right this minute is probably uncomfortably close to insanity."

I know your life is in total disarray - and you are busy looking after children and dealing with bullies and an occasional husband and let's not forget the builders...
But!! - This is not something one thinks of just for the fun of it!
Take it from someone who fell down the rabbithole and took eight years to maneouver all the roots and rocks on the climb back out - you need to talk to someone who can help you - not the other way around...
For your sanity's sake - and for all of your loved ones - look into it - even a confidante might just be the answer - or the local religious fellow -
You really don't want to go there...it isn't a fun place to visit.

SS said...

So husband has no time for self-improvement? Seems obvious to me. Perhaps he's uncomfortable with how stellar you already are and won't know what to do if you get even better.

jane said...

What a great idea the friendship bench is, it should be on the top of a "must-have" list for all PTA fundraisers.

I am so glad your son's school seem to be making efforts to sort things out - let's hope his problems will be over soon.

I Beatrice said...

Granny writes:

Why not learn Italian instead? It's easier - and so much prettier. I once needed to look up the German for 'helicopter landing pad' (as one does), and oh my word! I gave up after the fifty-fifth letter......

The school seems to have been handling the bullying problem sensibly however, which is good news indeed...

I departed to enemy camp for a day or two, by the way. Sorry about that; I visited Rilly Super. It was mostly in your defence, of course - and then I found myself called upon to defend Northumberland and the Northumbrians, to someone called Anonymous, who sounded so hurt.

They're all much too clever for me over there, though, and my defence of Northumbria alas, was not published. Not sharply modern, or witty enough, probably (we were altogether quieter about ourselves, the Mummies of my day)... So I never did get to say my piece to Anonymous.

Can I say it for Northumberland here, therefore? That some of the nicest and funniest people I know are Jordies (I hope I've got the counties right - they do shift boundaries so). And that I'd never, ever be able to think ill of anyone at all - he might be the worst kind of villain - so long as he said and did it like a Jordy. Even Gordon Brown, if he had a Jordy accent.......

Anonymous said...

Well done wifey for galvanising the school into action. Sounds as though they are a bit behind the times up there as most primary schools do seem to have buddy systems etc now.

Interesting the difference between boys and girls though. With boys the bullying is mainly physical but with girls it is emotional and much more difficult to deal with. My 6 year old daughter is just starting to suffer from this and I don't know how to help her.

Norman said...

Nice to see some progress, albeit small, is being made on the bullying front. Have faith.
You're learning german. It is my second language. The only problem you will find in German speaking countries is they will insist on replying to your german in very good English. You have to really make the point you are trying to improve your German. It is a very expressive language and a good one to air frustrations in. Go for it.
Forsetzung weiter!

Lucy Diamond said...

Good luck with your son - glad to hear the school are taking the whole thing seriously. A friendship bench is a lovely idea.

Helena said...

The good thing about Germans is they all speak English, but keep at it, I have just interviewed a leading expert on Alzheimer's and he says the way to avoid degenerative diseases of the brain is to keep it active and keep your neural pathways firing with new info and challenges, so next time your husband grumbles you can tell him that, in German!
www.helenafrithpowell.com

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how apparently articulate and intelligent women can find themselves married to men who are seemingly unable to empathise, or to hold meaningful conversations, or to participate, in any useful way, in their children's upbringinging.

The Grocer said...

Oh dear I think you misheard someone it's GeorDIE not GerMAN, understable confusion considering everything else going on.

mutterings and meanderings said...

Granny darling, it's Geordie... and we're Northumbrians. Geordies are from Newcastle and don't roll their Rs like a proper Northumbrian does.

I Beatrice said...

A thousand apologies, mutterings and meanderings! I got everything wrong, didn't ? Put it down to the fact that I'm a New Zealander by birth. Even after all these years, I haven't managed to get everything right... I'm sure the 'r' factor wouldn't spoil my general affection for all Northumbrians however.

Anonymous said...

"I wonder whether teachers ever feel that way."

Of course they do, especially when parents are complaining about perceived unfair treatment of their child. When I taught high school in the 1970s, it was usually that they thought my grading was too harsh. We teachers generally felt that the school administrators tended to take the parents' side, but in fairness, they never made me actually change a grade.

When my own daughter had her "nobody-likes-me" crisis in about fifth grade, we didn't solicit help at school, although we probably should have. As another commenter said, girls hurt with words, so there are no visible bruises nor blood. She is now middle-aged, and has dozens of friends online, which is the location of her friendship bench.

rilly super said...

granny dearest, sounds like a gremlin if your comment didn't appear, don't have moderation, wouldn't know how to do it anyway. All comments always welcome, especially by nice people like yourself. Hope you drop by again soon, love rilly xx

mutleythedog said...

You are worrying about this too much Wifey - have you read the Erotica I provided yet? I can send more!

Anonymous said...

Oh for a playground bench when I was young

wife in the north said...

I am starting an ad hoc award (recognising whatever I want it to). I think I will call it a "Helen Mirren". Mutley the dog, I am awarding you a Mirren for your very sensible advice and, ofcourse, the niche erotica.

PbPhil said...

WITN Please be careful how you deal with the school. My son (6 at the time) was particularly badly bullied at school and it took us a number of months to find out what was going on...he was unable to tell us.

Eventually we did find out and raised the issue with the school. The Head Teacher did not meet with us, instead we met with the deputy head and my sons class teacher. We discussed the issues and were assured that they would be investigated.

I asked for a copy of minutes from our meeting. I never received any. During the meeting we were offered an opportunity to discuss the situation with the parents of the child involved.

We elected not to do this as knowing the parents involved we did not feel it would make a difference and indeed would make the situation worse.

Time passed and the situation semi improved for a number of reasons many of which had nothing to do with the school but did not fully stop. There was no sanction for the other child.

At this point I was feeling that the school was cleverly skirting the issue, but then I decided I was being paranoid and needed to adjust to a more modern approach to dealing with bullying.

Nonetheless last summer we decided to remove our child from the school and sent him to a private school. There were a number of reasons for this, the first being we felt that educationally he would do better in a class with smaller numbers (we've been proved right on this front) The second reason was to remove our son from the vicinity of the bully whose activity never really ceased.

The school went through an ofsted inspection at the end of the last academic year and was quoted being exemplary for having no instances of bullying.....

I never did get my written record of the meetings I had with school, nor did I get to meet the Head Teacher on the issue.

I know for a fact that another child in sons class has endured considerable bullying from different kids for an obvious reason. The school has effectively done nothing about this case either.

So be wary, the school's agenda or the Head Teacher's agenda may not necessarily be the same as yours.

Your son's isolation may be due to moving but I'd be willing to bet the bullying won't be helping. The friendship bench is a nice trendy idea.....but won't remove the bullying.

Personally I don't feel the victim should have to "work" to feel happy. The solution is to stop the bullying.

So I'm sorry about not posting a positive comment about how wonderful the modern approach to bullying is. I think it is failing because there is no discipline and schools have targets. There is no incentive for a school to have a record of bullying....

Ultimately the bullies get away with it and the victim is made to feel guilty......

great blog, excellent writing and I love the humour