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Romania Subway Kids
(April 2002)


Vic's Web Site
 

This is the email I received from Vic
 
Was unable to get down to TOADS because, at that moment, I was 25 ft UNDER the streets of Bucharest with a group of street children.  A long story.  I was in Romania to do some video filming for a Church project in Constanta on the Blaclk Sea.  During research, I stumbled upon  some images by an American ( Kyle Cassidy)  [ search for street kids + romania using http://www.google.co.uk  ] who had been out in Bucharest.  He pointed me at a Texas couple ( Sue and Ron Bates) who sold up everything to do and live in Romania to work with street children. ( inasmuch@fx.ro )  They now care for almost 90 Romanian girls in two 'care homes'. and also take food, money and medicines to a group of street kids living in the sewers under the parking lot of McDonalds in Branconvancaeu, Bucharest. 
 
With a certain amount of 'bottle', I emailed Ron and Sue and arranged to see them when returning from Constanta to Bucharest.  On the Saturday evening, we went to take food to the kids in the subway.  What an experieince !!.
 
There's much more to tell if you are interested, or think you might be able to help in some way,

 

[If anyone would like to help Vic by sending money you can email him from here - Ron]


The Rat Race
(April 2002)

A boat docked in a tiny Mexican village. An American tourist complimented the Mexican fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked how long it took him to catch them. "Not very long," answered the Mexican. "But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the American. The Mexican explained that his small catch was sufficient to meet his needs and those of his family. The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?" "I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta with my wife. In the evenings, I go into the village to see my friends, have a few drinks, play the guitar, and sing a few songs . . .I have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help you! You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the extra fish you catch. With the extra revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.  With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of trawlers.  Instead of selling your fish to a middle man, you can negotiate directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own plant.  You can then leave this little village and move to Mexico City, Los Angeles, or even New York City!  From there you can direct your huge enterprise."

"How long would that take?" asked the Mexican? "Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American. "And after that?" "Afterwards? That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American, laughing. "When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?" "After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the coast, sleep late, play with your children, catch a few fish, take a siesta, and spend your evenings drinking and enjoying your friends."


Teachers today
Averil Parkinson
(May 2002)

 

Then

It wasnít always that wonderful e.g.The Head of my Junior School, Hobbs Hill Wood, was sacked Ė something to do with small boys.

There was bullying, remember Goodyear? 

Discipline Ė not so hot. I have consistently avoided teaching after I saw the way we treated some of the staff. 

Some parents did back their children in unwarranted antagonism towards the school. My Mum was a secretary there so I might know a bit more than I ought. On balance I think we were very lucky going to a new school in a new town, and I mostly enjoyed it. It attracted a good crop of teachers with a modern outlook (not all middle class role models, there were a range of backgrounds). I have rarely met anyone of around my age who even went to a mixed school. Traditional established schools, from what I gather, could resort to sadistic punishment and unbelievable pettiness. My brother attended Corner Hall boys school for a little while, which was only concerned to churn out factory fodder. His subsequent move to a comprehensive in Devon paved the way to university and beyond.

Now

Not necessarily so bad. Both my children attended a city centre comprehensive (OK its Cambridge but that doesnít account for everything). One did extremely well, and the other more than respectably. Quote ďIt was a very nice place where everyone knew who you were and cared what you did, academic or notĒ. Neither of them has ever been hit by a teacher. If Iíve done my job properly they donít need the threat of that to inform their behavior, and if I havenít then hitting wonít help.

 

Respect

I wonder if you are confusing respect with the traditional working class deference towards the only educated people we were ever likely to meet i.e. the teacher and the doctor, and was this a good thing? I donít think so. Now that lots of people are educated to a similar standard that inevitably has to change, or what was the point of educating us? I still took care to support the teachers as the operating professionals on the case, including if they chose to go on strike. However there were a very few occasions when I did question and challenge. Children have a very keen sense of justice and that needs supporting too.

Yes teachers need respect. So do children and lots of other people.


 

Teachers today
(Jan 2002)

 

 

 

 

 

Having seen two children through their education and now helping with two grandsons I can not help but make comparisons to my own education.  In some cases my family attended the same school as  my wife or I and comparisons then become unavoidable.  We currently suffer a sever teacher shortage and it is predicted to worsen.  Why?

I will leave the detailed analysis to the professionals and the politicians but would like to make some observations. 

Then
In my day teachers were respected both by their pupils and by society in general.  Pupils may not have respected every individual teacher on a personal basis but there was certainly respect for the position.  The same may also be said I suppose for policemen (or should I say policepersons?)  How might one characterise teachers back in our days at AGS?  They looked professional, acted professionally and received from the community the status and respect afforded to 'professionals'.  As perceived by me, a working class pupil, they were generally smart and conventional in appearance, wore suits and ties, read broadsheets not tabloids, did not swear, had "good manners", were "cultured", were intelligent and university educated.   They often owned their own houses or flats, had a car and took foreign holidays. They were honest, hard working and taught as a vocation.  I can not remember one incident of industrial action.  To my working class parents they appeared similarly.  They were middle class role models.  My parents would have been very proud if their child had become a teacher.  They would have boasted of it to their family and friends.  In our community teachers were given priority by the council for housing.  They could access what was then  known as 'higher income houses"  I suppose this also meant that in the scale of things their income was in the 'well above average' bracket.

There was no way on earth that my parents would have sided with me against 'a teacher'.  My parents were 100% supportive to the teachers on matters of discipline.  If I had received a clip around the ear or six of the best at school it was unlikely I would have even told my parents.  An admission of such a thing would almost certainly have resulted in further punishment from my parents on the basis that the teacher must have been right and I must have been in the wrong.  It is more likely that my parents would have written to the teacher appologising for my behavior than to challenge the school on why I was punished. 

Before my place at grammar school, was confirmed my parents were asked to sign an undertaking to the school that they would keep me there until the age of 16 (the leaving age was at that time 15) and that they accepted the rules and regulations of the school and would support and abide by them.  It was made very clear to us, pupils and parents, that we were at the school to learn.  We were there to pass G.C.E. examinations. The school had the sanction of expelling pupils who either did not behave or were not likely to achieve passes at GCE.  I recall a fellow pupil who was none to bright leaving the school in the second form.  It was suggested to his parents that he might be better suited to another school where the academic expectations were not as intense.  He left.  I remember another boy whose behavior was very disruptive both to the teachers and to the pupils.  He left.  I remember a girl in the fourth form who became pregnant.  She left.

A disciplined atmosphere existed.  We stood up when a teacher entered the class and if we had any sense shut up as well.  We opened doors for elders, teachers and girls.  We let adults on the bus before us.  We walked on the right hand side of stairs and corridors.  We addressed all teachers respectfully.  We did our homework and handed it in on time.  When punished we took it 'on the chin' - complaint was futile.  We avoided slouching and took our hands out of our pockets at the first sight of a teacher.  We swore at our peril.  We suffered supervision at the meal table and were not permitted to be bad mannered.

Our school environment was clean, well organised and modern.  We were safe there with teachers, prefects and 'older boys' mitigating bullying, violence and vandalism.  Can you believe that we would leave our personal belongings in our desk in our form rooms and that they were still there when we returned? 

Now
Teachers today are underpaid relative to when we were at school.  They have lost their privileged position/status in our community.  They do not receive the backing of parents.  Discipline is no longer politically correct.  Good manners are old fashioned.  They no longer get the support on good housing at low cost. They strike.  They retire early through ill health on full pension.  They have  declining attendance records with vastly higher absenteeism than in the private sector.

They can not beat pupils, need permission to hold detentions, and apparently can almost never expel disruptive pupils.  As a result of continuing political dogma they are prevented from encouraging 'the pursuit of excellence' and have to struggle with large classes of multi-ability students.  There is a possible escape from the decline.  A private education, if you can afford it or a move of home to the catchment area of a traditional middle class ex-grammar school.  Finally, one has to bring into question the quality of leadership or management at schools today.

I, for one, do not blame young people from avoiding teaching as a career for all the above reasons.  Our current problem is also exaggerated by a very high leaving rate within the profession.  We have to throw money at the problem.  I can see no solution to the general decline in standards of discipline.  It is symptomatic of our declining standards in society in general.

 Emigrate!

Ron Moss


 

 


06 November, 2004         © Ron Moss