Use Your Words - Degraded by Grades


Picture Credit: SRF

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now. My words are:

Agonize ~ crowbar ~ fuss ~ bee ~ recur

They were submitted by: Wandering Web Designer  - Thank you, Rena!

Remember the stories your parents told you about school back in the days? 

Yes, the place they walked to - uphill, both ways, barefoot, in the snow. Whatever the teacher said, had to be respected. Kids who did not obey, were reprimanded, and if necessary it would be enforced - by a wooden ruler on their knuckles. If none of your answers were correct, you'd fail the test, and at home, the parents would scold and ground you.

These days? 

Things are the other way round, and very much so. 

Parents drive kids to school (even those who usually don't, still may do so occasionally and promptly  get punished.) Kids who won't do what the teacher says, are being defended by their parents. There's still points for "you got the general idea, now you'll just have to re-check your spelling and grammar",  and bad grades result in a phone call to the teacher "how could you not see how brilliant my kid is, I demand a better grade, don't make me call the principal."

Fortunately Colin's educational journey has been smooth, and we have been blessed with wonderful teachers, so I can gladly say we are not part of the problem. Frankly, I wasn't even aware of how bad things are for certain kids.

For a period of almost two years, Swiss TV accompanied a handful of 5th (going into 6th) graders.

Why two years: after this period, the kids will move on and pursue different academic careers. The process leading up to this determination can be very stressful, agonizing even, for students and their families. 

This TV documentation definitely reminded me of how lucky we were and still are.

One of the portrayed kids - he's called Sven - has particularly grown on me. Teachers and parents were having a hard time dealing with him because he does not perform and behave according to everybody's expectations. 

It's not very clear why he has bad grades, and if he has been cleared for attention deficiency disorders or something. He does seem bright and curious, but for some reason, he's probably lost his motivation early on. He forgets to bring his homework to school. He prefers outdoor activities over sitting at a desk, and he has a particular interest in snakes, which, unfortunately is not a school subject. 

In the intro he's talking about his daily routine: I get up, I eat, I go to school, I come home, I eat, I go to school, I come home, I eat, I jump on my trampoline, I eat, I sleep... Never (at least not to the camera) he actually complains about school. Still you can tell, it's weighing on him, because he strongly feels good grades make a good person, and bad grades, well...

The teacher introduced a point system. It's not explained on TV, but it must have to do with doing your tasks correctly, keeping track of your papers, being on time, etc. 

One particular day she announced "tomorrow some of us are going to the public pool, here's the ones who don't get to go because they did not reach the minimum amount of points."
She proceeded to list the names of the underachievers, and of course Sven was among them. 

The camera team filmed him on the afternoon that the good kids spent having fun at the pool. He was bummed.

Later his teacher offered him a deal: if you manage not to accumulate any minus points (for forgetting or not doing what's expected of him) you'll get a McD voucher. His eyes lit up. 

Now that's my offer, what is yours, in case you don't succeed? 

The little guy said "then I'll just have to repeat the entire school year and do better."

If she was shocked, she masked well. 

No, I meant something you will do for me and your classmates, like bringing a snack!

"Oh, OK. Like a cake?"


He was almost out of the door, turned around and asked "as of now, I don't have any minus points, right?"

After the first week we could see him on the swing, talking to the camera team.

"Since I haven't been neglecting my school stuff, my life has actually improved. The teacher seems happy, and honestly it's quite relaxing not to be forced to come up with new excuses why I didn't do my homework. No fuss, no muss, right?"

I thought that was such great insight, and I hoped he would be able to keep it up. After all millions of TV viewers wanted him to succeed!!

Later we got to watch him in what I think was detention. He was sitting in his class room, alone, and outside you could hear kids running around, playing and having fun. He explained how many pages he still needed to complete, and it looked like a week's worth of homework.

He gave up. "I should have started earlier. I can't finish this. There goes my deal."

Packed up his stuff and left on his scooter... the grocery store where he purchased two cakes. He went home, heated the cakes in the microwave oven, wrapped them into aluminium foil and took them back to school.

The teacher was full of praise:

Wow, that looks and smells absolutely amazing, it's still warm, you did a great job preparing treats for us, thank you so much! 

Clearly she thought he actually baked those himself. 

He grinned and told his friends what he did. She overheard it and probably had a hard time keeping a straight face. 

Is that true, Sven? That's a bit of a cheat though, don't you think?

His mischievous smiles was priceless. "Well, yeah, it's true. Do I need to bring more cake, like homemade one?"

Nah, it's OK, you're off the hook.

So not only is he resourceful, he's also honest. He'll probably not win a spelling bee contest, but once the dreaded school journey is over, this young guy will be going places. 

Picture Credit: SRF

For now he kept going to the pet store, politely pestering the staff with his questions: 
"How poisonous is this snake, how old and how long can it become? How much money is it?"

Back home he calculated one-time investments (500) for the snake, plants and the terrarium and recurring (30 / month) costs for food and sand or pellets, or whatever it is that you put on the ground.

"So that's 500 once, plus 50 every two months", he explained. Almost, Sven, almost.

I don't know how he convinced his family, but he actually got it. The snake looked more like a huge worm, but the was happy about it. 

"I wish it was only nice to me and bit all the others who are nasty to me. It could be such a cool gangster snake."

Report card time - not a happy day at Sven's house. 

Dad was upset. 

This is BS, if you continue like this you'll end up in "C".  After the summer break you'll spend an hour each day, doing homework and studying.

C is the lowest category a kid can go after elementary school. Job prospects are poor, and usually it's where one meets classmates that are into drugs and other undesirable activities like breaking into cars using a crowbar. 

"I know" Sven said. "Can I go out now?"

No, you don't deserve it.

Poor boy, with drooping shoulders and hanging head he snuck to his room. He couldn't even play video games as he had sold his PlayStation to contribute to the snake purchase, which I thought was admirable.

Things got worse for him. A few days later he lost his snake. The entire family was looking for it everywhere. 

He went through all the stages of grief: from denial (I didn't lose it, it's just hiding well), anger (so it'll rot somewhere, I don't care) to depression (I loved it sooo much) to acceptance (I'll never buy an animal again, I am too stupid for this).

I so hope Sven will have a few people in his life who will remind him that he has wonderful qualities and is a valuable member of society, and both have nothing to do with grades he had in school.

A girl in his class dreamed of becoming a veterinarian. In order to get there, she needed to make sure she'd get into med school. Remember these kids were 10 or 11 at the time of the documentary. As for now, her average grades need to be at least 5.2 (6.0 being the maximum) and she was almost there. She calculated her grade average after each exam, and especially the amount of points she needed on her last test before the semester ended.

The next scene the crew filmed was when the teacher distributed the graded tests.

"You did great, you were the best in your class" she told the girl. "You got a straight 6.0, congratulations!"

Picture Credit: SRF

The girl's eyes lit up. She smiled, but then her face became serious. 

"In that case my Mom got a 6.0, too", she said. "She helped me study. Like a lot."

Awww, gotta love her honesty. 

During summer break, she got the opportunity to shadow a vet for a day. They neutered a dog, and the girl's face became paler and paler. The assistant offered her a chair and a glass of water.

Oh my goodness, all that studying only to find out that being a vet does not mean cuddling with the animals! 

Speaking of animals, Sven's brother found the gangster snake, so at least there was some kind of a happy end.

No school system is perfect, and no school system fits all, that's for sure. 

Personally I think ours puts too much emphasis on theoretical knowledge and not enough on implementing said knowledge into real life issues. 

What good are math skills if kids can't make a budget and stick to it? 

They learn a lot of difficult loanwords, grammar and punctuation - nothing wrong with that, in fact, but it shouldn't stop there. Kids should learn to research subjects and acquire a good sense on what might be true facts and what's just sensation and fake news.

History: I feel every time they begin a new level (primary, middle, high school) they start all over discussing Romans, Greek and Egyptians, and that's lovely and part of our culture, blah blah blah. In my humble opinion it would be beneficial to really focus on the last 100 years. WW I and II, and especially current events. 

Lastly my absolute pet peeve: cooking class was recently eliminated from their curriculum. Instead there's more theoretical instruction. The new class is called "economy, housekeeping & labor", and yes, it's important to learn about value chain and the like. But please, let the youngsters learn and practice how to cook a regular meal using seasonal ingredients. A major life skills, especially in today's takeout and fast food world! 

What should school focus on more in your opinion? Let me know below, and please don't leave before checking out my blogger friends' posts:   



  1. My heart breaks for that little boy. I'm mortified that the teacher took some kids on a fun outing and not only excluded others but called them out publicly. I understand that rewards can be incentive, but they need to be child specific based on their individual strengths, deficits, and abilities. Punishment, even in terms of publicly not receiving rewards, only serves to create a downward spiral.

  2. It breaks my heart for this little boy. It's never a good thing to embarrass a child like that. He isn't' getting the support he needs at home or at school.

  3. Teachers likethatgive teachers a bad name.

  4. This just really made me appreciate being able to homeschool that much more.


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