School years are a fun, but short time in their lives. That one day they'll be out in the real world, and will be able to choose their friends, and choose their teachers, and choose where they want to live and go to a much larger pool than the classroom. That the school environment is really a false environment that is not reflective of what their lives will be once they finish.
But..... I am wrong. I'm not going to say that anymore.
Like the reality tv programme Survivor, school is actually a little mini-world of the real world.
In homeschooling groups, it is popular to say that school is such a false environment. It's not the real world. I've done home-schooling and I've done public school, and I think that's a wrong assumption. School life is very much reflective of life outside.
After watching 28 episodes of Survivor, and seeing the many parallels between the game and real life, I am convinced that the social game is the one that will get you the furtherest in life. Learn how to mix with the people around you and life will be easier.
As an introvert, one of my favourite things to do is people watch. I've been to a few schools, and quite a few school functions in the last few years, and I've noticed one factor that is always the same, no matter which school it is, or which event I'm at.
The behaviour of children at school is reflective of the behaviour of their parents.
I was just at the Athletics Day for my son today, and I observed it yet again. See if you can make the same parallels between parent social groups and children's social groups.
The 'Popular' Parent Group.
These are the ones who know each other well.
At my school (a private christian school), they probably go to church together, or know each other outside of school somehow. Maybe they grew up together. Some people never leave the place they were born in, so they usually are well-known. They seldom make an effort to welcome newcomers, or if they do, it's very superficial and only if your child becomes friends with theirs. As a christian myself, and knowing who the christians are at this school, I find that totally unacceptable (read, unChrist-like), and snobbish.
In a private school, you also get the highly-paid parents whose careers define who they are. The Mrs. Heart-Surgeons, and the Mrs.LocalMemberofParliament or just the "my-husband-got-rich-on-the-stock-market" wives who speak with a South Auckland accent. They turn up with their $500 handbags and their immaculately manicured fingernails in their large black Remuera tractors.
The Over Achievers Group.
The ones who are busy, busy, busy. And if they're not busy, they find something to make them look busy. Cell phones to their ears, striding purposefully across the paddock/carpark/playground. They're involved in so many school activities it makes your head swim. If a teacher asks for help, they're always the first ones to put their hands up.
This morning I saw two parents standing by themselves, while the other little groups stood in semi-circles, chatting and laughing. I always make a point of talking to them, if I know them, or introducing myself if I don't, because I've been there before. I've been the parent standing by myself and I know what it feels like, especially if you're new to the school. And my mother always taught us to be friendly to the ones who didn't have friends. I don't think that's taught much these days, to be honest.
I saw a boy at the starting line of the 60metre dash today push the cone out of the way, so his foot could get a few inches start on the other boys, and I heard his father laugh and say, "that's my boy - that's what I taught him," which really shows that getting ahead seems to be the priority of many, rather than just enjoying the journey.
The Normal Ones
These are the parents that are worth gold. These are the ones you want to make friends with. They're the ones who can't always make school events, but if they can, they will. If they know you, they'll make a point of coming and saying hi and being friendly and passing the time of day. They'll be the first to offer help if you need it. I know a couple of these parents at my school.
But they are rare.
If you find them, hold onto them.
So do you think school life is reflective of real life? Can you identify any of these groups in your world? Are you someone who welcomes newcomers, or are you more happy to hang with your familiar group?
It is a challenge to myself as well, and I've been on both sides of this fence. I've been the loner and I've been part of the popular. I want to be the normal, friendly, kind one. As a shy, quiet person that takes an effort on my part, but some of my loveliest friends are those that I've met from just swallowing my insecurity (which is really just pride in disguise), and striking up random conversations with strangers.
That is my goal and my purpose and it is what I hope to pass on to my children too. There are too many selfish people in the world already. We all know it, and I suspect we've all experienced the isolation that comes from being around selfish people.
So, if we can't change the whole world, maybe we can change this one thing in our local world.
Be friendly to strangers. Make an effort. Be the change.