Just another day, another check of that bloody school bookbag. I know they look cute carrying them around and to be perfectly honest, really are a great school innovation – adios stinky plastic reading folder of the 90s! You really did suck with your unreliable plastic zip and hello shiny, school branded, all weather proof, velcro book bag! Woo! But seriously, I sometimes dread opening those things; the amount of school admin is ridiculous. I just don’t think I’m very good at being ‘bake sale’ mum, or ‘help with the school garden mum’ or ‘vote for the new governor mum’. People, I have a job! Friends! Another child! ASOS to binge on! Netflix to consume! Nah, I do want to be involved in the school, I really do, (a bit, sort of, not really, but I feel mega guilty when I’m not), but no, I cannot bake a lemon drizzle by Thursday.
Anyway, I digress from the highlight of today’s drama, dum, dum, dum…. for today the book bag delivered a whole new level of administration to deal with.
So I open it up for a check, (bit of a result, no homework yet, that’ll save me half an hour later, little fist pump in secret), but hey, what’s this, a personal letter? From the headmistress? For moi? ‘Mr and Mrs Martin’, oo, I’m just like SO grown up these days! How very exclusive, now I feel really important! No doubt she’s writing to congratulate me on how awesome my child is, can’t say I blame her for noticing.
Oh no. It is nothing of the sort.
It’s a letter to tell us to get Phoenix’s hair cut. WTF?
“I have noticed that Phoenix has got very long hair at the moment and would be grateful if you could arrange to get it cut as soon as possible.
(Hair should not be below the boys’ ears nor in their eyes)”
So Im wondering, have I missed something? Is it freaking Victorian week again and this is part of the role play? Have I missed that as well as not making the lemon drizzle? Have I gone back in time? Did I forget I’m in the army? I have been quite busy lately, it’s possible I could have gone back in time and I’m now an army mum? Its an option.
I mean seriously? Is she actually for real?! Am I over reacting here?
I think it’s the ‘arrange to get it cut’ part that jars with me most. I am a mother, not a freakin PA. Phoenix is a little person (with, and may I take the opportunity to say so here, a god damn fine head of awesome locks), and yes it is just hair, but hey, people also have feelings, tact is still a fine skill to have. I doubt she would write: ‘I’ve noticed your child is a bit over weight, please arrange to have him stop eating biscuits’.
The thing that really bugs me about it, beyond the military stance that I don’t think has a place in 21st century childhood, is that it has really unpicked some deeper feelings I have about the education system. I have tried not to get too hung up on these, its early days, Phoenix is in a great school, he’s very happy, and so are we with how he’s doing. And until now, the head despite her lack of taste in the hair department, has appeared to be running a tight ship. However, working with and studying generation Z, today’s newest and youngest defined cohort, I can’t help but feel uneasy about our education system. Working with and getting to know the behaviours and attitudes of gen z kids, I feel proud and excited about their uprising, but when I look at them and then glance over at the education system, I just don’t see a natural collaboration. All I see is a square peg and big old round (black) hole.
This is a tiny letter about one small child’s unkempt hair, but what it reminds me is how out of touch an older teaching generation is with modern parents and children. It reminds me that todays’ school agenda is not created for gen z, its created for another generation, one driven by academic pressure, measurement and success.
As 21st century parents we teach our kids to be expressive, to be creative, to explore ideas, to be open minded and to embrace diversity and individuality. Gen Z are hard working, hyper creative and the most intelligent bunch of kids we’ve ever raised. Coupled with their own maker-doer instinct, gen z, are simply fabulous. They have high levels of emotional intelligence, are compassionate, empowered by technology and they will change the world. But in order to do it, the world is also going to need to change for them too. To put it simply, it will need to chill the hell out. It will need to not freak out that they are so creative, compassionate, driven, it will have to if we want them to do the things they are capable of, to leverage the skills, talent and ability they have. And what this letter says to me, albeit indirectly, is that school is not the sort of environment where that happens fluidly. Because how can it be, when it simply misses the point this much?
I am not anti-school rules, I do get it. I sometimes laugh at those ridiculous stories in the paper where there’s an image of a child with a pink mohawk looking really sullen and a mum with folded arms looking really cross under the headline; “couldn’t take exam because of pink hair”. Thats stupid. There’s always a limit. I would vote for no uniform, but there is one, so yes you have to commit to that and there are rules around appearance that go with that. I understand that. But self-expression is underrated by schools, brushed aside by saying ‘it promotes bullying and distraction’ when kids are allowed to show individually. Perhaps it used to, and yeah it might in small minorities, but I’m just not convinced the same applies for this new generation. In fact I’d go so far as to say self-expression is an essential life skill for Gen Z kids to learn and experience, and the earlier the better.
So I asked Phoenix this morning what he thought about his hair and he said this:
‘Everyone has the same hair, but I like my styles. Yes, I really like styles. Can I take my scooter to school today?’.
Touché to that dude.
So here you go, exhibit A, a recent picture of Phoenix’s hair. I will compromise and I will trim and shape his hair, its a bit unruly at the moment. As is my own. But no I won’t be told if my child’s hair should or should not be above his ears. That my friends is just totally un-Gen Z and I’m with them on this one.