No one makes more outrageous demands than a child, and no one has his rights abused more either--especially at school. This week let's consider the rights of children at school.
Every child has the right to:
* Respect from every adult in school, janitor to principal, so the child can respect them too.
* Acceptance, for what and who she is, and the knowledge that her family is accepted, whatever their background, eccentricities, accents, income or beliefs.
* Leadership from adults who realize that a child will do almost any job that's requested, if she knows the reason why.
* A faculty that doesn't gossip about the child, or his family, either among themselves or with other parents.
* A principal who will listen to a child's complaints, even about a teacher, without prejudice.
* A principal who can resist the school microphone almost all the time.
* A PTA that listens to the needs, problems and concerns of the students too.
A child should have a teacher who:
* Can call him and every child by name within the first few days of school.
* Believes that each child is at school because he wants to learn.
* Invites confidences--and keeps them.
* Has no pets, or targets, among the class.
* Can control the class without mocking or spanking any child.
* Helps children get along with each other.
* Tries to stay in the background, rather than take center stage.
* Listens to what the child says, the tone of his voice and how he moves when he talks, for a child speaks in many languages.
* Talks with a child, rather than to him.
* Stimulates independence.
* Encourages questions, choices and original work.
* Knows enough about the whole child--his interests and goals--to open special vistas just for him, especially in junior high and high school.
* Expands the curriculum if it suits interests of the class, or skills of the teacher.
* Gives homework and does her own, by planning lessons for each day.
* Grades homework within a day or two, but certainly no longer than a week.
* Takes as little leave as possible, so substitutes aren't needed.
* Doesn't drink or use drugs during class time, or suffer the effects of either.
A child is entitled to:
* Work that is hard enough to be challenging, and easy enough to be achieved.
* A chance to shine every day in whatever she does best, for the child who thinks well of herself in one area will do better in everything.
* An explanation of what is expected to be learned by Thanksgiving, Christmas, spring, by the last day of school, and to have these goals reviewed periodically, not as a threat but as an objective.
* An understanding of why in the world she should learn these things.
* Math and science and reading taught in ways that both enrich and explain her life.
* The satisfaction of writing some reports all alone and doing others in small groups, so teamwork can be learned.
* The chance to learn by seeing, hearing, touching, and especially by doing.
* Achievement at her own pace, without ridicule.
* Psychological and learning tests (administered to one child at a time) if there is an emotional or academic problem.
* A conference with parents to hear these results and plan special lessons that teach to her strengths and not her weaknesses, either in her own class or in a special one.
* The recognition, by parent, teacher and child, that if an intelligent child cannot learn, it is because a teacher cannot teach, if only that particular subject to that particular child.
A child also has the right to have:
* School rules clearly listed, reviewed and explained when school begins, not when the misbehavior occurs.
* Emotions, however angry, but expressed without hurting the feelings, or possessions, of anyone else.
* Unspoken permission to make a damn fool of himself--and accept the consequences.
* Discipline in private and with dignity, so he can profit from it.
*Enough exercise to keep the oxygen flowing, so his mind is clear and he has the energy to study.
* A break after a test.
* An occasional field trip, movie or assembly, but only if it's interesting, for a child's time is important.
* A drink of water or trip to the bathroom when necessary, without embarrassment.
* A special diet if his health requires it, and special holidays if his religion does.
* Supervision at lunch and on the playground, as well as in the classroom.
* Cafeteria food without additives and preservatives and unnecessary sugar and salt.
* A free lunch, if his family can't provide it, so he has the chance to learn as well as anyone else.
* Vending machines stocked with only fruits, nuts, yogurt, milk, and sugarfree juice, at least until the lunch hour is over.
* A clean classroom and a clean bathroom, knowing he must do his share to keep it that way.
* A school with radiators that work, windows that are glazed, fluorescent lights that don't flicker, furniture to suit the size of the child, a well-supplied bathroom with stall doors that lock, a playground with enough space and equipment for all ages and a pleasant place to eat.
* A sense of safety anywhere in the school building or on the grounds.
Along with all of these shoulds, let's not forget that a child--like all of us--has one special need: the need to do absolutely nothing at least some time during the school day.