The Richmond County learning curve
Kevin Spradlin Editor/Content Manager
I’m thankful my children love me, or at least seem to; otherwise, I’d sure be in a heap of trouble. While I sometimes choose to put their personal concerns in a public forum because I feel it might serve the greater good, they might not always share my opinion on that front.
This column could appropriately be entitled, “Culture Shock, part two.” My family understands, of course, there are going to be new traditions and customs to which we will be required to adjust. I get that. There’s the occasional school on a Saturday. And the accents. Wow! But to those things we will adjust amicably, and hope that Southerners can, for the time being, be lenient and tolerant to our Northern ways.
On Jan. 29, I wrote about how different the school system in Richmond County; my 14-year-old son, who moved to Rockingham a few weeks ago, and I agree — to an extent — on the need for school uniforms. I’m not necessarily opposed to them so long as they serve a stated purpose and that purpose is fulfilled. In addition, I think they should pass the common sense test; I question whether the Richmond County Schools dress code does that.
The idea that cargo pockets aren’t permitted on pants, for example, in order (I’m told) to prevent the concealment of weapons — but bulky hooded sweatshirts are no problem. And I don’t understand the need for students to wear identification badges. Oh, and don’t get me started on traffic cops for hallways within the Ninth Grade Academy. Really?!?
The week before MacKenzie, 11, and Josiah, 4, arrived to live in Rockingham the county received a couple of inches of snow that quickly turned to ice. The result was, hinted at on Thursday and finalized late Friday afternoon, was school on a Saturday.
School on a Saturday? In our experience, which includes stops in Maryland, Missouri and Washington, this is a concept unique to North Carolina. It was odd, but, as noted, we will adjust. I had two problems with the concept of the need for makeup instructional time. First, the Saturday in school was abbreviated, only 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If school was so important — and I’m not arguing it’s not — then let’s have it for the whole day. Second, the Tuesday the winter storm hit, my son said students did almost nothing in most of his four classes — iPod time in one, cleaning out a closet in another — because, in his words, teachers had presumed classes would be canceled and had nothing planned.
Fast forward a week or so. MacKenzie is now enrolled at Rockingham Middle School. From the start, she was against the idea of school uniforms (for years, her No. 1 pants of choice has been sweats). And why not? They’re comfortable, they’re cheap and for crying out loud, students are required to sit in uncomfortable chairs for hours on end. Why not have a bit of comfort if one so chooses? If it’s about dressing “smart,” or looking professional, I’d buy that argument — except then the policy would have to ban flip flops.
Again, we adjust to Richmond County ways. We buy khakis and polo shirts (she does not like wearing a belt or tucking in her shirt). Heaven help the first teacher or staff member, though, to ask my daughter to lift up her hoodie — even part way — or otherwise seek to find out what’s under her hooded sweatshirt. Not going to happen. My daughter has standing permission to politely decline that adult’s request.
But the learning curve to Richmond County continues on. MacKenzie is upset with the change in grading system. While she has been a stellar student as of late — in recent years, all As — she’s concerned what was an A in Maryland, a grade of 90 percent or above, isn’t the same in Richmond County. Here, an A starts at 93 percent.
Personally, I’m all for upping the standards when the situation calls for it. I think it’s better for the students and, on a personal note, I have every confidence in my daughter that she’ll get the grade she earns. As always, I’ll be proud of her so long as she puts forth her best effort, regardless of grade.
There’s another point, though, MacKenzie and I agree on. Assigned seats. When I was in school — and I’d like to believe I’m not that old, though she’d tell you different — we could choose our own seats on the first day but those seats then became assigned. We couldn’t switch from day to day.
Rockingham Middle School takes it one step further, though, with assigned seating at lunch.
“I get in the classroom, but at lunch — really?”
MacKenzie, you and I agree 100 percent on that. I think we can put together an A-level argument in support of that policy not passing the common sense test.
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