School: Who is in charge? 2013 365 Challenge #292

Happy school

Happy school

We had our first ‘learning conversation’ at school today (parents’ evening in the old language.) Our daughter has only been at school a few weeks, so there wasn’t much to discuss except is she making friends okay and how can we support her burgeoning desire to read? (She’s wanted to read for ages but wouldn’t let Mummy teach her! When she read out simple words like Pat and Mac this evening I wanted to burst with pride.)

It was the conversations in the playground that I found interesting though. We have a little book that is meant to be our means for communicating with the teachers, when it isn’t possible to catch them in the morning, and aside from the ten minute learning conversation slot every few months.

I happened to mention that I wrote something in the book about my daughter’s phonics and was disappointed that it wasn’t responded to – and that one of the assistants made the same point two rows below. (I confess, I scrawled in red pen “please refer!” and drew an arrow up to our comment. Okay, I’m a child!)

Some of my parent friends laughed at me, and I couldn’t understand why. Was it because I was pushing my child too hard, or that I had enough time to read through her homework diary (I know I’m extremely fortunate to have that extra time, that working parents sometimes don’t, and I was concerned that I was rubbing it in.) Hubbie was with me and I asked him what he thought I’d done wrong. His view surprised me: he thinks they laughed because I challenged the teacher with my comment. And it got me thinking – do some parents see it that the teachers are in charge and they have no role to play in their child’s education? Do I?

Playing after school

Playing after school

If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have said of course they are. They’re the professionals, what do I know? I would no more home-school than I would home-dentist. But now I have a slightly different view.

Of course teachers are better informed in how to get the best learning experience out of a child, and I intend to leave as much to them as possible. Particularly because my daughter doesn’t want to learn from me and I can’t help but get frustrated when she can sound a word out perfectly – say C.A.T. – and then read it as “dog”. I mean, really? 😉

However, am I prepared to leave it entirely to the teachers, and not want to know the details of what she’s learning, especially at this early stage? No. Not any more. Teachers are human just as I am. I made mistakes in my job, I took the wrong things seriously, I did my best and it wasn’t always perfect. I’m not saying teachers will make mistakes, but they are only human. Plus, even with the assistants, they’re still on a 12-1 ratio. And, ultimately, no one will understand or care for my child as I do.

It’s difficult to do things that get laughed at. I remember now laughing at one of my other parent friends because she checked her son’s merit chart every day to make sure he was getting merits (think gold stars). I felt she was a bit pushy. How wrong I was. She was just interested and keen that he did well. It’s so easy to judge from the outside, but none of us can know how we’ll react until it is our turn! So, yes, I’ll be the pushy parent, the pain, the one questioning and asking and not taking it all for granted. Up until now I’ve left the professionals to it. But not any more!

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Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:

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“Hello?”

“Ruth, hi, it’s Claire.” She held her breath, waiting for the tirade. There was silence, and she imagined her sister’s mouth hanging open like a fish as she tried to decide how angry to be.

“Hi, sis, how are you? How was New Zealand? The pictures on the blog looked amazing.”

It was Claire’s turn to hesitate. The warmth in her sister’s voice and words momentarily froze her brain.

“Er, it was lovely. Bit cold, in the south. It’s good to be back in the UK. Um, sorry I didn’t stop by when I got home.”

“That’s okay, Mum said you had some problems with Kim or something. I hope she’s okay?”

Still the uncharacteristic mellow tone. Claire felt like she was talking to a stranger.

“Yes, Kim’s been, um, poorly. She was going to come travelling with me but we decided she needed to stay with her parents for a while.”

“I’m sure that’s for the best. Have you started your new job? Didn’t I read on the blog that you were working for Dorset tourism or something?”

“What? I mean, yes I started work this week. I’ve got three months to prove my worth.”

“I’m sure you’ll manage it; after four months on the road you must have a pretty good handle on what tourists want. And at least you’re not working for that silly man any more, or a faceless corporation like Happy Cola.”

Claire shivered. She’d never known her sister to show so much interest in her life before or to talk for so long without saying anything about how awful her own life was. She felt like she’d woken in an alternative reality.

“How’s Sky?” That would be safer territory.

“She’s great. She’s spending time with Chris at the weekends, so I’ve had a chance to get some rest, catch up on reading and housework, that kind of thing.”

“Huh? I thought you said she’d see Chris over your dead body?” Claire’s head reeled with the change of direction.

“Yes, well, it nearly came to that, didn’t it?”

Ruth’s matter-of-fact tone didn’t fool Claire, but she was glad of it. She wasn’t sure she could handle any more lachrymose languishing. Even so, the idea that her sister was willingly making contact with the ex-husband she swore she’d never see again was too much to take in.

“Blimey, I’ve only been away a month and the world’s on its head. What made you change your mind?”

“Sky. She kept asking to see her dad and her new sister. At first it made me cross, with her and you.”

Claire braced herself for the attack she knew was coming. “I’m so sorry about that. I didn’t mean to bump into him.”

“It’s fine. You’ve done me a favour. We’ve agreed that Sky will spend every other weekend with him, and Bryony and Eloise of course.”

That was too much for Claire. “Hang on. Sorry, I can’t get my head around this. Bryony? Not that woman? What the hell happened, Ruth?”

“It was time I forgave him. I didn’t make life easy for him, when Sky was born. I see that now. And family is important. Sky probably won’t have any other siblings through me; she should be allowed to know her sister.”

A suspicion crept into Claire’s brain, only to be dismissed. Something about the way Ruth spoke, her measured tone and air of calm forgiveness, made her sound like a missionary. As if hearing Claire’s thoughts, Ruth’s next words confirmed it.

“I’ve started going to a new church on Sunday. They made me see that life’s too short for grudges. You should come, Claire, next time you’re home. They’re wonderful people.”

“Sure, I’ll do that,” Claire muttered. Part of her felt relieved that Ruth had found a new focus in life, but another part of her worried that Ruth had been brainwashed by some cult.

I watch too much TV. A church in the midlands isn’t going to be a brainwashing cult.

With a wry smile, she pushed the foolish thoughts aside. “I have to go, Ruth, but I’m so glad to hear that you’re getting on well. I’ll give you another call soon. You take care.”

As she hung up the phone, Claire’s mind whirled with new emotions.

***

13 thoughts on “School: Who is in charge? 2013 365 Challenge #292

  1. Good on you. It’s important to know what’s going on, and to keep on top of potential issues before they get out of control.

    I doubt the teachers have an issue with it. I’m sure they’re far happier to see an interested, engaged parent, who cares about their child.

    • Hahahaha I had to look that up on google but yes, maybe! It wasn’t planned, she added that in this morning when I wasn’t paying attention. I guess I had the Baptists in mind, as they’re the only ones I know from going to a couple of baptisms for friends’ kids. They’re lovely people, very eager.

      • HTB are to do with the toronto gift, I think. I had a friend who got involved.

        It was all very ‘thou shalt not’ and tolerance was definitely not… well… tolerated. Most of it was based on instructions from the old testament and whenever I countered an old testament quote by saying ‘yes but in the new testament JC says this…’ (a convent education comes in handy sometimes). She’d look a bit nonplussed and say, “oh, I’ll have to ask the elders”.

        She asked the elders and they would give her more quotes from the old testament which I’d counter with more new testament stuff until eventually they told her not to talk to me any more and that was that. As far as I know she’s still HTB positive.

        Cheers

        MTM

      • Ah I think the group revealed by google were a different one, based in London. I think the Baptists will do for Ruth – I only want her to find some happiness and maybe a new bloke. Your group (well, your friend’s) sound interesting though and will be filed away for future research!

  2. Humorously, I just wrote a blog post (it’s scheduled for next week) about challenging teachers and keeping your eyes open for issues and discrepancies. I’ve had experiences in the past (see the post when it is published) that prove that teachers are only human and sometimes they make mistakes. While I know that I’m not the grand authority on all things education, there are many things that I would notice very easily and I fully plan to keep a close eye on my daughter’s education once she starts school.

    On a related note, I don’t know what things are like in other parts of the world, but one of the more recent insanities that has befallen schools in Nova Scotia is that teachers are no longer allowed to grade students on their spelling. They may attempt to teach proper spelling, but there is no such thing as a spelling test, and when it comes to things like essays, journals, and creative writing, they are not allowed to mark based on poor spelling. Literally every word in the assignment could be spelled wrong, but if the kid got their point across the teacher has to mark it as a perfect grade. I nearly vibrated with horror when my cousins (both teachers) told me about this, and you can be damn sure that I’ll be using whatever spare time I can muster up to teach my daughter how to spell!!!

    • I will definitely look out for your post. I’m torn on the spelling because I’m pretty bad at it (though I can tell it’s wrong) and do rely heavily on spell check when I’m writing – I have it enabled for internet so it checks all my social media and blog comments too! I think spelling should be taught, obviously, and I’d like to see awful spelling and grammar marked accordingly. But it’s a bit like failing someone in Maths A Level for using a calculator when actually what’s important is being able to solve the problem, not how you solved it. By all means mark for spelling if it’s an English assignment, but if the paper is on science it’s probably not as relevant. When I did my exams, even science and history were marked for spelling and grammar. In the true sense of the subject, though, as long as you argue your point coherently, it shouldn’t matter if it isn’t spelled all that well. Language continues to grow and change after all. Of course if my Mum reads this she’s going to go up in flames because, like me, she hates bad spelling!!! I’m just a hypocrite, I guess.

      • I do agree that spelling shouldn’t be a big deal when it comes to things like Science reports or writing out Math questions or things like that. But I do think that spelling should play a big part in essays, book reports, and that sort of thing. I guess the reasoning is supposed to be that we live in an age of spell-check, so kids shouldn’t have to bother devoting brainpower to learning how to spell, but the result of such a thing is that we’re educating a whole new generation of kids who don’t understand the difference between their, there, and they’re. Spell check is great, but it can’t always predict the word you MEANT to use, you know?

      • Absolutely! Simple mistakes like the theres drive me nuts because it affects meaning. Spelling is harder than it used to be though because we’re so exposed to different variations. I still don’t know which is the English or American spelling of loads of things (usually to do with whether to use a z or an s or single vs double lls) and I’m not always consistent. I actually think grammar is more important than spelling because it affects the meaning more, and yet I was taught spelling without grammar! (Which was painfully obvious when I started writing…)

      • I can definitely agree with that…I don’t think we were taught enough grammar in school either. I can remember being, like…16 or 17 and having to look up the difference between a synonym and a homonym because I couldn’t ever remember being taught. And while I picked up a lot of stuff because I was always such a little reader, I know plenty of people I graduated with that have no idea how to use colons and semicolons, and a couple of people who never even learned how to properly use commas and periods. @_@

  3. Pingback: Difficult Decisions: 2013 365 Challenge #313 | writermummy

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