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?
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!
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:
“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.