I sat down with my daughter today to do her homework, as it’s half term. She was mostly happy to do it and we had fun. However, I have to say, I’ve been generally surprised at the poor communication between school and parent since my daughter started in September. I did my best but I didn’t really know what we were meant to do or how often: it was all rather vague. It also came as a shock as I wasn’t expecting anything to be set this early on in her school career (she’s not even five years old yet).
As far as school-parent communication goes, I’m the optimum parent: I drop my child off every morning and pick her up every afternoon. I browse the messages posted on classroom walls. I read the newsletters and emails and I trawl through daughter’s book bag every evening to fish out the paperwork. I read and write in the reading diary and I attended parents’ evenings and lunchtime reading meetings. And STILL I have no idea what’s going on half the time.
I don’t understand their merit system, even though I went to the celebration assembly. We have requests for things that need to be made for the Christmas fundraising fayre and I don’t understand what they’re asking for. I resort to asking the mums who have older children at the school and even they don’t have much of a clue.
I know it’s a tough job being a teacher, and I’m not criticising them at all: you couldn’t pay me enough to do their job. But the school has a duty to communicate with parents if they want to engage them and get their help. Our school has the infrastructure but the content is vague and confusing. it makes me want to volunteer to review their comms, except it would be a full time job and I have zero capacity. Having been fighting off a cold all day, just the thought leaves me shivering in horror! But it might be time to add my tuppence worth to the parent feedback forum! After all, communication goes both ways!
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:
“Alright, Claire, I’ll bite. What happened to your face?” Conor’s tone was a mixture of amused friend and disapproving parent.
Claire looked up from her starter and grimaced. “Damn. I hoped you wouldn’t notice.”
Conor laughed, his eyes lighting up like a sunlit sea. “You look like you rode downhill on your bike with no hands on the handle bars and hit a pothole. I did that once, and my face looked something like that.”
“That’s not so far from the truth.” Claire ducked her head and let her hair cover her face completely. “I slipped, on the coastal path. I thought I was going to fall off the cliff. Thankfully I managed to stop at the edge.” She shivered at the memory. “Unfortunately I left some of my skin behind.”
“It’s not just your face?”
Claire mutely shook her head, and waited for Conor to laugh some more. When he didn’t speak, she looked up again and was surprised at his expression. His face contracted in a tight frown, reminding her of Michael for a moment. She bristled in defence, but his eyes widened and he smiled.
“Well, I’m glad you didn’t fall off the cliff. I went to too much trouble hiring you to have to find a replacement.” The lightness of his tone belied the sympathy in his gaze.
Unsure what to make of it, Claire turned her attention back to her food. She was glad he hadn’t laughed, as Josh might have done, or told her off, which would have been Michael’s reaction. This mixture of business-like detachment and compassion wrong-footed her. Her hands shook slightly as she raised a forkful of salad to her mouth, and she lowered her arm quickly, hoping Conor hadn’t noticed.
“So, aside from trying to kill yourself at Salcombe, how has your trip been so far? How is the report coming along?”
Claire inhaled and took a shaky sip of her drink. “Good, thanks. I’m beginning to get a feel for it. I had a long chat with the hostel manager, and spent some time in Torquay. It would be useful if you had a template or set of guidelines for me to work to, just so I can make sure I’m delivering what you’re expecting.”
Conor nodded. “Of course. There are some standard templates and previous reports on the laptop. I realise we haven’t given you much to work with. I’m surprised you haven’t been more demanding, to be honest.”
With a deep flush, Claire realised she wasn’t living up to her role as a consultant. Conor obviously expected her to be more proactive, to request information and guidelines. She had been so wrapped up in her drama with Kim and getting a car, she hadn’t taken the job very seriously.
As if reading her mind, Conor cleared his throat. “How is Kim?”
“I haven’t spoken to her since leaving her at her mum’s. I’m been caught up in my research.”
“Good.” Conor seemed to realise that sounded harsh, as he laughed uncomfortably. “I meant good that you’ve cleared your head to get stuck into the project. I confess I was concerned that your mind wasn’t really on the subject. It is important, you know? Your contract extension depends on the quality of the report.”
His words made Claire’s stomach constrict. As she analysed his tone, though, she realised he wasn’t telling her off. It was almost as if he was urging her to do well, so he wouldn’t have to sack her.
All the spent adrenalin from her earlier fall and the race to get to the hotel, combined with the ideas roiling in her brain, left Claire feeling dizzy and disorientated.
Why do I always feel like there are two or three different conversations going on at the same time when I talk to Conor? His face says one thing, his voice another and his words something completely different.
With a gulp of wine, Claire suppressed a sigh and hoped she would learn to read her boss soon, before she went mad.