Pop Art

And still it shrinks. I’m going to miss it when it’s gone.

Back to school at home and back to the daily fun…. Started with the usual happy pep talk from a teacher. To paraphrase.

‘Remember I’ve set some work before the week off. It’s voluntary but I can see what people have done and how long you have spent on it. I am checking….I’m about to do your assessment….”

Ok….

Then I accidentally phoned the school. Who hasn’t done the ‘put the mobile in your back trouser pocket just to see how long it takes for your bum to unlock the phone and dial a number’ trick. The mobile can’t have been in the pocket for 2 minutes before suddenly I heard a strange voice coming from my nether regions. How is it that it takes me hours to figure out how to unlock the mobile, find the phone app, then repeatedly fail to type in the number. Yet my butt can unlock the phone and successfully call someone in a fraction of that time…..

So after I had apologised to school reception it was back to the usual fight with submitting pieces of work and trying to find the class work on Teams. Fights with explanations, hidden meanings and unclear instructions.

Quickly followed by the ritual Dad humiliation.

Dad apart from Andy Warhol what other Pop Art practitioners can you name.”

Erm……..

Ok can you at least name a few famous Pop Art pieces and before you say it, NO Godzilla doesn’t count.”

Erm there was that picture with about 100 Madonna’s replicated.

Dad. You mean Monroe and it was 50 times…”

That’s the one. Then there was the soup tin. Erm Andy Warhol was in Men in Black 3, does that count?

So basically no help…….

But maybe my backside could become Pop Art. Probably not. Not sure how big the canvas would have to be to get 50 replicas of my butt on. But if they could then I could literally be sat on an important piece of avant garde culture. Sat on a fortune.

Blink

Blink and it’s gone. Blue sky.

I remember back to my school days. Apart from living in caves and avoiding the dinosaurs, I was like most kids. Some stuff went in to my head easily, other stuff not so easily. Stuff about Physics, Mathematics and Geography went in. Subjects like History the dates would take a lot of effort to stick. Subjects like Chemistry I was ok. However French I was awful, it might as well have been a foreign language…. Biology I was not much better.

Today I was trying to help Hawklad understand Chemistry. He struggles to visualise chemical reactions. So trying to calculate reaction energy levels was a nightmare for him. Whatever we did he just couldn’t see it. That’s the thing with Hawklad, maybe that’s the thing with his Aspergers. He gets blind spots. They go beyond the dyslexia issues. With dyslexia if you read out the word then he can understand what he’s trying to learn. But these nothing seems to shed light for him. Some things he just can’t process and visualise. With a subject like French it’s a massive blind spot. History there are zero blind spots. But with other subjects he can understand most things really well but randomly encounters these blind spots.

Mathematics it’s decimals and volumes

Biology it’s cell structures and names

Design Technology it’s visualising 3D designs

Geography it’s grid references and grid lines

Physics it’s magnetism

Home Economics it’s cooking times

And Chemistry is chemical reaction equations

He can be going along swimmingly then encounter one of these areas and it completely stops him in his tracks. We kind of ignore them now. Blink and move on. Focus on all of the many areas he can make progress on. Hope that the blind spots don’t come up too many times in his main exams.

At the moment that’s our plan.

Back

Everyday our little lake shrinks just a little bit more.

It’s Sunday. The last day of the Half Term break. Tomorrow the next leg of the school at home project commences again. Does it sound bad that I’m not looking forward to it.🤓🤬😱🤯

The delights of Zoom meetings and lessons. The word Zoom has replaced Cauliflower has the one that makes my stomach churn the most. The mandate to use Microsoft Teams then trying to work out which teachers are not using it this week. The soul shattering tiredness which ensues from the daily 630am alarm call. Trying to get my head round chemical reactions, tectonic plate theory and trigonometry. Trying to help with French while being unable to stop helping in German. Trying to explain coding to so dine with dyslexia when I don’t see the point. Not being able to find the right coloured pens and stationery. Failing to get Hawklads homework to submit by the deadlines. Emailing teachers to remind them that Hawklad is still here and still a member of the class. At home but not having the time for housework. Constantly fighting the urge to drown in a swimming pool of extra strength coffee and gorge on every cookie within a 10 mile radius.

Yep not looking forward to that starting again.

But it will be done, I just might go a bit grouchy….

Cut the grass

I know it’s all gone but the field looks better for it….So let’s go back to just before the thaw.

I was sat in my car. It hadn’t moved in weeks so I thought I had better run the engine for a bit. Reverse it a few times up and down the our little drive. Make sure the brakes haven’t seized up. If I was sat for weeks my knees would definitely have stopped working. I was looking at the three peddles and scratching my head. I had forgotten which one was the clutch. After a few test presses I sussed them out again. Clearly driving doesn’t come naturally to me.

That’s probably very like parenting with me as well. I’m probably better at being the kid than the one apparently in charge.

Then a worrying thought. What if I’m getting this parenting lark completely wrong. What if I’m making things worse for a Hawklad. Who knows. I’ve never been assessed. It was easy when there was two parents. Someone would tell me if I was wrong. A quietly whispered ‘tell you what why don’t you go and cut the grass and I will do that’. But then that abruptly stopped in 2016. This summer it will be 5 years of me parenting solo. No checks. No assistance. No manual. Doing this all by myself. Over those years there were many times I would have definitely told myself to go outside and cut the grass.

What if I’ve got this wrong….

Would my partner have done it differently. Probably. We often politely disagreed. Even down to how to change a nappy. She wanted him to go to a different school. Was she right? She had a different view on the approach that should be taken with his Aspergers and Dyslexia. Have I been too laid back on the implementation of his Education and Health Care Plan. Have I done all I could for him. Have I missed something which would help him with his fears and phobias.

I guess the answer is that I will never know. All I can do is my best. Hope I get most things kinda right. Hope I don’t drop too many balls along the way. Maybe even find the time to cut the grass.

Origami

Tracks. Can you guess the little visitor?

***********

Dad I’m not happy…”

What’s wrong?

School. Apparently they think that origami is a fun activity”

Well many would agree.

Not here they won’t. So when a teacher says ‘I have a fun activity for youI personally would not be then referring to origami. I am tempted to contact my lawyer on this.”

You might enjoy it.

Not happening. Two videos each 10 minutes long to follow. Making a bird and a dragon. I’d rather eat broccoli.”

Wow must be bad if broccoli is a better option. Why don’t you have a go and see what happens.

Well only if you do it as well. Parents should be made to share the torture.”

##### 30 minutes later#####

Well Dad did you enjoy that….”

No I didn’t Son. Broccoli is a better option.

Any idea what those two creations are supposed to be. Certainly not a bird or dragon. And we followed the instructions….”

No idea what they are. We might as well have spent 30 minutes randomly scrunching up some paper.

So the visitor….. it’s this one.

Comes and stands tight next to the front door and waits patiently for me to get my backside in gear. It’s a clever strategy. Always gets some food first. What a clever bird.

Just 4 minutes

A stunning morning sky which lasts for just a fleeting moment. If only it lasted longer.

So the online parent evening has been and gone. It was an experience.

So you try to book a 4 minute slot with as many teachers as you can. The booking process felt a bit like a 50% off sale at the local everything for a £1 shop. Chaos. The booking system opens and it’s every parent for themselves. Only so many slots. Survival of the fittest. Unbelievably I managed to book 6 subject chats while only suffering minor superficial damage.

So the evening arrived. Oh what fun. You log into the school system and select parent video chat. Then wait for your slots to arrive. Looking at a blank screen with a helpful timer showing a countdown to your next slot. What would happen. Do we get a fanfare and fireworks when the timer hits zero. Or is it more like the Alien attack in Independence Day. “Times Up”.

Nothing so dramatic. A box appears showing a live video of me. Another bigger box saying ‘awaiting teacher’ and a 4 minute timer appears at the top of the screen. A timer which doesn’t wait for the teacher to arrive, it starts to count down immediately. Then like magic the teacher appears at some stage. Then we chat while the timer rapidly heads towards zero. Helpful on screen messages appear telling me that I have x chat seconds left. Then at zero the screen instantly goes blank. The chat is terminated automatically. Then another timer appears telling me when my next chat will begin.

Wow.

So what did I learn from the process.

  • The dog is guaranteed to bark as soon as the first chat starts and the big boy cat will try to position himself between you and the camera. The helpful big fella will then start to attend to his undercarriage in front of the camera.
  • Just how off putting it is to see your own face while your trying to chat. I should be thinking about Hawklads education and future yet what am I thinking…. ‘wow I’m ugly’. Maybe I should buy a George Clooney mask for the next one. But at least I combed my hair. That’s something which is seemingly beyond our PMs abilities.
  • It’s important to test out where I should sit for the chat. What is behind me and in full view of the teacher. Maybe I should have a Union Jack flag on the wall just like the bozo’s running our country now must have for every fire side chat. Or maybe a collection of high brow books neatly stacked on a shelf just over my shoulder. This time over my shoulder was a shelf with DVDs on. What made it worse was the dvd in plain sight of the teacher. Deadpool. Says it all.
  • Why do some teachers have the ability with just a steely look to get you to instantly sit up straight
  • With only 4 minutes on the clock it’s important to drop things like ‘hello’, ‘good to meet you’ or ‘shall I repeat that’.
  • 4 minutes is only just long enough to get an update on this terms performance and splutter out ‘in terms of option can we discuss…’ before the time runs out and the Aliens blow up the Whitehouse.
  • But when your mind goes blank, 4 minutes feels like an eternity.
  • How difficult is it for me to keep my head in the camera shot. Too many times it was either just my chest or the top of my head appearing. When I did remember to stay vaguely in shot the teacher would then start moving in and out if shot. Unbelievably when they moved out of the screen I would automatically try to move with them as if that would get the teacher to reappear. Madness.

So that was it. It went too quickly. Now it’s a week before next years options are submitted. Much thinking to be done. But maybe I should have tried Hawklads approach. Play on the Xbox and go with the flow. Yep that sounds a much better use of 4 minutes.

Options

Something rather bizarre happened today here in Yorkshire. It was sunny with lots of blue sky. Most unusual.

Just after the dinosaurs had become extinct I was as at school. A time before home computers. A time when a domestic microwave was about as expensive as a Fusion Reactor. I was leaving secondary school just as MTV was starting. Definitely a different era. So you would expect a few limitations in the schooling system. Like the options available to kids in our sink school. A poor school in a poor working class area.

I remember the school option meeting. No parents. Just the snotty kid, the careers advisor and the headteacher. It basically went like this for me.

********

What options do you want to take?

I would like to take Latin, French and I would like to learn to program using something like Pascal.

Why?

Because I want to go to university.

Kids round here don’t go to university. You get jobs in the Chemical Works, the Steel Plant. The really smart ones might get a job as a clerk in a bank in the high street.

I don’t really fancy that.

We don’t offer those subjects anyway. Your option choices are woodwork, metal work or home economics. That’s cooking to you son…

*********

That conversation always stuck with me. Clearly stuck with a the others in my year. I was the only one to make university. I managed to scramble through a system setup for the benefits of the local economy and not for the pupils. Fast forward all those thousands of years. We find ourselves in 2021. Surely a more enlightened time. When microwaves are really cheap but bizarrely a 24 pack of toilet rolls is harder to get hold of than a Fusion Reactor.

We are looking at Hawklads option choices. He has to take Mathematics, Sciences and English. But has to choose four more subjects. It’s strongly recommended that French is selected. Which is odd as school are super keen for him to ditch that subject. One option really does suit him – History. As his last teacher told him before she left – ‘you know the subject better than I do’. And he loves history. Then it’s going to be Geography. He is ok with that subject but it’s never really fully connected with him. Two options left….

Here is where the problems start. PE might have been an option but it’s an essential requirement that you represent the school or a club in a sport. So that’s out. Information Technology would have been an option but the last two years of force feeding coding has broken his will in that one. The other handful of options just do not suit him at all. No interest in them. The teaching methods don’t suit him. No connection with the teacher. Or it’s an area he really struggles with.

It really does feel like the schooling system is still not truly aimed at the pupils. Take what you are offered rather than let’s see what really works for the individual. The schools take is rather than look for alternatives let’s just let him not select 4 options. He could maybe only do 3 or 4 exams as that would potentially help him pass something. OK.

So what is he going to do. Well he’s going to randomly pick two more options for now. Go through the hoops in case he sticks with mainstream schooling. But we are going to look at proper alternatives. What subjects can we find which are outside of the school remit which really interest him. That’s how education should be. That’s how it should have always been.

L

30 minutes

What can you do in 30 minutes?

Maybe go for a paddle in a flooded farmers field

Maybe play a game couple of games of Top Trumps

Maybe listen to one side of a vinyl record

Maybe do a quick yoga session

Maybe have a shower

Maybe take the dog for a walk

Maybe watch one Simpson’s episode

What can’t you do in 30 minutes

Play a half of football

Cut the grass

Read a chapter of a book

Play a game of Trivia Pursuit

Listen to a cd

Watch an episode on the X-Files

Cook Lunch

What do I have to do this week in 30 minute?

Have 7 online teacher video chats to discuss Hawklads performances, challenges and his future. That’s a crazy thought…..

First signs

Look towards the base of any wall and there are the first signs of better weather. Spring is not too far off now. Not too far off even in Yorkshire.

Let’s hope it’s a sign of better times for all.

It’s amazing what an a mobile phone camera can do. Coping with really dark and grizzly early morning weather. Almost looks light. Wonder if it could do anything transforming this muppet into something more approaching George Clooney.

Suspect not…

Wonder if George would have sworn in a broad Yorkshire accent when he looked at the latest school email. Soon we can book a slot for the 4 minute online teaching – parent discussions. 3 full email pages and 4 attachments to explain how to book slots and what can and can’t happen in those slots. It took me far longer than 4 minutes to to wade through that lot.

The fundamental problem with the option selection process is the teacher – pupil relationship. Some of the teachers do seem to understand that additional support system be needed for Hawklad. Sone even try to provide that support. But others don’t seem to get it. Maybe it’s down to time pressures, maybe it’s down to not having the chance to develop a relationship with Hawklad, maybe they don’t care. Like everything in like, just like with say parents, with teachers – you get good ones, you get ok ones and you get not so good ones. You get teachers who will get a child and you get teachers who won’t get a child.

That link is vital to any pupil. It’s vital to a pupil with Aspergers, Dyslexia and ADHD. School can’t confirm which teacher and which teaching assistant will cover each class over the upcoming two years. Pick an option and then it depends on which teaching team you are eventually allocated. 4 minutes isn’t enough to bottom that discussion out.

Not much you can do in 4 minutes. Well it’s long enough to walk to some walls and see the first signs of Spring.

Visibility

It was a dreadful few hours weather wise. Just so cold and wet. Really grey. Well this is Yorkshire. Really poor visibility.

Next week it’s a big schooling week. Hawklad has to pick his subject options for the final two years of secondary school. He has to do Mathematics, English and Science. But then he has to pick 4 further subject options. Two of those are really easy. History and Geography are definite selections. I think he would spend all his time on just those two if he could. But what about the other two?

Now here the problems start.

First off – will he actually return to mainstream classroom teaching? I’m not betting that he will.

Then

Our pandemic lockdown has resulted in basically zero direct teacher input on Hawklad. Apart from the occasional test result, the teachers have no grasp on things like his current state of writing and reading. What help and support he needs. What he needs for the exams. They haven’t seen him directly work since February last year. A lot will have changed in that time. Equally we have little idea what the teachers actually think of Hawklad’s position. One page summary reports issued three times a year basically tell you nowt.

So we are selecting options feeling like we are doing this in the blind. Because of the pandemic we haven’t had an Education and Health Care Plan Review meeting since May 2019. In that time virtually everyone one of the multi disciplinary team has left…. These are big decisions being made with so little visibility. The school are offering video chats with teachers but these are strictly limited to 4 minute per child. That’s 4 minutes to discuss performance, concerns, issues AND future options. It just feels a mess. It’s a mess for teachers, for parents and most importantly for the children. It’s another area that the Pandemic has found a way of undermining. No point looking for help from the Government, the PM can’t even manage to comb his hair never mind support real people. So like most things these strange times it feels like we are winging it. Winging it with so little visibility.