Can’t ignore it

Somethings you can ignore and other things you simply can’t. You can can’t ignore how you are feeling but it’s very easy to ignore how someone else is feeling. You can ignore the ‘do not enter sign’ but you can’t ignore the large, foaming at the mouth guard dogs stood behind the sign. You can ignore a bit of rain but you can’t ignore a thunder storm. Well it’s not easy to anyway….

Last night was a massive, noisy storm which went on much of the night. No chance for sleep until the storm blew itself out, sadly well after dawn.

Hawklad received two emails from the same teacher this week. Both saying effectively the same thing. The teacher couldn’t open the work files Hawklad had submitted this week. In addition the teacher moaned about where he had saved the files.

Ok….

Well here’s the issues which kinda made me reply in a slightly tetchy manner to this teacher. First of all these are the first communications Hawklad has had with this teacher in over a year. Secondly he is saving the files in the same way he does for all the other subjects. Thirdly Hawklad has been diligently saving all the work and homework for this teacher for over a year in exactly the same way, in exactly the same format and in exactly the same location – all in line with school instructions. Fourthly Hawklad has never had any feedback, marks or comments about any piece of work submitted to this teacher since a certain pandemic appeared. The only thing approaching feedback was a couple of random assessment numbers appearing on the quarterly school report. Numbers which unlike other subjects have never changed.

Call me cynical but I don’t think the teacher has looked at any of Hawklads work until this week. Ok class work may not always be marked but surely homework should be marked. Marked and feedback provided.

But I guess you can ignore some things.

Catch up

Can you believe it. 14 months of school at home. Just over half of that time has happened with most of his classmates back at school. Trying to maintain a remote link with his class was always going to be difficult. It can never be perfect. Especially when the Government’s attitude has been to try and force all children back into classrooms as soon as possible. Schools instructed to make it more difficult for children to work remotely. Schools and parents threatened with legal action if pupils are not back in the class. Our school wanted to offer a remote learning option. Wanted to change the school week with most pupils spending part of the school week, remote learning. Wanted to tailor education and create a better school working environment. Unfortunately that was not allowed so the remote learning option had to be largely turned off. That makes things much harder…..

Revision is supposed to start for the upcoming school year exams this week. No idea how they will work for Hawklad. But the individual subjects are now issuing revision guides. Indicating which pieces of school work have to be revisited and revised. In a couple of subjects there are no surprises – we have covered those areas, undertaken the work required. But then there are other subjects. Areas that the class have undertaken that Hawklad was not aware of. In a couple of subjects clearly large tracts of class work, entire areas have not been shared. Is it ok to call it revision when he’s visiting an area for the very first time.

It’s such a mixed bag. Yes a couple of subjects have exceeded expectations, Hawklad has done the entire teaching requirements. A couple have been kind of as expected, covered most areas but with gaps. And some subjects have gone so much worse than expected, with Hawklad being so far behind his classmates.

Surely in the modern world, with everything that technology has to offer in terms of keeping connected, surely my country should be so much better at remote learning. So much better at EDUCATION.

Play

Another gloriously chilly day here. The perfect weather to play.

It’s official, school play time is getting shorter. A deliberate government policy. A recent report from the UCL Institute of Education confirmed that is the case in the UK. They found weekly break times had reduced since 1995 by 45 minutes for the younger children and by 65 minutes for secondary pupils. It also found a growing percentage of schools offered lunch breaks of less than 35 minutes.

Since that report was published the situation has got markedly worse.

I unfortunately listened to one of the government numpties in charge of our schools. He talked about the need to improvise discipline. Talked about children suffering during the pandemic as their grades might go down. It was apparently time to increase the school day, cut holidays. Allow the pupils to catch up with government targets.

Not once did I hear the numpty say the words health, wellbeing and happiness.

That’s no surprise. Schools are now strictly controlled. Teaching programmes, timetables, how pupils learn are set by the government. It’s all about grades. Grades in subjects that the government thinks appropriate. We here constant talk of a return to good old Victorian Values. But it goes further. As the end of school bell rings children are increasingly channeled into structured out of hours school clubs. Forced into completing hour after hour of set homework.

This eats into that precious free time. Time to socialise, to play, to free think, to dream. Time which is the child’s. Maybe that’s why child mental health issues and depression are becoming an epidemic. An epidemic without a vaccine.

Before the COVID pandemic kicked in I remember one particular school year. Hawklad has two really good friends in classes next to his. When I was at school I would get plenty of time to play each day with my friends, friends in different classes. Well that’s all change now. In that entire school year Hawklad never once spent time with his friends in school. Even at weekends organised school sport events made meet-ups problematic. The only time he met up with them was during the holidays. That’s a minimum gap of 7 weeks. 7 week blocks without seeing friends.

Remember the phrase. ‘Childhood should be your happiest time’. Is that still the case? Sadly not for too many.

Abstract

Let’s be honest, it’s not really sunbathing weather here in Yorkshire. It’s ‘let’s see how many layers of clothes I can squeeze under the down jacket before it bursts at the seems’ weather.

Go on then Dad, can you see it

What is that supposed to be again.

It’s an abstract artist’s interpretation of what our market town looks like.”

No that’s not really jumping into my brain that interpretation.

What do you see then Dad.”

A series of random line squiggles and odd shapes. Forming what can only be described as a incoherent mess.

Exactly Dad. Apparently that’s the town skyline and its most iconic landmarks.”

Really. If it’s most iconic landmarks then I’m certainly not seeing traffic jams, floods, not open at weekend signs, pizza takeouts and hordes of parking enforcement officers.

Dad, Aspergers clearly doesn’t get abstract art…”

It’s ok Hawklad, Dads don’t get it as well.

I’ve got to produce my own version of that now. Really…”

Shall we just put a pot of ink and a piece of paper in with the gerbils and let them get creative.

Would be a good idea but the gerbils eat everything in front of them”

Well you can help me do it.

Ok do you want me to draw as well.

No Ive seen your artistic skills. Look at the state of my hair. No you can do something your better at.”

Ok you name it.

Go and find some chocolate for me please”

I can do that…

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….

Really

Another school deep sigh moment. Time to look at the view for a few moments and breathe.

All parents have different takes on life and schooling. No one right answer. Parents can fundamentally disagree on things like schools. So I am fully aware that what O might say now won’t strike home with many. It’s just me.

These are tough times. So much stress, anxiety and fear. It’s bad enough for adults , what’s it like for our children. It must be a nightmare for them. It’s robbing them of a large chunk of their precious childhood. So I’m my opinion it’s time to cut them some slack. Clearly that view is not shared.

Late last night Hawklad had an email from one of his teachers. Sent to all the class. It was a reminder that the homework that had been set over Christmas was due tomorrow morning. The teacher wanted to remind all the class that the large piece of work had to be done on time. One quote stuck with me. The homework is due regardless of the pandemic lockdown, negatives will be issued.

Ok some parents will be happy with that. This one isn’t. For a start why are we giving out homework over Christmas? Really. It happens every holiday. Can’t we just let children enjoy the time off. Especially at this dystopian time. And then those words regardless of the pandemic lockdown. Really…. For me those 5 words sum up everything which is wrong with the school system.

For me it REALLY needs to change.

Hanging around

A day perfect for just hanging around.

It’s was one of those school days yesterday. Four lessons scheduled. Four lessons that should take up many hours work for Hawklad. The first lesson had a few pieces of work on offer. But not much. Within a few minutes he had finished. The problem is that we are trying to stick to the classroom teaching plan. Hawklad through a misunderstanding ended up doing several lessons worth of work the other day. So he is too far ahead. He needs to wait until the class catches up.

Then nothing from the next two lessons. Absolutely nothing. No work. No research. No idea what the class has been looking at. Nothing for him to do. He tried emailing but got no response. It’s difficult for the teacher as they are trying to teach a class of 30. Some of the teaching assistants are good and they ensure the class material goes online so Hawklad can access it. Ok some verbal stuff is not shared but that is so understandable. The problem happens when the usual assistants are not in class. Maybe the class has no assistant working. Maybe the replacement assistant just doesn’t know about Hawklad. For whatever reason nothing is put online. Hawklad twiddles his thumbs.

The final lesson did email some work but it was work Hawklad had already done. That’s another problem you get when the teaching assistants change. They have no idea what work has already been sent in previous lessons. Hawklad quickly redid the work and that was the school day. Well that’s not quite true….

When I say Hawklad was twiddling his thumbs, that is not exactly true. We know these days much better now. Hawklad can sit and just wait OR

I could set him some work that may or may not fit with the teaching schedule OR

I could just let him play on his Xbox until some work turns up.

Guess one we went for. Yep bad parenting option. Can’t believe he beat me repeatedly at FIFA…..

3am

Last night I was tired. Unusually tired for me. But it was one of those pesky tired setups. During the evening I could feel myself nodding off. Plenty of those ‘just starting to drift off while sat on the settee – then suddenly woken by those cataclysmic sudden neck snapping forward’ moments. This went on all evening until it was bed time. But then I just wasn’t tired. Pigging fiddlesticks……

Finally sleep came but all too soon…..

DAD, DAAAAAADDDD!

What’s up son.

Dad I’ve forgotten, sorry we’ve forgotten the art assignment.”

Ooh yeh, that one that isn’t due in until the 12th.

That’s the one, But ITS THE 12th.”

Oh big pants. Can you do it as soon as you get up?

No it’s due at the start of the first lesson.”

***********

I could see by the look in his eyes that until it was done, sleep would be impossible. So a few minutes later I was in the kitchen making hot drinks. Years ago a late night session would have had a very different meaning to tonight’s version. 3am and rocking out to Japanese Art.

Basically I sat there looking vacant, occasionally nodding (in a of course I knew that kinda way) and asking Google such questions as ‘what on earth does wabi and sabi mean’. It took an hour before Hawklad had convinced himself that he had done enough. The school panic in his world was over. His completed presentation was significantly more robust than his Dads initial suggestive assignment text

Japanese Art is cool but Godzilla is real cool. Now it’s time for bed….

Hawklad got to bed and immediately fell asleep. I guess at about 4.30am I found some sleep. I woke up a couple of hours later with one overriding thought. How can you write two pages on Japanese Art and not mention Godzilla‘s Atomic Breath just once. What has become of Art.

It’s wet

It’s definitely wet today. Pouring down and very cold. All rather depressing so let’s take the time to look at a bit of nature’s colour.

Do you ever have those conversations. Those conversations where the words seem to head in one direction but actual the conversation clearly ends up in a totally different place. Ever so frustrating.

I’ve spoken to school about Hawklads enforced school at home project. I thought I had explained to school that although it’s kind of working it was far from ideal. In particular

  • He is getting absolutely zero feedback. He is submitting work but getting nothing back. The other kids are clearly getting marks and comments back. That’s clear from some of the teacher comments on the set work tasks. But those comments are always aimed at other pupils. If he doesn’t get feedback then what is the point.
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he is dyslexic. Comments like ‘if I don’t get round to sending you tasks for the lesson then just read a book on the subject’ don’t really help….
  • Have the teachers forgotten that he has difficulty in hand drawing. He struggles with fine motor skills. I can’t believe the number of times the set task is to hand draw something – unbelievably that is currently not Art.
  • Some of the subject teachers are still completely forgetting about Hawklad. No subject material at all has been made available.

Anyway the school seemed very supportive, so surely job done. Clearly not as the school responded with an email basically saying that they were happy that things where going so well. They will keep going with the current approach and they hoped that we would keep in touch…..

Sounds like it’s time for me to most definitely stay in touch with them right now.

Turning

Those leaves 🍁 are turning. Autumn is coming.

Well actually the last few nights it has felt like winter has already arrived. It’s been freezing. Heating and lights full on. Jumpers (sweaters) most definitely are out of storage. I’m not very organised but I do always remember where I put my million jumpers. Normally I have all of them on at the same time.

So school starts on Monday. Our Son will not be returning at that time. If and when he returns is a matter of much uncertainty.

Dad have school decided what is happening on Monday then ?”

Not yet Hawklad.

Has school sent you the new codes so that we can check the online pupil pages for each subject?”

Not yet. Until we get these then we are basically stuffed.

So what will I be doing?”

Not sure as yet. I don’t have the school timetable. Don’t know what the subject teachers will be looking at.

As I’m now in a new set we won’t even know any kids we can ask to see what they have been doing.”

No. So I can’t speak to any parents and see what they have been given.

So basically Dad we will be winging the homeschooling thing.”

Yes definitely winging it.

So a bit like your cooking then. Bit of a disaster…”

Yep, but at least it won’t be dull.

If it’s bad then I’m going back to bed. Just to let you know.”

Don’t worry son, if it’s that bad I will be resorting to building lego sets…

***********

As it stands the plan is

  • Follow the school timetabled lessons for the day,
  • Email the individual teacher for a guide to what we should be doing….. not entirely hopeful about that. Failing that will see if any lesson notes have been loaded onto the pupil online pages ….. these are often blank or feature very brief notes loaded days after the lesson,
  • Look out for any homework tasks being posted. Submit these to the teacher somehow,
  • Try to find relevant videos online for him to watch. The BBC and other countries have some good resources,
  • Send copies of any work he does to the teacher …. somehow.

Yes winging it sums it up perfectly. I’m actually quite relaxed about the schooling side. The key is for our son to be in a good place. Assuming he is not at school for this half term, then it’s just about keeping him from falling too far behind the rest of the class. Certainly not looking for him to get gold stars. If keeping his hand in means he gets the school day done in an hour, then so be it. More time for him. More time for him to try and reconnect with his happy side.

The key thing is.

Yes we are doing school but it’s not the priority.