“Good afternoon madam, which class is your child in?”. This sentence came from a young child carrying a clip board as I entered the hall where I was due to have a parents meeting with my 5 year old son’s teacher. More children were lined up very efficiently, also with their clipboards, reciting their lines to other parents. The reception was very polite. Very formal looking. But very robotic.
My son’s school is ‘very good’ by all standards. It is welcoming, colourful and it has a lovely ‘feel’ about it. A tremendous amount of work is obviously put in by everyone who works there but I can’t help but feel my son’s schooling will turn him into a “yes sir, no sir, three bags full sir” young boy.
Before I go any further I will just add that I have the upmost respect for Teachers. I trust them with my child’s life. Increased classroom sizes and learning outcome demands must put so much pressure on teaching. I could not do this job and am in awe of those that do. But this is the problem I have, is my son’s presence at school purely a ‘tick box’ exercise?
My son’s teacher dove straight in to tell me he was on the right path for achieving the targets for his age. Yes he can write ‘sat, mat, hat’. Yes he can count to the required amount. No he isn’t interested in reading the ‘Biff and Chip’ books he brings home! But does anyone know of the remarkable stories he tells from his imagination??? Or the books he reads from memory? “Here is a leaflet that explains how to make reading more fun at home”. Hmmm, I will let you come to your own conclusion about my internal reaction to this!
I’m afraid the very strict 10 minute appointment slot for generic information, is wasted on me. The things I need to know are:
- Is my son happy? How do you know if he is unhappy? How would you support my son if he was sad/upset/unhappy?
- The theme this term is ‘Homes’, how are you supporting my son from a Single Parent home throughout this subject, as a minority in his class? How are you ‘normalising’ different family types? What resources do the school use for discussion around homes and family life?
- Why is my son putting bread in his pocket at dinner time because he doesn’t have enough time to eat his dinner?
Please put all of these in a tick box for me! At this young age, my son’s emotional health and development is more important than academia. He needs friendships and to learn the value of these friendships. Develop social skills. I sometimes wish we followed the Scandinavian schooling system where 7 is the starting age. Children have more time to be children, to learn through play as they are designed to do.
I hate to think of my son being a number amongst 30 others. I hate to think of him conforming at such an early age. He sits with his legs crossed, does as he is told and puts his arm up to ask or answer a question. Do we do this as adults????
I remember my son coming home after his first full day. He was desperate for the toilet. He hadn’t been all day because he didn’t know who to ask or where to go. I remember him coming out of school a few weeks ago looking a bit peaky and he said he had felt poorly all day but didn’t tell anyone. Now that made me sick to my stomach. My son is a human being with his own needs and feelings. Why is nobody seeing this??
I have spent the last couple of years encouraging my son to make his own choices. The need to conform as a class takes its toll on him and most days after school, he is like a bottle of pop ready to explode. The emotional intensity of school life at such a young age is concerning me. Take the school Christmas Concert for example, my son wasn’t ready to parade in front of strangers, singing songs that have been rehearsed diligently for weeks and weeks. He wanted his mummy but he sang up on stage upset because that was what was required of him. For entertainment! For school recognition. And I still bought the DVD! The pressure on these children is just too much in my opinion. Did my son have a choice to take part??? I bet he wasn’t even asked.
So the next parent’s session will go somewhat differently. I will have my clipboard and checklist and my ten minute timer. I will ask about my son. Not about his ability to build a tower of bricks and to recite the colours of the rainbow, but about his personality. About his likes and dislikes. And most of all about his happiness. Because to me, at 5 years of age, that is all that counts.