I hated school. It was a really unhappy time for me. Don’t get me wrong, I had some really good friends who made the time bearable, but I wasn’t then, and I am not now an academic person. I could never understand the reason for over analysing things, if you knew the answer. Maths was always my favourite subject, working things out and getting the correct answer was easy, but detailing it on paper was too pedantic for me. I could never get my head around English literature, and this is probably why I am not a reader these days – who needs to know the depth of the relationship between the pimple on the nose of one character and the boil on the bum of another? Read a book, love it or loathe it, but why look deeper than it takes you? When it came to exams I was a total lost cause, as I don’t believe they are about knowledge but the ability to calmly regurgitate facts, something I was rubbish at, and therefore I left school with few qualifications. I did however succeed when I did a practical course at college, with continual assessment, and had a very successful career in restaurant management – I’m not stupid, just not academic.
My boys have never heard me talk about how much I didn’t enjoy school, I don’t think it would be a good thing to influence their experience by telling them about mine. Instead, I try really hard to encourage them, and talk up things they do well, as I am sure all parents do with their kids – if you encourage the good things, it’s easier to discuss the not so good!
I want to talk about M today, but I will mention D in passing.
D is a clever wee soul. Things have always come easy to him, and he has always wanted to learn. He is a sponge for information, and rarely takes things at face value, instead wanting to know the ins and outs of everything. It meant he was more than ready for school, and has done really well. His only complaint would be that he is sometimes bored, but being clever as he is, he has learned to keep his head down and hide in the crowd, rather than pushing himself forward. This is a double-edged sword but the teacher he has had for a couple of years, knows how to push him, and so school, on the whole is a happy place for him. He is a quiet boy at school, as he controls his emotions, but this has the effect of him needing release when he leaves the school each day as he needs to let it all out.
M’s school experience is very different.
When he started nursery, he was just beginning his diagnosis process. He was very isolated, even though he was in a room with 20 other children. It took a while before I was able to leave him, as he suffered terrible separation anxiety. The environment was scary for him and he found it difficult, but he became more familiar with the routine, and settled in, mainly thanks to one wonderful nursery assistant that was there.
I have got myself into a lot of trouble in the past talking about the failure of the school system where he is concerned, and I don’t wish to repeat that experience. A quick summary is that he had 13 teachers in his first three years of school, and just drifted along, getting into various trouble as bullies took their toll on him. Then arrived a teacher who he had through his 4th year that took her time to learn who he was. He soon let her in and became devoted to her, wanting to learn, because she wanted him to. It was beautiful to see our child change and finding he had not just ability but desire. He also had an additional needs teacher who he also loved, and she nurtured him. For this educational year we had a different boy.
This academic year, started well, but went downhill really quickly. He soon became withdrawn. He just wasn’t happy. Speaking to his teacher, she said he was keeping up in class, so we just assumed it was the pressure of a different environment taking time for him to get used to. Things ticked along, getting no worse, but not improving. He was an unhappy little boy. We did our best to encourage and lift him, which was some days very difficult as he was an angry young man.
Things seemed to take a dramatic downturn towards Christmas. There was nothing unusual here, as December is always a confusing month for him – there is so much going on that is not routine, that he gets very alarmed by it. As soon as the holidays came, we made sure he had the best possible time, and he changed back to the cuddly, giggly little man I love. Then we started talking about the return to school and he went mad. It was as if something snapped inside him. He didn’t want to go back to school. It was heartbreaking watching him. I managed to get him to school, despite his objections. This continued. We had many meeting with his teacher and the depute. He was not letting anyone in to explain what was wrong, and why he was so adamant that he didn’t want to go at school. We tried everything to get him to open up, but it just wasn’t happening.
Then one day, he said school was not a happy place. What a bold statement from a 9-year-old child. We asked him if he could tell us why it wasn’t happy, but he didn’t want to talk any further. Every morning I have to work really hard to make him get dressed and then to get to school. He tries everything to not have to go. He tells of being unwell – what child hasn’t tried that one, but there is never actually anything wrong with him – the problem will be if he is actually unwell and I don’t believe him. He has had sickness, which the doctor has diagnosed as abdominal migraines – https://jas2jar.wordpress.com/2015/03/04/abdominal-migraines/, this is stress related according to our GP. How can a young man be so stressed it is manifesting itself in physical form. Many mornings he tries to deal with me that if I let him stay home he will promise to go to school the next day, or vice versa, if he goes to school can he stay home the next day. He tries everything to not have to go to school.
When asked just before the parents evenings at the end of last term if there was anything that he would like us to talk to his teacher about, he thought for a while, and then said, that he wanted to spend more time with the SEN teacher as it was quieter there. We have always thought the noise of the classroom would be difficult for him, but was he actually admitting this was his problem? He would give no further comment.
Again we spoke to the school, and they have been really supportive. We as parents though feel there is so much more that should be being done for our unhappy wee man. We are not unrealistic people, we know there is budget restrictions which means they can’t just throw resources at him, but every child has the right to an education. The school is waiting to become an additional needs hub, but council red tape means this will not happen before Christmas. He has a teacher that does her best, he has a brilliant SEN teacher, and the depute fights his corner which gives us great hope.
For now, we have a happy jolly boy for 48 hours a week, the rest of the time we have a child who is stressed constantly. With only 10 weeks until the summer break, we have pretty much written off this academic year, and are working to put things in place for the next session. We have to think about if he is in the right place, and if the support can be there to mean his last 2 years of primary education stand him in good stead for going to the academy.
As a parent, all you want is the best for your child, and it is heartbreaking to watch them struggle and feel you are failing them. I really would love him to grow up remember these times as being ok, instead of being a horrible experience that he can’t control. I am not naïve to belief there is an instant solution to this situation. He has a family that love him and support him as best we can, and he has the educational professionals that are trying really hard to help move him forward. We more we work together the more likelihood of getting out of this on a positive slant.
For now, I wake up dreading the struggle to get him to school, and wondering what sort of mood he will be in when he then comes out.