I Won’t do What You Tell Me

So, a couple of things happened. This morning we got to the school gates early as it happens, only I didn’t realise we were early, I assumed we were late. I let my younger one straight away be taken in by the head teacher as I could see his class lining up. But my older one held back. There was a teacher at the gate who I was 90% sure was not his class teacher but I do forget and get confused because they all look kinda the same so I started to doubt myself. Then there were other parents and kids around who I recognised from his class. So I just said to him to go in, and he did, wandering aimlessly and lost before attaching to a queue of kids. It was only about 5 minutes later as I was halfway home that I became pretty sure that wasn’t his class, and that in fact his class had been waiting around outside the gates (hence all the people I recognised) and had not yet gone in. In fact, I was pretty sure I had heard someone calling my name and I guess they had been trying to say his class hadn’t gone in yet…. But I didn’t fully process the signal at the time because the school drop off is a chaotic mess of stuff going on. The processing always takes me a while. So I sent him in there to be lost and confused. He always goes in through the gates with his head hung low and it was worse this morning. Ugh. I felt so bad. So bad. It took me a good hour before I could stop thinking about it, and that’s mainly because it was overtaken by something else.

Ah, yes, the something else. A letter came round today from school. A letter about ‘blended learning’. Apparently they are going to continue with the online learning delivered via the app. This is something they did during lockdown to replace school. It was hard enough to keep up with then. Now it has come back, but this time it is essentially homework. Yes, that’s right. It’s to be done in addition to the school day. This two sides of A4 chart is divided into different tasks, some marked ‘could’, some marked ‘should’, some marked ‘must’. Must?! Excuse me? Are you telling me what I must do with my children in my (and their) free time?

Looking at it, the ‘could’ and ‘should’ are things like looking at the blossom on the trees and talking about the changing seasons which, you know, is something we have already done, because as a family we talk about stuff and ask questions. But the ‘must’ is all reading, spelling and maths. My older one is bright and is progressing well enough. But he can’t sit still and has sensory needs. I’d rather he spent his free time wading through the local brook in his wellies, thanks. My younger one is technically way beyond anything they’ve set in reading and maths. They keep sending him home with books with five sentences per page, whereas he can successfully read Harry Potter, albeit slowly and with much pausing to ask what the words he just read mean. His spelling needs work but I figure he will absorb it eventually due to his advanced reading.

But oh my god I was so flipping angry. They just load more and more stuff on the kids (and parents). I feel like as an adult people are constantly banging on about burnout and self care, but the way we treat kids is just building them up to experience the same problems. And it’s the sheer cheek of them telling us how to spend our time. I am tempted to create a chart for the teachers suggesting how they spend their free time, with some ‘must’ tasks around a mental health and neurodiversity reading list. See how they like it.

Anyway…. All of this drama unfortunately lost me a couple of hours of work time which I really needed, though I was able to find my own strategies for fixing myself. I had a little sit in the garden which was good, very restorative, and then managed to get on with some work and push out the angry thoughts. I have been trying for about 10 years to do this by using meditation and being ‘in the moment’*. It doesn’t work. What does work is drinking two mugs of strong coffee and listening to Rage Against the Machine for an hour. I am perfectly fine now. And I got some work done.

*Stupidest damn concept I ever heard. My mind is always as much in the future and past as in the present (and in places that don’t exist). I still don’t fully believe it’s possible not to be like that.

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