Saturday, 9 May 2015

Time to practise what I preach.

As a secondary school teacher, and even when I was on 'extended maternity leave',  I have often been asked to recommend a 'good' school by friends and acquaintances, for their approaching-high-school-aged children.  My answer has always been to find the one that suits their child best, that the child likes the atmosphere of, and not to worry about reputation, exam results or decile ratings.  
(Naturally now, where I am teaching at a school that I love, I always say there.  But this isn't usually very helpful or constructive, as the school, being new, has a closed zone, and neither I, nor most of the people I know, live in that zone.)

No matter which school you talk about, there will always be people who love it and people who hate it; you have to find what is right for you, as a family.  A child will only do learning if they want to be there, not because it is a 'good' school.

The school the Toads are at is an excellent school.  I really like it, I think the teachers are excellent, it's convenient, and so on.  However, in the last year or so, the blue Toad has become less and less engaged with what he has been doing at school.  He has been very successful in some areas, and in others he has remained static or started heading backwards.  

This in no way reflects on his teachers, all of whom I have really liked; they have been organised, interested, open to ideas, and supportive of the blue Toad.  But when he came home, all he could remember of his day was what happened at lunch-time.  He had no idea what he was doing, why he was doing it or what he was getting out of it.

It's taken a while, but I started to realise that it might just be that his personality doesn't fit with how things are done at that school.  He likes to be in control of what he is doing, to make his own decisions, to have ownership.  He likes to try stuff and take risks.  He is very loud.  He wasn't doing any of those things.  And he was coming home and exploding with the need to do them.

The lucky thing for us as a family is that, teaching where I do, the Toads automatically become in-zone students.  And for the associated primary school as well... You can see where this is going.

So, we asked the blue Toad if he thought going to a new school that worked differently might be okay.  Apart from the caveat that his friends wouldn't be there, he was all for it, no hesitation at all.  In the course of a week we have been to an open day, had a full day visiting, and enrolled him.  
He starts Monday.

After his last day at the old school, as we were cleaning out his desk, his teacher mentioned, amongst other things, how she had never seen him as chatty as he had been all day, describing what he was doing.  That comment made very clear to me how right this move is for him, because that chatty, exuberant blue Toad is the real one, not the quiet, well-behaved, slightly withdrawn one that was being described by his teachers.   

I have always said that you should find a school that fits the child.  This is why the pink Toad is adamantly not moving schools.  She loves where she is, it suits her, she is engaged, and doing all of that stuff that shows she is in the right place.  She is pleased for her brother, and thinks it will be an excellent place for him to be, but is quite clear that it is not even an option for her.

It is a big step, and I feel a bit fragile about the whole thing.  Not least because after quite a long period of thinking, the process itself has been so quick.

As I am learning, it is a much harder process to do stuff than to say it.  But it is time to practise what I preach, because it is right.  

Have you ever had to do something hard because your convictions told you to?  How did it go?

1 comment:

  1. This is really brave, Tracey, but brilliant that you've shared your thinking and even better that your toad and my equally chatty and exuberant daughter have become firm friends.