Posts Tagged ‘school’

Turntable present

Gabe

Gabe’s birthday fell in the midst of his GCSE language oral exams and in peak revision period. He opted, as last year, for a quiet birthday. His main present, which we bought on an outing to the Trafford Centre, was a turntable. An object of desire for this 16 year old eager to place his beloved Beatles’ sound under the added scrutiny of vinyl. He has not been disappointed. 

Robin

Robin has completed his year 6 SATs. These tests, for which there has been an ominous build-up at school, have made him more anxious than I would have expected, given they hold no significance for him. Walking to school on the morning of a SAT, he has been frisky, a few minutes of energy and daftness traded for the serious stuff coming later that day. He reports that each test went well, some were easy. He’s looking forward now to a relaxed final summer of primary school. 

Eliza

Eliza, having dropped her phone in the toilet, has a new phone. It is Gabe’s old iPhone and there is a dispute brewing about who owes whom what for her to take on its possession. But even with a new phone, with no competition for the TV, on a sunny Sunday morning, Eliza admitted to missing Robin who had not yet returned from a sleepover. 

Saved until last

Eliza

Eliza’s parents evening, attended by L, Eliza and me, was an evening of almost unremitting praise. The French teacher went into Gallic excess. More English, more restrained were history, English, music (although Eliza’s failure to go to strings group on Tuesday lunchtimes was mentioned) and science. Only maths, in the person of a very dull man, failed to join in the fun. But last was best, because the RE teacher, amongst her praise for Eliza, admitted that she always saved marking Eliza’s homework for last – to give her a boost at the end of a long marking session.

Robin

On a mild March evening, Robin joined L and I on a walk around the neighbourhood to get some air and steps on our health apps. A few minutes down the road and Robin announced that he was going to give us a quiz, on the subject of.. himself. For the next 20 minutes our knowledge of our younger son was tested: favourite music, tv programme, holiday and food preferences and much else. His mother, of course, won.

Gabe

Gabe is nibbling away at the pile of GCSE assessments that fill year 11. Science practicals, music performances, French controlled assessment, cookery assessment and PE performances have all been ticked off, with the exams to come after Easter.  The most stressful for him was the food technology test. He had never completed a practical in the allotted time, but we persuaded him to practice at the weekend and prepare some of the ingredients at home. His savoury Chelsea bun with tomato sauce looked impressive. He prepared most thoroughly for the French assessment, drafting a sophisticated piece about his home town that he reproduced under controlled assessment conditions (dictionary + 40 words of notes). The interim results place him well to achieve an impressive set of GCSEs.

School choice

Robin

Within hours of his eleven + result, Robin had decided he wanted to go to the local High School. L & I preferred the school a little further, a bus-ride, away. We collected recommendations from parents of older children. Both schools were heavily praised, but L & I had a sense that the more distant school was closer to what we wanted for Robin.

We sat down with Robin and L made a list of advantages and disadvantages of each. He was resolute, we tried to sound open-minded. We completed the exercise and agreed to give it some more thought.

Separately, L & I came to the conclusion that we couldn’t find evidence to support our hunch; certainly not evidence that overrode a lengthy bus journey, a 30 minute earlier start to the day and difficulties collecting him from after school activities. And so, Robin will be going to the local High School next September.

Eliza

Bumble suffered a stroke and did not recover. Gabe asked if ‘the curse’ had struck again. It did feel a little like it had: three gerbils, three hamsters and two guinea pigs under Eliza’s affectionate care have perished. The pet cemetery in the front garden gets (a little) bigger.

Gabe

Gabe was shocked at Trump’s victory. ‘Why doesn’t the rest of the world refuse to trade with America?’ he wanted to know, forgetting that the UK will soon be desperate for a trading partner. He is genuinely interested in politics and well-read for his age. As he reflected on the succession of dispiriting election results in the last 18 months,  assured him the 1980s had been similar with defeat after defeat for the progressive, left-leaning causes and candidates.

Work experience

Gabe

Gabe spent the final four days of his fourth year at secondary school back at his old junior school. When, months ago, the requirement to complete work experience was communicated, he quickly dismissed working with Lou or me – both jobs too boring – and settled, in the absence of any career calling, for his old school.

He has enjoyed the experience to a degree that surprised me. The week began with him refereeing a grudge football match between two classes. He spent a couple of days in Robin’s class. Most challenging for him was a day in the class for kids with special needs. He found it frustrating that their learning of the most simple things was so slow. But, he conceded, they were cute – wanting his reassurance.

Gabe even returned to the school on Friday for the leavers’ assembly. L saw him singing the leavers’ song, which he explained away as because he had helped them learn it.

Robin

At leavers’ assembly, the year 5 pupils were given their job roles for next year. Robin was made captain of one of the school houses, the second most prestigious role after head boy, but far less desirable to Robin than football captain. Later in the day, Robin was told that he had an additional role – deputy head boy – on stand-by should the head boy be away.

Eliza

We took Robin to Eliza and Gabe’s school for the open evening. Eliza took part in a drama performance, while we went on a tour. First we went to Eliza’s form room and recognised her French teacher. I introduced myself to him. There followed a five minute encomium to Eliza – the sharpest of his students, for whom he has plans: that she will do A level French. Later in the evening, in the English department, we met Eliza’s English teacher who explained that she had moved Eliza to the front of the class to keep her company. She praised Eliza’s understanding of literature and also pitched for Eliza to, in five years time, opt for her A level.

Disorganised threesome

Gabe

Many school mornings become fraught around 8am when Gabe and Eliza are due to be leaving, but one or other, but usually Gabe is trying frantically to find something.. football socks… homework.. door-key. However, his most enervating practice is to state at 8pm on Monday that he needs ingredients for a food tech practical lesson the next day. His German tutor is due and so L and I are left to decide whether to send him to school without the materials for his GCSE class, or blink and go shopping for him. 

Eliza

Eliza conveys an impression of precision, yet there’s wooliness in there, too. Her violin went missing earlier this term. It had to be at home, she insisted, demanding search parties from the couch. Or it had to be in one of the cars. ‘Are you sure you’ve checked properly at school?’ L asked repeatedly. After two weeks, the instrument reappeared. It had been in a cupboard in th  music department. 

Robin

Robin’s disorganisation finds expression in a constant turnover of school PE kit and loss of letters home from school. He rarely ends a term with the same sports clothes he started with – losing, borrowing and acquiring as the terms goes on. The twenty minute walk home is enough time for important letters from school, with announcements of events and opportunities lost from (usually in the depths of) his school bag. Homework assignments also rarely make it back, meaning text appeals to other parents and a direct request to his teacher to publish the homework on the school website. 

Spider in the corner house

Robin

Robin has developed a particular taste in buildings and houses. New or recently built homes find his favour. He has a specific dislike for exposed brickwork. Of two identical houses next to each other, he’ll praise the one with rendered exterior, but not the one with its bricks left open to the world. He has no fondness for old houses. Our own home almost comes into that category, although he likes the dining room and living room. Asked what he has against old houses and he will explain that they are ‘spider in the corner’ homes.

Eliza

Eliza came second in the French spelling bee competition, representing her form in front of the whole of year seven. She practised assiduously for weeks, moving to races against the clock to see how many words (numbers, days, countries, animals, adjectives about personality) she could pronounce and spell correctly in 6o seconds: “lundi, el oo en day ee” etc. She managed 17 at the contest, losing to a twin with a multinational background, and presumably an advantage in all foreign language activity.

Gabe

Gabe still spends a significant chunk of his time at home playing on his Xbox. He has lobbied furiously to be allowed to play Call of Duty like all his friends – and responded furiously when time and again, L and I have refused. He alleges that our intransigence is making him unpopular.

He is allowed to play Halo, another shooting game, but which has a 16 rating, not 18. It has displaced FIFA as his preferred game. We can usually hear him playing as he’s communicating – laughing and chatting – with his friends on multi-player mode, not sounding unpopular at all.

Big school

Eliza

Eliza has started at secondary school. She has settled quickly, showing no particular anxiety, other than one: getting lost. She walks to school with Gabe, less for safety and company, than just to make sure she knew the way in her early weeks. She was concerned about finding her way around the school with its oddment of buildings and long corridors. Gabe says he has seen her looking lost, studying the map given to new girls and boys. He has even helped her find the classroom she sought. 

On a day L was working late, Eliza gladly accepted the task of meeting Robin out of school. “Ok” we said, “describe your route from your new school to your old school.”

“Well, to start with, I’d turn right.”

“No! It’s the other way!”

Gabe

Gabe has started his GCSE courses and with that has come a novelty: homework. This staple of schools is referred to at the grammar school as ‘extension studies’, as it doesn’t have to be done at home. And Gabe has always taken advantage of this, finishing extension studies in class or in breaks so his home time remains free of schoolwork. But something has changed this year and now we see him regularly at the computer with his books out. 

Robin

Robin has chosen to move from packed lunch to school dinners. From the security of ham sandwich nearly every school day for three or four years, he has put himself at the mercy of the lunch menu. So far, two days into this trial, he has eaten a baked potato with cheese and chicken in a sauce. They sound like modest choices but actually represent dramatic broadening of his dietary palette.