Settle down, children...

>> Wednesday, 29 September 2010

So the Boys and I are shortly to attend what their school optimistically calls 'settling in conferences'. For any British readers out there, or for anyone else who has not come across this term before, it refers to a 20 minute session where parent(s), child and teacher sit down and discuss progress during the 4 week-old school year to-date, chat about any issues that might have reared their ugly heads, and agree on goals for the next 9 months or so.


I'm sorry, but - What?

I guess what are really talking about is a parent / teacher evening with the child in attendance. Which seems to me rather besides the point. I mean, what teacher would be able to speak frankly about a child with them sitting next to the parent? In fact, what parent would want them to? I mean, maybe, perhaps, this would be a useful exercise if the Boys were a few years older, but at 4 and 7 I'm not convinced that this is anything other than window-dressing of the 'look how much we care about your child' kind.

However, I'm going with a (partly) open mind, as is Boy #1. I'm sure his settling in conference will be fine. Boy #2, on the other hand, has decided to treat this occasion with his usual devil-may-care attitude. For some reason the reception class (that's PreK, if you live across the pond) were provided with a questionnaire for their parents to fill out for them. This consisted of two key questions: Q1: What am I good at? and Q2: What do I want to learn this year? Each was accompanied by a box for the child to draw a picture that might illustrate their answer.

Well, we tried, we really did. But my younger son - never a sheep - flatly refused to follow instructions on the pictures and instead drew his favourite form of transport in each box, using feather-light pencil strokes that are almost invisible to the naked eye (I wonder if his teacher has CSI-style enhancement techniques available to her for use in such cases?). And when it came to actually answering Q1, he decided the only thing he was good at was 'playing'. I doctored this slightly and added 'making friends' (both things, I'm sure you'll agree, are key to a 4 year-old's success, and which - in my considered opinion - he actually is good at).

Q2, on the other hand... Well, you try getting a testosterone-charged PreKindergartner to tell you what they want to learn at school this year. Short of shining a light in his eyes and contravening the Geneva Convention, there was no way I was going to get any answer other than 'But I don't want to learn anything, mummy! I just want to play!' So I did what all of us creative-types would do in that situation; I changed the question.

Out went; 'What do you want to learn at school this year?', and in came 'What do you want to learn... this year?' Funnily enough, that yielded results. Once mandatory attendance at school was no longer part of the equation, Boy #2 showed his true colours and admitted his real ambition.

And I wrote it down. (Well, why not? They did ask...)

What remains to be seen is how his teacher deals with the answer. Oh, and what I wrote down was: 'This year, I want to learn to drive a motorboat, and ride a quad bike.'

At the very least we'll find out if she has a sense of humour or not, I suppose...

Note: In Boy #2's defence, these ambitions are not as far-fetched as they might seem. We're living the expat life and things that might be an impossibility living in central London seem to happen disconcertingly often out here. For example, 3 weekends ago he was on the water next to the driver of a motorboat (who was, in his considered opinion, not making half as good a job of piloting it as he - Boy #2 - would have done), and 3 older children in our compound do have quad-bikes and frequently offer him rides. (He's only managed to take them up on it the once, when my back was turned - but that's a story for another post).


Pig in the Kitchen 29 September 2010 at 20:25  

God,I hate these new educational inventions! Like you say, it should be Parent, Teacher and a closed door. Good luck anyway, especially with that quad biking.
Pig x

Iota 29 September 2010 at 20:27  

So do they have quad bike sheds at the school?

All this endless self-analysis at school level. Ridiculous. Sit them down, teach them to read, write and do maths, and let them go. That's what I say. You can imagine it's all very "set your own objectives and achieve them and feel good about yourself" where I am.

Potty Mummy 29 September 2010 at 20:33  

Pig, I totally agree. And I think I might make Boy #2 wear a helmet whenever he plays outside from now on... (sorry the post wasn't more shocking, btw!)

Iota, and how do you feel about that. Come on - don't hide your true feelings, let it out...

Muddling Along Mummy 29 September 2010 at 20:42  

My goodness that is a cool ambition!

But I agree, its a bit strange to go through that with a 4 year old

Katetakes5 29 September 2010 at 21:08  

Well I think you should be very proud. Proper 'boy' ambitions! Imagine he'd answered 'play beethovans concerto on the violin' - now that would be bad...

Nora 29 September 2010 at 21:17  

He's right, at this age he should just want to learn to play at school. He's 4 years old, for crying out loud! Playing is a very good skill to learn. Playing with other kids certainly is.

Footballers Knees 29 September 2010 at 21:39  

Have just read your post to Husband, laughing out loud at the part about feather light pencil strokes - can just imagine you trying to focus Boy 2 on the task in hand. Very, very funny.

TheMadHouse 30 September 2010 at 13:42  

Oh I have a parent open meeting today and tomorrow for both the boys. Their parents evenings are next months. This is to discuss what they will be learning over this term!

Expat mum 30 September 2010 at 16:26  

With three kids in a very touchy-feely school, I am there ALL the time. Thank god, most of the time the child doesn't have to sit in, although they do it when they're about 12, which is possibly the worst age for parent-child interaction.
I was hoping to get out of a high school meeting tonight (because I've already done it before) but quite a few of the teachers have e-mailed me saying they are looking forward to chatting. Sigh.
Whatever happened to all the teachers at a table in the library with parents queueing out the door to spend 10 minutes with each subject teacher. That was enough wasn't it?

Anonymous,  30 September 2010 at 18:25  

I remember sitting at home with my heart in my mouth as my parents went to Parent's evening. Sometimes the children had to go along but had to sit in the dining room or coridoor. Surely thats a form of child abuse. It's like saying 'stnad in the sweet shop but don't touch anything'. The hour seemed like a year.

Very impressed with re-phrasing the question. I may have to try that when youngling gets older.
Take care KC xx - always welcoming new followers, guests and comments xx

nappy valley girl 30 September 2010 at 19:34  

Our parent-teacher evenings are called 'Parent Teacher Conferences' - that's how seriously they are taken..

Mind you, so far, the children themselves haven't had to attend. Just as well really - I'm sure Littleboy 1's goal for the year would be to spend as much time playing Nick Jr games on Mummy's laptop as he is allowed.....

Apple Island Wife 2 October 2010 at 12:41  

I think such suggestions are the ideal response to such stultifying bureacracy - which is the common parlance of schools these days. At our school there's a 'late book' - you have to sign in for your child if they're late, and provide the reason for your lateness. Most people just write 'late' which I believe to be inexcusably lame. I myself write things like 'Chaos,' or 'Husband not pulling weight,' or 'Usual feeble excuses,' or 'Time of month.' The box isn't really big enough for the stories I'd like to tell them but I try to be concise.

PantsWithNames 3 October 2010 at 19:50  

My eldest was asked what he was good at at school and he replied that he was very good at talking on the phone. I was so proud - at last, some of my genes coming through! He may yet phone his mother once he's left home.

Liking 4yo ambitions though. The boy thinks big!

Potty Mummy 4 October 2010 at 11:26  

MaM, it is - but then whoever said 4 year olds need to be average?

Kate, you're so right. What am I worried about?

Nora, I live in hope!

FK, well, you do know the key protaganists. And you're right - it WAS funny.

MH, how did it go?

EPM, it was enough - for me, anyway!

KC - just here to help... x

NVG - or anything else guaranteed to embarrass us, right?

AIW - love those excuses, I may have to try some of them myself sometime...

PWN, well I suppose if you can't think big at 4...

kratosellas 9 October 2010 at 12:44

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