Back to reality week

It’s the first full week of school after Christmas when the time off seems to slip instantly into distant memory…



It’s the first full week back from all the bank holidays for many, including school students. It’s cold [but, worryingly, not very cold, although fuel bill-wise it’s better than the alternative], it’s wet, it’s dark. The week ahead looks long and the weekend looks a distant promise.

It’s a time of resolutions, but I’ve never been much of a resolutions person so I see no reason to start now.  My resolution is therefore to reconfirm my belief in not having to make any resolutions. Take exercise. I’m already getting freezing cold once a week to take only son swimming and one of the boons of Covid has been a rediscovery of the pleasure of just walking. I have to admit that the swimming is actually great fun. Only son and I have been setting ourselves challenges – swimming a length with no leg movements, with no arm movements or with just one leg kicking; who can boost the furthest [you have to boost and then float until you can’t hold your breath any longer]; synchronised swimming routines and the like. It’s worth getting cold for.

Only son now has a regulation uniform colour coat, courtesy of the sales, and can make it through the school week with classroom windows open without turning blue [which would at least be in keeping with school uniform colours]. Daughter three has had a parents evening already. It started at precisely 6.48pm and consisted of five back to back six-minute sessions with very tired-looking teachers. One admitted that he had been stuck in his seat from 5pm to around 7.30pm with only a six-minute break.

It’s a weird thing being at an online parents evenings. You have to click a ‘start’ button at the precise time and then after a few seconds the teacher’s face looms. All the while the clock in the corner is counting down the seconds until the session ends. It is slightly offputting, to say the least. Daughter three was sitting in the background, hidden, in case I strayed into dangerous [for her] areas. There is no room for expanding the session so if you or the teacher are in the middle of a sentence at 3, 2, 1, it just cuts out and you will never know how to help her structure her politics essays better.

If you had anything serious to discuss, I’m not sure it would be possible. I did want to check the teachers knew about what daughter three has been through and that she had settled in ok to sixth from, but six minutes doesn’t really give you enough time. My main concern was that she is as okay as she can be. I’m sure many parents have similar concerns. But you could probably give every parent an hour after the last two years and it would still not be enough and the teachers would end up working 24/7. Having an insight into each individual’s circumstances, however, must surely help to bring out the best in them.

I was surprised all the teachers were there, to be honest. Every day I ask daughter three and only son if any of their teachers or fellow students have Covid. Of course, being young people, they don’t even ask their friends if they’ve had Covid or even what they did for Christmas.

One teacher turned up three minutes into the session so had to speak even faster as a result. Fortunately, it was the lesson daughter three was most dreading I would say the wrong thing in so at least she was happy.

By the end of the week, daughter three and only son were all tested and back to school, only son to double PE, his least favourite lesson, but at least it meant he could warm up. Swings and roundabouts. Daughter two, meanwhile, went through a mini-crisis about what university she is going to study at next year. I told her to ring the university concerned. Like many young people, she doesn’t do telephoning so she emailed instead, although it took her a few days to get round to doing the email. The result was an absolutely heartfelt piece of writing about self esteem and underestimating your abilities which would certainly get my vote, if I wasn’t slightly biased already. Isn’t that in part what education is about – understanding yourself [and, by extension, others]? I took quite a lot of my early 20s to get to that point…

So already we’re back with a bang and, though quiet for a few hours on Tuesday, work has suddenly picked up. It feels like Christmas didn’t happen, but I don’t think I need a restart or a superficial change in direction. For me past and present are all one thing and they must all move forward together or not at all. Nothing and no-one gets left behind.

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