What Grade Did You Get?

The second most show-off-worthy time for parents is upon us. After graduation and prom pictures, the CSEC results are the most popular Facebook postings out there. Proud parents (and god-parents) declare how many 1’s or 2’s their child received, and then wait for the congratulations to pour in. The parents are posting for their friends to see how great their children did – but clearly others see them too.

Apparently the ones who didn’t do so well in the school-leaving exams might have been haunted by these posts and the eventual comparisons they elicit because some – disappointed with their results – fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital.

Back in my day, there was the unspoken understanding that all subjects were to be passed, and there were some who did better than others, but I don’t know if the expectations of today’s parents (or the children themselves) are so high that low marks call for bed rest and a few bags of “drip”.

There’s been much talk about the enormous pressure that students are put under which now begins around Grade 5 when the students are told about the impending Common Entrance Exams (or whatever they’ll be called next year). Getting into the Top 100 is of utmost importance seeing as how it gives students a chance to get into one of the “better” government schools.

The comparison of grades when the results come out is expected. In my day (before results were posted online), we’d call around to find out how we stacked up against our peers. Unfortunately, these days everything is put on show. The newspaper article that highlighted the incidences of “bad feeling” experienced by the youngsters, quoted a counsellor as saying that professional help should be sought for the children who were disappointed in their results – as there may be other factors at play.

Whatever will they be told, I wonder?

Some kids aren’t great at taking tests, which is a shame when they actually know the material. And some kids don’t respond well to threats, otherwise known as motivational speeches. And some kids just need an extra week – to study.

 

 

Should Peter pay for Paul?

It’s graduation season. A cursory look at various social media accounts will show tons of pictures of young people in graduation gowns and prom dresses, in commencement photos and make-up sessions. Signifying the end of one stage and the beginning of another, the commencement exercise here is a rite of passage that starts (incredulously) upon leaving kindergarten.

Last week, a local school made news when the principal made good on his promise not to have a graduation ceremony if the students persisted in behaviour that they had been warned about. After the dust had settled – and to hear some people tell it – it appeared that the behaviour of the students warranted the unprecedented action. But I’m gathering that it wasn’t the entire class – so what about the rest of them? Like others, I could talk about the guilty ones and how it serves them right and question where their parents were in all of this, but what about the rest of them?

I’m trying to rack my brain for a similar example from when I was much younger, and I’m not coming up with anything. I’m thinking that there must have been some story that I can relate from back in the day that parallels this one. You know – where the innocent had to suffer for the guilty, but it taught us a valuable lesson, nonetheless? But I’m drawing a blank.

I could, however, relate some recent examples involving my own children.

My daughter is a Brownie and a few months ago, the Girl Guides celebration of World Thinking Day was marked by several activities – one of which was a hike of several miles. I decided to go along, and donning my walking shoes (because I hate sneakers), we traversed some areas where I hadn’t actually been before. Along the way, the girls attempted to get to know about their counterparts in other companies – but it was really to see who could make it back before the others.

The hike was to culminate with a bonfire around which the girls would sing campfire songs while roasting marshmallows. My daughter was out of her skin when she heard that part. I had to buy a whole pack of those sugar bombs which she shared with a classmate who had a stick, but no marshmallow. Returning to camp after the walk, we lined up for food (some of which ran out), while some leaders started the bonfire.

Each company had to make a presentation in song and there were twelve or so groups. Darkness was descending quickly. The girls were getting restless, and admittedly, a little loud. A bull-horn was used to quiet them down, but it didn’t work very well. By the time the sixth or seventh company had made their presentation, you couldn’t see the face of the person across from you. I was ready to go, but with the bonfire well underway now, there was no way I could even think of leaving.

Another round of presentations. Who knew which company this was? The bonfire roared and the girls inched ever closer. The bull-horn told them to step back – and to be quiet. It was officially night now and the flames from the bonfire were the only source of illumination. Company leaders began to call out for their members because they certainly couldn’t see them. Some left on the waiting buses before it was all over, because they really had to get back. There was a constant hum of anticipation. Finally, the last company made its presentation. The girls had their marshmallow-topped sticks at the ready. After one last entreaty from the bull-horn, the flames of the bonfire were doused. The campfire was over. The marshmallows remained untoasted – because, as we adults like to say, “who don’t hear will feel”.

It was dark, but you could see (and hear) the disappointment. I guess that was the level of quiet the bull-horn had been looking for.

And so, World Thinking Day ended on a sour note because the actions of a few (who I don’t think could have even been pinpointed), warranted punishment for all.

When we got home, I fired up the stove and we had our roasted marshmallows. I’m not a fan of those spongy balls of sugar – but we made the best of the situation and had our “bonfire” after all. Maybe those parents should do the same.

Making a List and Checking it Twice

Image credit: i.telegraph.co.uk
Image credit: i.telegraph.co.uk

How many of us think that our childhood – even with its deprivations – was the best ever?

Most of us will tell our children that with only one television channel that didn’t come on until late afternoon and that went off at twelve o’clock that night, we found activities to occupy our time. We’ll reminisce about the fact that playing outdoors was a thing, and creativity abounded when we had to approximate the items our parents couldn’t afford – or that they just weren’t going to buy for us.

I recently came across the title of a book entitled “Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World” by Kristen Welch and I wish I’d written it. If I had, I probably would have called it “Their Eyes Are Too Long” – which is what we say when we have enough but still want more. Most parents fall into the trap of wanting to give their children more than they themselves had, which in itself is not a bad thing but maybe we need to include some caveats before we hand the items over.

While waiting for my turn to discuss my daughter’s end of term results with the teacher, I overheard one parent remarking that her son didn’t have any cows to feed or milk before he got to school. It’s possible that the results on the report card didn’t reflect the easy life the young man was living, so I had a feeling that he might be in for a few house-related chores – if he’s lucky.

As my children grow older and can better understand, I’m tying this to that and rewarding effort when it’s made. By the same token, I won’t be shielding them from reality and sacrificing in an attempt to make things seem normal at a time when things clearly aren’t. Going without – unless it’s food – never killed anybody, is something I’m sure my mother must have told me.

The greatest season of entitlement is upon us and with children knowing who the real Santa Claus is, they’re going to have certain “expectations”. Some might even provide lists just in case they think we aren’t listening. What are you going to do when you get yours?

 

 

Back to school

The new school year is well underway which means that I’m back to doing homework. As my children get older and move up into higher classes, it means that my course load increases. I’m all for being an involved parent, but sometimes it feels as if I’m back in school again.

Image credit: mediamasteryshow.com
Image credit: mediamasteryshow.com

Maybe your parents were different, but I don’t ever remember my mother having to pay quite this much attention to me when I was in school. Now, we have to ascertain whether our children did all their homework, make sure that they finish their projects on time, remind them to study, help them to study, print off past papers, make up test papers, look over their work, ask them where they’re going with that answer – and a myriad of other things.

I don’t know if it’s because we didn’t have the ton of distractions that our kids now have, but going to school used to mean that you paid attention when you were there so that when you came home you could actually do your homework by yourself. If you were lucky enough to have an older sibling, you could ask for assistance if something didn’t stick or (as I once did) call a classmate’s sister when the several thousand explanations my own sister gave me didn’t seem to help.

Of course, part of the reason for the increased attention is because children today are getting more homework than we ever came home with. Having been out of school for quite a while before I went back after having children I don’t know when the change happened. You know, that change which seems to require that our children make up for lost time because the race to the finish has already begun?

There are times when I wonder if my memory is beginning to fail me. How is it that I don’t remember my son dealing with a particular topic that his sister is coming home with even though he went through that very same class? At the very same school? I make sure to keep the text books my son uses in order to pass them on to his sister, but it seems that a word here and there isn’t the only change they’re making in the newer editions.

Most schools require that you sign your children’s homework as a way of ensuring that you actually see how your child is doing. And if you’re loath to sign off on something without bothering to read it, (especially if you think it might be seen as a personal reflection), well that means that you’re going to have to take more than a cursory glance at it which means that – you’re all up in the homework.

So when I came across an article about a parent’s role in homework which gave some tips on how to “stay involved, without taking over”, I was looking forward to the information – until it said something about parents keeping their opinions to a minimum and respecting the child’s decision if she chooses not to share. Now given the griping I’ve been doing, you’d probably wonder why my mouth was hanging open. Not share? Not after I “directly” asked her a question?

To be fair, the writer did talk about teaching the child responsibility and that certain consequences will ensue from certain actions, but she lost me when she warned that parents should not force the issue when trying to create healthy study habits because that might jeopardize the relationship we have with our children. Which relationship? The one where the child recognizes the person in authority and acts accordingly?

I’ve heard that children learn differently, but I didn’t realize they did homework differently too. I’ll spare you what the writer says we should give consideration to, but the long and short is that some kids dig right in after coming home and then there are the ones who don’t get to it right away. I might have been one of the latter, but it wasn’t because my mother allowed me to engage in some “physical activity” to allow my “brain to relax”. And she wouldn’t have allowed me some computer or TV time in order to go “inside” myself to “re-energize and re-focus” either.

That’s called wasting time, see – and I don’t know about you, but I have homework to do.

My First Project

As if parents don’t have enough to do.

Image credit: worrywisekids.org
Image credit: worrywisekids.org

Now, I’m quite willing to do my part to ensure that my children get a good education. One parent I know always says to her children’s teachers – “Help me to help you”, so that the teacher knows that they’re both in it together.

But I understand how some parents feel when the teachers set the assignments for the children and the parents end up doing the work. Sure, they tell us to supervise while the child puts the project together but which of us is really willing to take that chance.

Besides, the teachers have been in this thing for years – they know when the ratio of parent to child input is 10:1. We’re not fooling them.

So I think that if they really want the child to do the actual work then they need to let the kid do it right there in the classroom. That way there’s no undue influence and I don’t have to compete with Brandon’s father who does graphic designing on the side.

I’ve heard the complaints from other parents whose children are older than mine, but I could sympathize only a little, because my son hadn’t yet been sent home with what could be considered unreasonable expectations – on the teacher’s part.

The last major assignment he had was a group project, and among themselves they pretty much figured out what materials they wanted to use and where they were going to use them.

Of course we had to explain the law of physics in some instances and make a few suggestions, but they shouldered most of it until they ran out of steam when the finished product was taking a little long to appear.

By that time, we wanted to see (the back of) it too, so we didn’t mind helping them to bring the project ashore.

My daughter’s first major project on the other hand, required her to make a model of an animal using recycled materials. Happily, she was easily convinced to choose something less “complicated”, because I’m not that good at drawing – particularly legs. So after I she chose an animal that doesn’t have any of those, we got down to the business of cutting up the pieces that would cover its body.

She had been reminding me about this project every day for a week so now we had two days before it had to be turned in – but since I’m not one to leave things until the last minute, the application was the only thing I could afford to put off ‘til tomorrow. All those little pieces were going to be cut up tonight! We both began together, but she quickly lost interest in the repetitive action. She claimed fatigue, and so I soldiered on.

The next night was application time. She stuck around for longer this time and we finished it up just before she went to bed. Her father added the piece de resistance and I was pretty pleased with the final product. You can bet I was dying to know what the other parents kids had done.

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The item remained at school for about two weeks before it was relinquished. It was a little banged up when it came back, but when I lifted up the fin I was ecstatic.

I got an A+.

 

Unexpected Consequences

The children are ready to move out. Considering that they’re not even teenagers yet and don’t have any jobs, I’m not really sure how they plan to make it out there on their own. I don’t think they’ve thought it through either, but they’re not really picky about where they go – as long as that place has electricity and wifi.

The storm started on Sunday evening and continued into Monday morning. The forecasters said that it was a tropical storm and so we should expect to experience tropical storm winds up to about 40 or 45 miles per hour. Since we’d been through a category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of 120 mph, I was sure that we’d be going to work as usual the next day.

But let me back up a bit. A visit from my sister-in-law on Sunday told us that we had better stop spending our Sundays listening to music exclusively and find out what’s actually taking place in the world – since she asked us what we were doing about the storm and we asked her “Which one?”

That’s when we decided that we had better start monitoring its progress on the news feeds, but like I said, all indications were that it would become a hurricane after it passed us so we thought it best to start praying for the people who were up ahead.

We notice that the wind is picking up a bit, but we’re not worried – that’s to be expected when there’s a system in the area. And since the reservoirs are still pretty low, we were hoping to get a little rain out of it too.

We retire relatively early and the wind chimes tell me that it’s getting windier. There isn’t much rain yet, but I’m mentally and physically preparing for work the next day because I’m thinking I’ve seen as good as it’s going to get. Hours later, I’m awakened by the chimes working overtime and in what feels like gale force winds, I go onto the gallery to take the noise makers down.

Image credit: disastersafety.org
Image credit: disastersafety.org

While I’m at it, I check the back verandah, take down some high-sitting plants and move other things around and wonder if the forecasters withheld some information – because this was not at all what I was expecting. I go back inside and hope to get some sleep now that that the clanging is gone.

The hoped-for rain doesn’t really come – or at least it comes in short bursts that can’t really do anything for my cistern, but the wind is the loudest thing out there. By this time, my body clock is telling me it’s nearly time to get up, so I do and start the day like any other.

After which the power goes out. This occurrence coupled with a peek outside tells me that it’s really not a day like any other, and I realize that the people who wanted to stay home will probably be getting their wish come true, today.

The rain is attempting to fall, but before it can hit the ground it is swept away by the wind. It doesn’t seem to realize that our water catchments are close to bone dry. It continues pounding for the next four hours and is followed by the inevitable lull, after which we’re told (and we know from personal experience), that the wind will start up again from the opposite direction.

I rush to remove all possible missiles, breakables and don’t-want-to-have-to-buy-you-back-ables from this area, and wait for the wind to start up again. It does, but not with nearly the same intensity and before I know it, it’s all over and the day is still young.

So a drive is in order. To see how our property fared in comparison to others. Broken tree limbs, downed billboards (thank God), some uprooted trees. And as has become customary now, there’s talk about tornadoes touching down in certain areas, because what else can possibly explain why some houses lost roofs in this tropical storm.

Electricity has been restored to some areas, but unfortunately, the good people at the power company haven’t yet gotten to my house. It’s Day 3 WE (without electricity), and the kids are ready to bunk with anybody who can fulfill their needs. Because right now they don’t care about food, they don’t care about shelter, they don’t care about love – they just want some “light” on the subject.

Accented Speech

Plane

When I was younger and still attending school, some of my classmates would travel to the good old USA for the summer holidays. Some would visit England too, but by far, the most-coveted vacation spot would be America.

 

The funniest part about these kids travelling to that foreign country was hearing what they sounded like when they came back home.

 

Now some of these kids would stay for two weeks, some for maybe a month – but when they came back home you’d swear they’d been living there all their lives. The American accent was all up and through their speech, and those of us who weren’t so easily influenced would laugh at the poor impressionable souls.

 

The tendency to adopt this new way of speaking was so pervasive that there used to be a running joke about the guy whose accent changed the minute his feet hit the tarmac as he walked towards the plane that would be taking him to “foreign”.

 

Image credit: flickrhivemind.net
Image credit: flickrhivemind.net

But the laugh is on me, because these many years later I am learning that there is a condition called “foreign accent syndrome” which is normally associated with small amounts of brain damage.

 

The professor who was discussing the syndrome said that when we meet someone we don’t know we try to determine where they are from and one of the ways to do that is by listening to the person’s accent, so I guess my classmates wanted to be Americans even though they knew good and well that their parents didn’t file any papers.

 

Looking back, I understand the desire of children wanting to be like everybody else, and copying the speech pattern was a way to fit in. What I didn’t understand was why they would continue to hold on to it weeks after they came back and returned to the same school and the same friends they left at the end of the term.

 

My kids are different. They like the greater number of choices and the bounty that characterizes most things in North America, but duplicating the accent is not something they’ve ever had the slightest inclination to do.

 

But on this island now, there are a multitude of accents – a result of the large number of people from different places who are living here now. So just to be on the safe side, I’ll make sure to guard against any head injuries because I don’t want to have to ask my own kids, “So, where are you from?”