Friday, 4 November 2016

The pointless misery of the school English class

Okay Shark! You've had nearly two months of this! You can see now why I home educated. To make DAMN SURE that in the morning you could wake up with Rowling and Pullman, in the afternoon carouse with Chesterton and Dickens, and in the evening, go out with Shakespeare. And THINK NOTHING OF IT.

Because to my way of thinking, this is what your reading should be about - the freedom to wander about life, history, cultures, and everything in between. No book on the shelf is banned and I never set reading lists. They are pointless chronicles of misery and guilt. Read what you damn well like.

So the school is unpicking my intention, obviously. That is a purpose of these institutions: to separate children from family cultures. You can say that's a good thing, or a bad thing, or an it-depends-thing. Have your own debate.

But they are using the following means.

1. Telling you you must do English. It is non-negotiable.
When asked why? because Shark has been allocated, at 6th form, a resit class, when she's not a resit student and already has a pass at IGCSE in English Literature, so she already meets the requirements for prior attainment, she is told it is for 'a lot of complicated reasons'. Which basically means, we're fobbing you off with guff so you submit to us. Guess what, Mrs and Mrs School? Shark now says she hates English. THANKS FOR THAT.

2. But the English teacher doesn't turn up.
Because there isn't one! Well, a new appointee did arrive for one week. Then decided the job wasn't for them. Maybe they had a breakdown. Maybe they fled the country. Who knows? We all know how unstable are English teachers, coming over a bit Blake and Quincey.

3. The cover teacher turns up.
And they can't give a fuck. They teach History. But from the skool's pov ... English - History, History - English. It's all the same, innit? Words, words, words. Anyone can do that! Dear Mrs and Mrs School, you are sending out a message that English? It's just that thing you MUST DO. Nothing special.

4. The cover teacher changes every day until a temporary teacher is hired bloody asap.
Oh! We're 6 weeks into the term and no-one learned Shark's name because there's no point.

5. Shark has been picking up work from the office.
What is the point of this? she asks. No-one collects it, no-one marks it. It is just stuff you must do.

6. Aha! Someone talks to her!
Admittedly, I have to email the school to find out 'what syllabus she must be put on for complicated reasons', and at the end of it, she finds out it's Of Mice and Men. This is a book we've read in our Home Ed Reading Group! But Shark does not want this dragged out for 6 months while we all slowly die of pain. Her critical opinion of this text is that 'it is depressing, especially the second time round', which I agree is fair enough. I have told her to answer a question on another book when she gets to the exam. Meanwhile, dig your fingernails into the palms of your hands. That worked for me, with Ezra Pound.

7. Why does school assume all students can't be bothered?
Now this really PISSES ME OFF, Mr and Mrs School. In my experience, what you assume is true tends, in time, to become true. Standing on my soap box - which already levitates, powered by moral righteousness - I have assumed all my children are brilliant readers capable of reading everything from Dostoyevsky to Joyce to Dos Passos to Anglo-Saxon riddlings, to I Love Dolphins. Hey! GUESS WHAT? Admittedly, some authors are yet on the shelf, waiting to be found, but IT WILL COME TRUE. Such is the power of that assumption. It's only a matter of time. So why, why, why, do Mr and Mrs School assume the people - the same people they are charged with inspiring and inflaming with reading passion - cannot be bothered, so must be lectured and nannied and hectored. Really, now they got the very people they made.

So soon after this short blast of school, I can feel Shark's reading pleasure recast as a drag and a chore and a problem.

Mr and Mrs School, you are damaging and downright dangerous. If I ever had times of doubt about the venture of home education, then two months with you has made me dispel all my doubts. We did the right thing. And I hope that when Shark is done with your miserable experience, that she bounces back to normal, and wants to wake up with Austen, all over again.


Huw Sayer said...

So sad to hear what Shark is going through. Our gorgeous geek went through that for a short while in her early years - before we embraced HomeEd.

Hated watching how quickly (just half a term) school could almost kill the love of learning and reading. But loved watching how home education revived that passion for knowledge and books within a matter of weeks. Both English IGCSEs now done (A*) - two years early.

Hope Shark find what she wants (oceanography is an amazing topic) and doesn't let school smother her dreams.

Grit said...

thank you! she wants the practical coursework elements of her sciences signed off, which is something that i cannot see how we can do; the school is not up for any flexi-approaches. we keep reassuring ourselves that it is only 18 months, and counting down...!