Friday, 19 February 2010

Who needs to go back to school

Well, I came from a different world when I took my degree and my teacher-training over to Foxwood in order to bestow largesses and benefits on the population of Seacroft. It didn't take long to see that they had as much to teach me, as I them. This is a lesson that Oxford-educated Mr Ed Balls might learn too.

You can't possibly know or decide what is best for people without knowing them, getting on down to the whiteboard-face. Here follows two true stories with all the names and the dates and the jobs changed.

It started in Year Ten. Marianne would walk into the Music lesson, then burst into tears, run into a practice room and sob. I offered sympathy, I threatened her with the head of year. And all the things you do. And then, after a few weeks or was it months, it was her cousin who eventually told us about the sexual abuse. Social services, police, safe places, solicitors, courtrooms, not what you expect as you prepare the worksheet on musical cadences. Marianne should have got straight As for GCSE, but, understandably didn't. But she left school thanking us for our support, eventually went back to college, got the grades, then trained to be a social worker.

This happened in Year Eleven: Jeanette's dad looked out of his front room one morning and watched his second youngest son die under the wheels of a taxi. Jeanette was in my tutor group. I had bereavement counselling training. I went to visit her. Back in the Music lessons, I encouraged Jeanette to write poems and songs to her dead brother, and I am sure they helped a bit; when we it came to entering them as GCSE compositions, she said, it's not right. So we didn't. Anyway the songs were more about getting through than getting A-C [I tried but I didn't push it], and, sadly, she too underachieved wildly.

I bump into Jeanette occasionally with her three children. I'd like to say that she was catching up at night-classes, but They closed the school the year after she left, and there was noone there anymore in the middle of the Seacroft estate that she knew and trusted and could turn to, when she was ready. For our unrecognised, un-counted but undoubted life-long after-school care.

Life-long learning should be what it says on the tin, and A-Cs, yes, of course, but when you're ready, emotionally and lingistically.

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