Dear Outstanding Institute of Secondary Learning,
Hey! I’ve been meaning to write you for a few weeks now. I hope I can speak freely and honestly here. First of all let me say that I absolutely do not want you to feel under-appreciated. I think you’re great! And I know you cost a lot of money, which I do not resent at all and which I know is going toward awesome teachers, top class facilities – like a student café that serves pesto paninis – a multicultural environment and really fantastic opportunities that are going to inform my child’s learning in more ways than I can even articulate at this point. She loooooves school, seriously, and we really love the fact that it’s so easy to get her out of bed in the morning.
But, to be honest, we’re only a few months into a relationship that I’m hoping will last many years and I think things are moving way too fast. In fact, I think we need to take a little break. I know, please don’t be offended. It was really great being able to take that tour last spring, and chat with students, and attend an assembly where the orchestra played like professionals and the choir sang ‘Ave Maria’ and a young girl received an award for placing in the top five in the entire world in a literacy exam. You were super-impressive. I also liked the snacks.
But then came the request to attend the afternoon ‘laptop induction’ which I found to be not only an obsequious thank you for the big commitment of purchasing an expensive but compulsory laptop for my kid, but also some kind of cheesy justification for spending all this money in the first place. My daughter enjoyed it (and don’t we all love PowerPoint?), but for me it was a bit like being invited over for dinner after I’ve pulled a back muscle helping you move house to find that in fact you’ve just ordered take-out and the wine isn’t great. I’d rather be home watching Game of Thrones and actually spending time with my children.
Then we had to go to ‘curriculum night’ where we got to see our daughter’s tutor but not officially talk to them, and where we were told that things are going great with those laptops (your money’s not going to waste, they’re not just playing House of Anubis and Angry Birds, honestly!). We learned how our children are going to be assessed and found out that eventually we’ll be able to follow their progress online, almost in real time; like tracking a hurricane or Angelina Jolie’s whereabouts. We were given full colour brochures and more snacks, but by the end of the evening I felt that if I heard the phrase ‘learning in context’ one more time I was going to scream.
It’s not you, really. It’s me.
Next on the calendar was the actual ‘meet the tutor night’, in which we sat around enjoying yet more snacks, sidestepping the responsibility of being parent rep and trying hard to think of incisive questions to ask our child’s tutor. But seeing as they had only actually been in school for four weeks we were kind of stumped. My child is very organised and enthusiastic. Her only issue has been the fact that her bus gets her to school very early, which we’ve solved by packing extra yogurt drinks for a sort of second breakfast. I wondered if I should have mentioned this to her tutor as a shining example of our adaptability, resourcefulness and affinity for healthy snacks, but realised I was, perhaps, grasping at straws.
I have plenty of friends who are teachers, and I’ve heard that more often than not, the kids they teach are great. It’s the parents who are the bears to deal with. So I’m wondering – and please don’t take this personally – but are you trying to make us helicopter parents?
We receive weekly bulletins plus additional emails on specific topics or invitations to scintillating interactive talks with titles like ‘Approaches to Learning Global Humanities for Years 7, 8, 9’. We are invited to check the school website daily for an up-to-date briefing. We’re welcome at swim galas, cross country meets and netball games. And we’ve got upcoming teacher conferences, monthly parent forums and seminars, where no doubt we’ll discover even more ways to obsess about our child’s progress and to help them ‘learn in context’. Go ahead; ask me what I know about Computer Based Adaptive Online Testing, I dare ya!
Phew. Look, I love you, my child loves you, but frankly, you’re exhausting and if I can say so, kind of needy here. If we’re going to have any future with this relationship, we’re going to need a little space. You should know that I’m part of a generation born to parents with a high divorce rate. Trust me when I say I’m not going to get offended if I don’t hear from you in a while.
I appreciate you letting me speak freely here. I feel like maybe I’m being insensitive, when in fact I really trust you and I do want this to work out! But I think I should also come clean and admit that I’ve come under the influence of a New York Times op-ed called Super Person about the rise of the over-overachievers and how we’re all sacrificing our children’s souls and our own identities as parents for the sake of Harvard admission. After spending time with this article, I’ve started having visions of destroying my daughter’s laptop, moving us all to the countryside and teaching my children carpentry. That would certainly inform their learning.