And so as we happily come to a slow halt into half term, it’s time to write something about how my eldest daughter has found the first 7 weeks of secondary school (not to mention her worry prone mother ;-).
I’ve not written a thing about this massive coming of age yet, partly because Hop-Along Husband’s situation has taken precedence on this blog space, but also as I wanted to give it a little bit of time to comment. My sister-in-law’s timely advice at the start of term that “Year 7 can be a huge roller coaster ride so don’t get too caught up in every up and down”, has been probably the best advice I’ve been given. Thank you, G!
So how has she done? I can sum it up in 5 words: Taken it in her stride.
How fantastic is that?
You see, before she started secondary school, I was one of those mums who quietly (and not so quietly to my husband) worried about how on earth my innocent, unworldly-wise daughter was going to fare in a school that was a far cry from her cosy single entry, middle-class primary school. Thankfully, my husband’s broken leg gave me something else to occupy my mind in the summer holidays, and so we hit September less anxious than I’d anticipated (there’s that silver lining again). I can’t say the same for my daughter; she since told me that she’d been so nervous on 3rd September, but as soon as she started to her relief the whole thing seemed far less daunting than expected.
From making new friends, to getting her homework done, packing her bag each day, negotiating the dinner queue, to sharing a classroom with girls “with attitude”, she’s taken it in her stride. More to the point, she’s quietly really enjoying herself. The PGL 3 day trip to Wiltshire was “fantastic” despite scary physical challenges like the high ropes and annoying challenges of sharing a room with a girl who ignored all pleas to “turn off the light!!”…. OK, she’s not had to do the journey to school in her own steam yet (I drive her with another girl as its on the way to my son’s primary school) but she’s starting to sometimes walk home with girls from the local area. She’s even had 5 awards for good work/homework.
Ah, there’s that word: homework. This has probably been the thing that she, and the rest of us, have found the hardest about Year 7. Despite them officially being given 25 mins of homework for each subject, each week, the volume seems far greater than this. Being a naturally diligent girl, she wants to do everything ‘just right’. This will be her first big lesson in secondary school life, I think: how to decide what to do well, and what to ‘make do’. We’re helping her with that as much as we can, but I’m hoping she’ll learn soon enough.
What I struggle with is how so many of the tasks clearly need way more than 25 mins to complete, causing my daughter to spend most of her free time bent over her ipad scouring the internet to complete the latest homework task (all pupils are given mini ipads for a small deposit from the parents). “They don’t seem to realise that we have other interests in life!” she said frustratedly last weekend. I’m told that its worse in other schools (gee!) but that it gets better in Year 8. OFSTED are to blame, apparently. Enough said.
The other thing that has taken me by surprise has been the lack of text books and reliance on the internet for their research into any and every subject. Text books are sometimes used in the classroom, but never brought home for homework. Call me a dinosaur, but surely text books are helpful in that they show a pupil the various kinds of information available on a subject, ways of presenting and structuring it. You know, those things called ‘chapters’?. People might say “But knowledge changes and it’s expensive to keep updating text books” Yes, to a certain degree, but surely our knowledge of crime and punishment in Roman and Anglo-Saxon times hasn’t changed dramatically in the last 5-10 years (thinking of the average life of a school text book)?
Of course, kids need to know how to use the internet, and this is an essential part of learning these days, but that takes time and skill, and so surely there should be a balance of reference books and internet? Having it all laid out in one place makes it far easier to actually learn. It’d make homework far quicker, apart from anything else.
I’m sure we’re far from the only school like this. Anyone else have this at their school? I’d love to know – it’s all new to me!
Having said all that, the school have been fantastic at being responsive if we have questions and concerns – being able to email teachers when stuck on these kind of issues is just so helpful. I’ve been careful not to bombard them as I don’t want to be a neurotic Yr 7 mum but when I have emailed them each time they’ve been very responsive. I’ve had an excellent exchange with one teacher (who turned out to be Head of Dept) about this issue of internet research who is fully aware of the need to gradually introduce pupils to internet-based homework.
Overall, the staff seem to have been warm, approachable and accessible which makes a huge difference to a Yr 7 settling in. We’re very appreciative of that.
Finally, the art teacher is as wonderful as we’d thought – she was one of the things that ‘sold’ the school to my daughter. She’s already improved her ability to draw eyes – take a look at this baby Orangutan that she sketched in bed last Sat morning (copied it from a photo). Amazing eh?!
And so its been a fantastic first half term. We’re immensely proud of her. She deserves a very well earned rest.