Have merSEA!

Well my Son-son is 11, in standard five in primary school and about to write the big Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam this Thursday. According to Trini culture and lore, this is the most important exam of a student’s life, destined to make you or break you depending on which secondary school you are headed when the results come in. Parents cry, teachers lose hair and the children drill mathematical formulae, grammatical exercises and seemingly endless compositions up until the dreaded day that they aim to get their first choice out of four. Cue ominous voice:

may_the_fourth_be_with_you_by_themooken-da1apux

http://themooken.deviantart.com/art/May-the-fourth-be-with-you-606841449

Knowing that he is prone to anxiety, I laid all the pressure on Son-son on standard four and eased off the valve considerably. As the date draws near, I think I am more anxious than he is. However my anxiety stems from the fact that I am completely FED UP! of the preparation for the exam. I’m so thankful that his teacher is so meticulous, another parent told me some time ago that he has a ‘system’ to churn out boys to perform at the SEA exam. But at this point if I see YET ANOTHER quasi difficult poem, I will scream. I think a couple of nights ago was the last straw.  He came and said he read the poem and didn’t understand it. So I took a look. This is a poem called Children’s Song by R.S. Thomas which he had to read and answer about ten questions:

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
 
Ronald Stuart Thomas
Dafuq is subterfuge??? ‘Remoter heaven’??? My poor child!
I mean honestly, I get the gist of the poem, but I think it’s a bit much for an 11 year old to find extra deep metaphorical meaning in a high stakes exam. I understand that the poem is usually the difficult part of the exam but have mercy, this or any poem like it reads like stress! The questions that followed were even worse.
So these last few days I haven’t been harping on him at all partly because I think he’s reached his zenith and partly because again…me…fed up…. He had practice tests for the past two Saturdays and beyond that I gave him a free pass to the TV and the games on his tab. Of course everything was done in moderation so he also had to clean inside my car and do his regular chores as well. I don’t want this SEA pressure to fold him in even before the exam.
Thursday morning I plan to wake him up, act as normally as possible and not make a big deal about it. On our way there, he may get a Bruno Mars karaoke session, lame jokes in the car and I’ll kick him out with a hug and a ‘good luck dude’! If I get the butterflies, they’re going to remain in stasis at the very least until he’s out of my sight. I hope I don’t wig out. This SEA can’t drown us both.
Bless up
TMIDM
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Resilience…

Some time ago I had to deal with a 16 year old student who seemed to be ‘tripping off’. He was walking around with a bandanna tied around his head shouting ‘why me boy?’, crying and ranting to himself. We finally got him sequestered in my office and attempted to get to the bottom of his outburst. To cut a 3hr story short, he couldn’t bear to see the ‘happiness’ of his classmates while he had to deal with a mother who neglected him, a father who ridiculed him, a brother who beat and accused him of stealing and forced him to leave home and a present life of hardship which forces him to choose between earning money to survive and going to school.

For a moment I didn’t know what to say, all I could do was listen because how does one extol the importance of attending school and getting a solid education when there is no support for the child to do so? (Maslow is perpetually on my mind). This is particularly in a rural area where education is secondary to making earnings and helping to support the family. The evidence of this is found by MANY parents of errant children saying to me: “Miss, ah go pull (he/she) outta school yuh know! Is bes’ (he/she) come and work garden with me because ah wasting money sending (he/she) to school’. It’s money over school not school as a means to earn money.

I’m not a psychologist neither a guidance counsellor but as a teacher, in the absence of same, sometimes the situation calls to wear the hat. To my mind, faced with what seemed like an impossible situation I thought to let him know that he need to keep resilient because the reality is that the world is not a magical place with fairy godmothers and rivers flowing with chocolate despite what tv and friends say. I told him that when you’re in a boat in the middle of a storm, you will never tell yourself to jump into the water, you would go to the bottom of the boat and hunker down. So sometimes when life is raining down on you and you can’t see your way, you have to hold on , be your strongest and wait for the storm to pass.

I don’t coddle my gremlinz but i’m not a Tiger Mother either. I think that’s it’s important to teach your children resilience, let them understand that life can be difficult and unfair with the possibility of becoming even more so. My gremlinz’ ‘problems’ and accompanying emotions are usually met with a straight face and the word: And?.  After this is the thrashing out, reasoning, advising and comforting or scolding if necessary. Yes it is totally human to react with despair, but it is even more human to choose to either be swallowed by the sea or to keep climbing on that surfboard.

Bless up

TMIDM

 

Happy World Teacher’s Day!

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I never wanted to be a teacher. As a matter of fact it was a topic of contention between myself and my parents because they considered it a profession that is respectful, stable in the long term in terms of gratuity and pension and of course what else would I do with a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish right? sigh…another topic by itself….

After various rewarding job opportunities in the private sector I ‘landed’ in the teaching profession. I will not say I have regretted it and I often wonder if my parents saw something in me that I did not see in myself. Thus far it has been a roller coaster ride, 100 feet in the air some days, 100 feet at the lowest of the low on other days. I guess this is like any other job. But teaching is really more than a job, it is indeed a vocation because you literally have to envelop yourselves into the lives of students and their wellbeing. It may not be even be all your students, it may be just one and that one may be enough.

On this day, I’m grateful for my school teachers (Mrs. Olton you were the best!), I’m grateful for my work colleagues who are truly a great group and on whom I can sincerely rely and I’m also grateful for my colleagues who I don’t work with but from whom I’ve learnt a lot.

So people, keep us in your prayers as we do our best to ensure that your child and by extension the next generation is moulded in the best way needed to develop the country.

Bless up

TMIDM

Great Expectations

http://elenacordova.deviantart.com/
http://elenacordova.deviantart.com/

It’s one of those sayings that rings true for me as I am one of those homo sapiens who doesn’t deal well with being caught off guard. I overthink, analyze a situation to bits and I hate surprises. More and more I listen and watch the news and ask myself: “Self, how much more of these types of stories can i take?” I barely got over that pore-raising murder of Dana Seetahal, not to mention the “pace” of the investigation. Then there was man forgetting baby in the car,  Volney changing his mind, criminality surrounding Lifesport programme, a murder here, a murder there, corruption and cocaine video, thousand-man/woman march and now another video which (allegedly) shows the Honourable Minister of Sport locked in hotel room 201 with narcotics and chicks.

It is since that last video mentioned that my Son-Son is beginning to think that news is a form of entertainment as most nights there is something to drop the jaw as if we’re watching a summer tentpole movie. I am actually considering limiting his viewing which is incredibly sad yet I understand that at the same time he needs to be aware of what it going on. More and more though I need to keep explaining and in some cases correcting, justifying and reasoning. It’s as though I’m writing General Paper all over again.

I’ve realized that I have had to do the same at work many times when discussing current affairs and politics with students. Interestingly most of them see  politicians as liars and thieves, opinions which I’m sure have been influenced by parents on both sides of the political divide. I try to encourage them and give examples of historical, political figures both at home and abroad,  but it is becoming more and more difficult to marry that into present circumstances. I’ve reached the point where I tell students to ensure that their moral compass is pointing in the right direction and they will know right and wrong once they follow wise counsel and feel it in their gut.

Sadly though I teach in an area where marijuana is heavily cultivated and “yes it is illegal but only when you get caught.” Getting money is priority number one, education is priority number two. It is not a new phenomenon, impacting generation after generation and deeply vested into the culture of the community.  So imagine on one hand you are trying your best to influence students to put dong de weed, don’t do what your parents did, find a future for yourself…..and on the other hand we have Mr. Minister (allegedly) rolling and boasting in a hotel room, filled with girls….the good life….the kinda life my students crave. How do I justify that to them? Especially as he has been endorsed and supported explicitly by the Ministry of Communications and implicitly by the Prime Minister? What does the Minister of Education have to say on how this impacts primary and secondary school children? These children are the ones who are going to take the reins, the ones who people talk about when they complain: ‘We need new blood!’ Should I go ahead and tell them “well yeah, go ahead once you don’t get caught but if you do, make sure and deny, deny, deny and of course, ensure that you blame somebody else” (read: Rowley)

I dunno nah, I don’t want to believe that Trinidad and Tobago is going to hell in a handbasket but it’s hard when the evidence is stacked against me. I feel like I have to fight but it is hard not to feel disenchanted! In the meantime, along with other like-minded citizens who are not easily gaslit, I will continue to do what I must…keep hoping and keeping those expectations where they should be.

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Bless up.

TMIDM