We don’t have a set routine when it comes to dealing with important post and emails. We assume that if we don’t respond to important emails, they will soon become letters that drop with a thud on our doormat. We assume if we miss a letter, it will turn into a phone call. We can always sort things out then. It feels a free and easy approach, until the ringtone of the landline pierces through the denial. Our hearts momentarily drop into our stomach.
Normally things don’t get to critical terror inducing phone call status, for we have a system. That system comes in the form of a bag for life, one of those reusable shopping bags from the local supermarket. The hard copies of the mail get ‘filed’ in the bag. It hangs, unassumingly at first, on the back of one of our kitchen chairs. Once the kitchen chair starts to fall backwards under the weight of our word-processed woes, then we empty it and sort out its contents.
We promise ourselves we won’t ever let the bag for life get so full again that it zaps our life from us.
We repeat the cycle over and over.
This week the system must have failed. This week, we went beyond phone calls and onwards to a knock on the door.
The surly looking gent on our front door mat had, it transpired, been sent from the school that the kids go to.
He politely but firmly advised us that he felt we were totally naive in our approach to child rearing. He said it appeared, for all intents and purposes, that we were hoping the children would get a lot more out than they were prepared to put in to their schooling.
The kids’ interest was ridiculously low when it came to their lessons. This was despite the fact that, given their age, the lessons were hardly taxing. It was very possible that they were going to amount to nothing. Less than nothing.
We were appalled when it transpired that the children had been effectively running an educational deficit for quite some time: playing truant; not completing homework; poor behaviour in lessons. Horrified, I was quite vocal in my view that the school should have told us about this, promptly.
The gentleman advised that the school had tried to contact us via emails and then letters. We had never responded. I looked guiltily towards the bag for life. I did recall seeing some letters post marked from the school. The thought that our kids were not performing as well as they should, though, was too much to take in so I had purposefully kept putting those letters to the bottom of the pile, hoping the problem would go away.
I suggested, sheepishly, that perhaps the letters had gotten lost in the post, that perhaps the emails were in my spam folder. He didn’t buy it.
He started to talk about SATS and baccalaureates and low attendance and performance and attainment and value added. I started to glaze over. It was all jargon to me. He noticed my glazed expression and asked if I was OK. I asked if he could possibly start to speak in language I could understand. He said this was the language of education and there were no other words. I needed to take the time to understand them.
He directed me to a free website that would nicely explain all the jargon for me, and a few organisations who, again for free, could speak me through it. I thanked him politely, but inwardly sighed. Seriously, how boring would that be?
He asked if we had any idea what we might do if the kids did leave school with absolutely nothing to show for it. I advised we had no emergency plan at all, no insurance in the form of work experience, contacts or extra curricula activities. I made it clear that if they did leave school with nothing then they would be screwed, but we had put nothing in place should this happen because we like to live life in a free and easy way and we like to think it will all sort of turn out OK somehow in the end. Because things always do, right?
He rolled his eyes and left.
Once he’d gone, out of a sense of guilt more than anything else, I checked out one of the websites he had mentioned. It suggested checking in on your kids once a day, maybe just for five minutes to see how they were doing. That way you would be more likely to notice if anything was going awry before it was too late to sort it out. I wondered who possibly had the inclination to check in everyday with their kids. The only people I could think of were geeks and saddos.
He also suggested once every six months having a proper check in with everyone out there helping the kids. Contact teachers, look through books, see how the school is doing, go to parents evenings. Again, if anything was going seriously off track it could be addressed then. We could even switch school if we felt that would help. I knotted up. Being put on hold waiting to get through to speak to people, having to go all the way in to the school to attend appointments that would probably be running late, having to research and speak to new schools? I just did not have that sort of time.
I started to feel really aggrieved. How could things have gotten in such a mess? I mean, isn’t that why I sent them to school? That school had been educating kids for years. This sorry state of affairs was entirely their fault.
I found an Ombudsman for aggrieved parents. I sent in my complaint. They responded that the school had delivered every service for the kids that it said it would. They directed me to the literature that the school sent before the kids started there.
When I looked closely at the literature it was clear that the school had been underperforming for years. I kicked myself for not taking the time to research this more when we started with the school. But then again, when I did pop in briefly to chat to the head, he looked so professional, and he smelled nice, and the brochures were so shiny. What could possibly go wrong?
It was at that point that I realised with a lurch that I had a huge role to play in those ‘red’ letters that were coming out of that school and landing on our doorstep.
I promised I’d sort it out. Tomorrow.
Today, I fancy getting a blog post together. All that other stuff can wait, after all, it’s only
Does any of this post, particularly those bits in pink, remind you of your relationship with your day-to-day finances? Could your relationship with money improve if you learned to love it a little more? Let me know!!
Liked this post? Then you may also like the series Simon Evans Goes to Market on BBC Radio 4