I was never that eager to be top of the class when I was at school. I remember once my geography teacher gave back my GCSE coursework and said it was a C, but if I did a few things to it I could get a B. I hated geography by that point and wished I’d never picked it. I’d done what I needed to pass and that was enough. So I didn’t make any more effort. And that pretty much sums up my attitude to education. I had a few teachers I really loved and I did my best to impress them, but I never went out of my way to get top marks.
On the other hand, I will admit I am pretty competitive. Not at sport, that was never my thing, but I do enjoy getting tactical in games and winning, especially when I know I can.
So when my daughter’s teacher announced she was introducing Star of the Week for home schooling – to be announced during the class call – my ears pricked up. I mean, I want my child to learn to read and write for her own benefit, of course. But here was a real incentive.
And then the first Star of the Week was announced – and Little Leo’s Mummy got a special mention! She was joint Star of the Week too for all the hard work she’d been putting in, helping him with his home learning. They had apparently done every single task the teacher sent. Ha! I could have helped my daughter to make a rocket out of an old bog roll, or tied some wishes to a tree if she’d really wanted to. But when we’ve got to the finishing line of all the maths and phonics and reading and handwriting tasks, she wants to play Lego and I need a drink! Crafting isn’t going to help her forge a career as a billionaire coder, is it?!
And Little Leo’s all-star Mummy got credit for reading all the teacher’s feedback to him every day, to help inspire him do even better. I didn’t realise we had to be such suck ups and tell her we do that. Of course I read the feedback to my daughter. First I read it in my very best Blue Peter enthusiastic voice to try and encourage my bright young thing to try harder with her sentence composition and do her very best cursive writing tomorrow. I even take the time to point out every single sparkling emoji. Then I read it in desperation the next morning as I try to persuade my little darling to sit down and attempt the latest set of challenges. Finally, I read her feedback threateningly as our school day drags on ever longer and I still have nothing to take a photograph of to hand in to the teacher.
Alas the apple of my eye seems to have inherited this ‘do what you can to get by’ attitude from somewhere. She races through the day’s lessons from snack time to break time, doing just what is required of her in the most slap dash way possible. Where does she get this from?!
My eye is on that prize. And we’ve got serious competition. That little goody two shoes kid who automatically answers the teacher’s ‘How are you?’ With an, “I’m good thank you, how are you?” every single day. How long do his parents spend rehearsing that before class call I wonder?! And there are a few children who are always clammering to show off their amazing handwriting to the rest of us. But I can’t help having a sneaking suspicion their parents or older siblings have actually had a hand in it…
Meanwhile, my child keeps wriggling around on her chair, giving one word answers and making faces at herself in the camera.
I want to be declared Star of the Week! I want to get a special cheer from all the class in front of everybody else. All that time I’m putting in to focusing on letter formation and phonic blends. The hours I spend rummaging around for bits of pasta and buttons to practice number bonds. The enthusiasm I have to fake, and the deep breaths I have to take, to patiently encourage her to give making her very own diorama of the solar system a go. I deserve a class clap and a rainbow emoji goddamnit!
And I hate myself for wanting it so badly. What happened to the rebel I used to be? When did I become a model example? Perhaps if I rediscovered my laissez faire attitude to life, my daughter would be inspired to rebel against me…..?! Could minimal effort on my part produce a star pupil? Now that would be absolutely fabulous.