Today my daughter A. told me that she had made up her mind about what to study after middle school. She has been struggling with this over a year now. First of all she never liked school, so studying didn’t sound like a nice word to her. I told her that she has to make the decision herself, she can ask different people about their experiences, but in the end it’s up to her.
The first 1,5 year of middle school she was the victim, amongst others, of bullism. The teachers didn’t have a protocol for bullism and they didn’t really care. So we took A. from our village school and placed her on a bigger school in a town nearby. In this town they know how to deal with foreign citizens and as a Dutch girl she isn’t a curiosity even if she’s the only one. She started this new school half way the school year and stilly 4 months to go till the summer break. She was still stressed out and didn’t perform well. She hated school, and even after seeing that her new class was calm and the kids really wanted to get to know her, she wasn’t able to cope. Her new teachers let her pass to the next year, the final year, only if she promised to get her act together after the 3 month break.
We had a lot of conversations with A. this summer. First she refused to do her summer homework. I let her be, but my partner P. got nervous. How can I force a child into doing her homework other than explaining the consequences to her. We talked a lot about keeping up appearances and restoring her image, although we learned her also that identity isn’t something one should hold on to. Her teachers only see the kids as images and all that counts for them is image, a good or a bad student. First I made a schedule with A. so she could oversee how much home work she still had to do. Normally one can do the summer homework in 1 to 2 hours a day, but when one starts half way the holiday period it doubles up. For a few weeks she was doing fine and than she abandoned her homework again. Than P. said:”maybe she is more like me when it comes to studying so I will make a schedule with A.”. Also after a few weeks she abandoned her homework again. P. was desperate and couldn’t understand that A. didn’t ‘see that the teachers had given her 1 chance to prepare herself for her final year. I told A. that I wasn’t going to help her to remember what amount of homework she still had to do. “Do as you please”: I said. “Of course you have to talk to your teachers when this turns ugly. You are 13 now and capable of taking your own responsibility. There are many children out there who have no acces to education so your a fool if you don’t grab this basic education with both hands.”
After changing schools I had told A. about my experience with staying down at school. I told her that it was my experience and not hers, but it’s one I do not wish upon another. Although I had said to her that she must not make this example personal, she did. The fear had completely taken over her without realising it. She was paralyzed and incapable of doing the homework or other school related things. Within the conversation where I told her:” I take my hands of of you”, she realised that she had this huge fear of failing her exam. I became mad at myself for sharing my experience with her to warn her, I also saw that regret didn’t resolve this issue. I do not recall if I did forgiveness on that one. I forgive myself that I’ve accepted and allowed myself to regret telling A. about me staying down in my exam year. Knowing that I used the example to make her understand the seriousness of this issue I also knew that I could add fear instead of only warning her.
A. didn’t finish her homework in time so the first day of school was heavy. When she came home, she was different than the years before. She found out that her history/geography teacher had gone away and that her Italian language teacher took her place. The new teacher said that they were given a ridiculous amount of homework and she wasn’t planning to teach teenagers that way. Exactly those 2 subjects A. hadn’t finished. Lucky girl. In a way the new approach and her intention to do things differently changed her world. For the last 3 months she is stable and doing well at school. She also found out that she doesn’t have to study too hard to get nice grades. She has grown up and understands that she’s part of the system.
In the summer A. decided to choose a practical study since she hated going to school. We looked around and I suggested the school for fashion/dressmakers, because she likes to sit and work in my studio. It’s practical and the demand for dressmakers will be there for a while. I gave her the choice to
- study something she liked, without looking at the impact that profession has on society, or
- study a practical hand craft like profession that’s best for all, or
- study at a university degree and make a difference in society and stand for world equality.
A. made her choice, she goes for option 3 and is going to make a difference. So the next 5 years she will be preparing herself for university. She is still not sure what to study next, she is thinking about economics or medicines. We’ll see.