However her younger brother Tom, is no where near as motivated and it has got me to thinking, why? Is there anything I have done differently with him than I did with Beth and can I do anything, other than nag, to increase his motivation? So I did some research and overwhelmingly I was put to shame!
When Beth started secondary school, Trent Valley Academy she attended the school where I worked as a teaching assistant and later as a cover supervisor (covering lessons in teachers absence, it saves the school getting supply staff and keeps better consistency for the kids), therefore I was really involved with all her teachers and very occasionally even covered some of her lessons or form times. I knew all her friends and was involved with after school activities and school trips. I could join in with conversations better because I knew who she was talking about and I could help her better with what her teachers expected because I knew them well too. Beth had a really good relationship with most of her teachers and I think that was partly because they knew her outside of lessons as well, through me. I'm not saying Beth did so well at school because of me, not at all, she worked extremely hard and has a very bubbly personality so I think she would have done well wherever she went, but I do think my active involvement in her school had an impact. School and home were indelibly connected, they were unavoidably linked for her. My friends were her teachers! Poor thing!
I left my job in October 2009 and now have no role in education so am probably a bit out of touch now and any way Tom went to a different school. He attends the local Grammar school Queen Elizabeth's High School and I have got to admit, I have always found it a bit intimidating. Not just his school but Grammar in general. When I was a kid only the posh ones went to Grammar and they always thought they were better than us "Normal" kids, or so we thought at the time! In hind sight I'm sure they thought we had a problem with them, anyhow, we didn't really mix much and now my boy goes to one!
Tom wanted to try for the entry exam and to be honest I thought it was a good idea. He was a big fish in a small pond at his primary school, Everton Primary School which had served him well for his early education, it was a lovely village school and Tom excelled there. He's a bit of a cheeky chappy, sometimes a bit of a clown and he got on famously with his teachers and loved to please them but I was a bit concerned he might be a bit easily led down the silly road at secondary with much bigger classes and less time for the teachers to connect with their pupils. I felt he would thrive with the firmer hand of a Grammar.
I cannot deny they have done a pretty good job of keeping him on track, he has had a few detentions but just for calling out and being a bit silly, not for anything major, and that's exactly what I wanted from the school. A firm hand. He hasn't fallen in with a "bad crowd", he's just a little exuberant sometimes! But he seems to just cruse through, getting away with the minimum of effort in most of his classes. Most of his reports come back saying he sometimes lacks focus and could excel in the subjects if he focused more, he's a bright boy and I worry he's wasting his talents.
So what can I do to give him a boost???
So far I have had very little involvement with school and Tom is in year 9, except parent evenings I've not been there. I wouldn't recognise his teachers if I passed them in the street and I have left the discipline to them, although I have always backed them up when he has come and complained about one teacher or another. I realise now this is not good enough. I may not work in Tom's school but that doesn't mean I should avoid it all together. I know that pupil achievement improves when their parents become involved in their work ( I don't mean doing it for them, I mean being interested in what they are doing), I know teachers really appreciate parents being involved and showing an interest, I know that being involved actively with school, PTA, extra curricular activities, volunteering to help out on trips etc. all promote a positive response to school within our children, so why have I not done it?
I can only think it goes back to those childhood prejudices and fears about not being good enough for Grammar.
Tom will be starting his GCSE courses in September and I really don't want him to miss this opportunity to get the best start to his career path that he can. I can't do it all for him, he has to take some responsibility for his work, grades and behaviour but because he gets good marks just by coasting along I think he doesn't put maximum effort in, he doesn't see the point. Maybe, just maybe if I get a little more involved with school, a little more familiar with his teachers and a little more interested in his work, maybe if I stop accepting "Fine" as the answer to "Have you had a good day" and stop accepting "No we didn't get any" as the response to "Have you any homework?", maybe if I start asking "What did you enjoy most about you lessons today?" and " Can I see what you did today/" and "You need to do your homework please" maybe if I start calling his form tutor once a term to see how she thinks he's got on and maybe if I actually go to some school events, even if Tom isn't involved, maybe, just maybe, he'll get a bit more motivated because if there is anything Tom likes it is to please people.
I feel a bit cross with myself that I have just let him coast along and gradually loose his motivation but I hope that with a little more involvement from home he too will excel in his GCSE exams.