It's been a bit of a week in the Minerva household. First was the turn of the Eldest daughter who received her A2 results last Thursday. They were, thank goodness, super so the day which also happened to be her 18th birthday did turn out to be a good one. This Thursday comes the turn of my twin daughters who receive their GCSE results. I am a bit of a worrier, to be fair, and I am not just worried about the grades in an absolute sense but also about the relative equality.
There is another question though as well. My daughters go to private schools. I don't justify it, but they do and their results and the results of their fellow students are outstanding. My eldest daughters' friends all achieved their offers several with the same kind of fantastic results that my daughter obtained, A*s aplenty. I teach at a State school - a reasonable State school where our results are improving massively but they are still low.
I keep going over and over this again and again. Why are our results so much worse? Yes there are some parents/boys who are difficult (it is a boys' only school.) but the dedication and time that the staff put into the school are just the same or even more so than the private. There is a dearth of extra curricular activities at our school as teachers seem to focus on their lessons, and their marking which is as it should be, shouldn't it? In research, class sizes have been shown to have nothing to do with achievement but I do feel that although it may not ostensibly be a class size issue, there are associated issues which may impact on the grades the students gain. An example of this would be quick feedback. Research shows that quick marking of work is a factor in achievement, and a class of 12 is obviously quicker and easier to mark in depth than a class of 30 especially in English, for example.
But this can't be the only answer. I am determined, however, for this to be personal mission. I want to be part of a school where our results are as good as, or better than independent schools. Where the faces of the students who open their letters on results day are beaming with smiles, and where their parents, like this one, cry with pride.
The question, and it is a huge question, is how? Every journey starts...etc.
Life, for once, instead of hitting me right between the eyes has drifted either side. I feel as in a dinghy on a smooth river; the sun is shining on my skin and my bones feel warm. That lovely feeling after winter when you come out of your darkened house and blink, like a mole, when you see the light. Life is passing, and the current, for now, runs smooth. My beautiful daughters grow by the day both more beautiful and more argumentative - vital ingredients for a 'good' adolescence and the fledgling relationship started just after the second bout of cancer has continued despite all the pitfalls that that sentence implies. I have been incredibly lucky that I have escaped, and moreover, that my mind has escaped too.
I mean that I sometimes forget that I have had cancer. There are momentary reminders - when I look in the mirror and have to pencil in my eyebrows which haven't regrown to their previous glory or when I travel on my passport. The picture was taken just after chemo when my hair is only just growing back and you can see the Border official's intake of breath at its sheer ugliness. But the most and the longest 'side effect' is the realisation that this life we have cannot be taken for granted.
As a part of my cancer travails, I met several women in an online forum and we were incredibly supportive of each other and the waits, the blood tests and the chemotherapy that so many of us were going through. It finally came to a head we decided to meet and over a couple of rather wet days in London we all came together to celebrate in my house. We were about 15 at the most, and occasionally just 6. We were all joined by cancer; we joked that finally cancer had done something good for us.
Today, four of those women are dead from the disease. Three more have secondaries and are living with cancer. That's quite a large number and certainly reminds me how lucky I am. Strange though because although I 'should' therefore think I should raise large amounts for charity by climbing Mount Everest on the back of a lemming chariot or bicycle across the Himalayas, my greatest pleasures are simple things like reading, talking to the family, playing games or writing.
I suppose the point is that life is about the small pleasures, not necessarily living for every moment. Pleasures are infinitely more precious when we have normality around them.
Those of you who have been long suffering readers will notice that the blog has changed. I loved my previous template viscerally - it was a part of me and all that I went through but that time is over. I need a new look to reflect the passing of one era, and hopefully, the beginning of a new one.
We don't do enough of it; we certainly don't think enough about the lives we lead. In other words, setting goals and plans for the future. That is why, just before my own New Year, as the school year is to me, I sit down, and think through where I want to be in a year, three years and even five or ten years. I haven't dared to this for ages; too frightened to think about the next treatment but as I have only a year to go before my 'five years' is up, I am eagerly peering around the door, trying to peek into the next room, the next year. I have been on hold over the last 4 years. I have dreams, plans for the future, and am only just starting to unpack the attic box of the future, dusting off hopes and fears that I had almost forgotten I had. An extension for the house perhaps, painting the inside, writing a 'proper' book, thinking about the next career move.
How much we take the future for granted. How much we assume that we will be around to 'direct' what is ahead of us, that the next career step is precisely that, and we don't spend any time on the possible chasm that may open up in between. We take the future as a given. We take our health, and the health and presence of those closest to us utterly for granted. We probably have to in that if we did think about the potential dangers of all that we do, we would quit in horror; throw our hands up in the air and put up the white flag immediately. After all, the boyfriend could be in a car crash tomorrow, the daughter might get skin cancer from being in the garden, and I could trip down the stairs and break my neck tonight. Already, I am scared stiff and I am still at the computer writing.
But it is worth the time to consider the risks of everyday life, to understand how lucky we are that we are able to plan for next year, or even three years after that without having the shadow of the present fog our future.
Enjoy the planning, the goal setting and the dreams, but don't forget to give thanks for our present.