School hasn't always been easy for my jelibeans. Some days I've been called by distraught staff several times and asked to please remove them, for one offence after another. Just as I've got one home, the phone rings again, and we're off to collect another red jelibean who totally forgot that Policeman In His Head and left it to someone else to tell him that singing in a French exam is a punishable offence, especially if you do it at the top of your voice!
To be fair, it's not always their fault, or mine, even though I have been known to whizz through the school gates on a Tsunami Mission to Destroy some hapless teacher, because I've HAD ENOUGH. In the past, I was furious when they couldn't understand, especially when one school decided they didn't like the taste of my littlest and sweetest jelibean who was untidying their exam and League Tables results. He lost a whole year of school through lack of support and care from the Head. As my jelibeans point out to me, some of the worst and least understanding teachers are jelibeans, too. It stands to reason, I suppose!
So how DO you survive as the parent of a red and sometimes green and mostly multi-coloured jelibean in school, especially in Secondary school, where jelibeans are often overwhelmed by size, noises, movements around school, and a generous helping of pina colada or purple jelibean teachers?
First Rules of School should include Rules for Parents, don't you think?
So here are my Top Four:
- Identify one teacher who doesn't think you're a mad person (or 'over-involved' or 'overprotective' or 'flagging up issues' which all mean the same as 'mad', basically!) I have identified the wonderful pink marshmallow, Mrs T at my children's school as my very own special lifeguard, who understands that I, too, am swimming in shark-infested waters alongside my kids and I need her armbands!
- Once you've identified your chosen chief lifeguard the next step is to set up a SYSTEM ( we like those!) whereby everyone feels safe. Jelibeans love systems and marshmallows are happy to work with them if it makes their lives easier! I'll tell you more about that in a minute
- Make friends with your lifeguard, they are on your side, your jellybean's side, but you can't expect them to know your child like you do. Slowly, slowly, use bite size chunks of information to start with. Gain their trust and show them you are a responsible parent who cares deeply and will happily co-operate with school to give your child the best possible chance to learn.
- TALK. Why is that word so very difficult especially for jelibean mums and dads? Why does one of two things happen when we try to speak? Speak at ten to the dozen making no sense OR somehow the words are just gone and an embarrassing silence is all that you hear?
- Lifeguards must NEVER be taken for granted. They must be respected and listened to at all times. Learn to love your lifeguards like they learn to love your jelibean - and you, if you follow the Rules!
- GIVE AND TAKE! Another! Sorry, I forgot about that one. But it's the most important of all, because if you take, you should give something back, and if you give a lot of hassle to someone who doesn't know how to take, it'll bounce right back at you, and they'll think you're a mad person! But if you give information, and they take it on board, you can all go diving off the platform together, into that shark-infested water, and not have one moment of fear
Our system with Mrs T has fallen into place naturally. Of course jelibeans are special, each and every one of them unique and different, so frequent communication is vital to keep everyone in the picture. I email our lifeguard on Monday mornings to give a weekend report and again on Friday evenings. We usually speak at least once a week on the phone. Yes, this level of communication may sound a lot but actually it avoids many situations that could potentially blow up into a much more serious event if left!
Sometimes events at home prove hugely upsetting or exciting. I've seen jelibeans literally make themselves poorly waiting for a special occasion, equally I've seen the collapse of jelibeans as they just become overwhelmed with anxieties and problems. If school don’t know that the first date with Britney Crackles was a disaster, or that grandad won a playstation portable in the village raffle and kept it for himself, how can they see that your jellybean's shell is all brittle this morning? Maybe the loyal family pet has died, or even worse someone in the family is hurting emotionally or physically. What is your lifeguard meant to do, mind read? The role of a lifeguard is also one of an advisor, listen to them because they have your child’s best interests at heart.And here's Rule 5 (because I kind of got diverted and forgot there were 5 and not 4):