Archive for the 'School' Category

Ensuring your child and their school are the correct match for each other

As Jordi gets closer and closer to High School, and although she’s chosen the school she’d like to go to, I have a growing feeling of discomfort that the school she’s chosen may not be the best school for her. How do I know this? Easy, it’s a gut feeling. That makes me even more uneasy, that I’m currently only working off of my gut. But I plan to change that. Starting today.

While I’m aware that schools house a vast array of different human beings within them, I do think it’s naive to assume that schools cater for every type of child, and that a child can thrive at any school. It doesn’t work like that in the rest of our lives. I’ve watched people break in large amazing companies. I’ve seen friends and family become ‘less than’ in what should have been loving nurturing lifelong relationships. We don’t fit every situation, and every situation isn’t going to fit us.

So where to start? Google of course. I jumped on expecting to find that someone had thought this one through, written it up, created some sort of assessment, and was offering it for a few bucks online somewhere. Google would know. Google always knows. Sadly, on this one particular topic of interest, Google still has yet to find that person online (or the 14 different search strings I tried were the wrong 14).

Where to now? I guess I’m going to have to speak to a real life human being (deep sigh, how old school). I think I’ll start with those educators I trust to think. Not necessarily think like me, just think. An often rare activity in today’s busy world.

While I acknowledge I may not have come up with the correct Google search string, I am a little amazed that I didn’t find anyone, anywhere who’s done any work that speaks to categorizing a school. Describing it’s culture and it’s philosophy objectively, and suggesting what type of child, and perhaps even what type of parent might be a ‘best fit’.

I’ll keep reporting back, and should you know something I don’t, please let me know.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on November 9th, 2012 .
Filed under: School | No Comments »

The Clap I Shouldn’t Have

Last Friday morning was an ‘Award Assembly’ for Carli and Jordi. Carli was being presented with her medals from the Central Gauteng Gymnastics Comp she’d participated in, and Jordi was receiving a Merit Certificate for points collected at school.

I was standing at the back of the hall with some of the teachers and one or two parents.

Award Assembly is an exciting time for this particular dad. Huge doses of pride flow through my veins and want to explode into my immediate environment. Carli and Jordi have tempered this by threatening me with my life if I show too much outward enthusiasm. Jord especially, is arriving at that age where parents can be embarrassing for simply showing up : ) I’m allowed get as excited as I want, as long as it’s quiet and there is little to no physical outworking of it. I’m fairly well trained in this regard, most of the time.

Carli got her medals first. I wanted to shout her name out, and clap and whistle. But I sucked it in, thinking about how she’s finding my public enthusiasm for her achievements less and less cute. Jordi was up next. With Jordi things are very clear. Whatever I want to put out there, no matter how appropriate, if it’s going to draw attention to her, DON’T!!

I don’t know what it was? Maybe the build up from Carli. Maybe because I thought I’d blend in with the rest of the noise coming from proud parents like me? Maybe it was because I got a quick attack of stupid? But whatever it was, I clapped. Not wild applause. Just 4 or 5 sharp claps. Not very expressive as expressive goes. Certainly not a fair representation of what I was really feeling at the time. But 4 or 5 sharp claps in a hall full of people who, at that moment aren’t making any noise, I discovered, is very very loud.

There was a collective intake of breath, as heads spun around to see who had clapped?

I immediately found Jordi’s eyes and surprisingly she didn’t look too fussed. Miracle. Perhaps she didn’t know it was me?

I found her after assembly to check in with her, and make sure I hadn’t done any permanent damage? Her response was short and to the point, “Oh dad, I knew it was you, but it’s cool, my friends are used to you now.” A quick hug, a “see you later”, and she was off.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on July 1st, 2011 .
Filed under: School | No Comments »

The transformative power of the Duvet Day

I have two daughters. As with all families, they are completely different from each other in many ways. Their approach to going to school is just one such example. The older of the two, Jordi, wont miss school, no matter what you put on the table. A movie, a trip to the beach, shopping – it doesn’t matter what you offer, school is her number one priority.

And then there’s Carli. She’s no fun in trying to coax out of school. She’s exactly the opposite. Carli needs to be coaxed into going to school. She’d miss school for a trip to a sewerage farm.

This morning Carli ‘injured’ her 14th body part of the week. She woke up with ankle problems, wrist aches and pains, and then just before we left for school, her knee ‘clicked’. Tears all over the place. I don’t know if I’m a great dad or not (where do you go to measure that?), but my prognosis was that she was tired on a rainy day, and perhaps a duvet-day was the medicine she needed?

Let me also admit that my own discomfort with the bureaucracy and rule-orientatedness of most schools, hooks my own dysfunctional school experience, and now having a little more influence and say, am quite happy to assist my children when they feel like bucking the system just a little. So it’s always a tug-of-war between ‘my stuff’ and what’s good for them?

On the way to school I offered Carli a Duvet-Day. We got to school and she made the call. “Dad, I want to go home.” We found her teacher and let her know that Carli was sore and tired and had decided not to come to school today. I am aware that some teachers are completely cool with this type of thinking. I’m sure there are others who aren’t. Knowing which are which is tricky : )

What I took away from this morning was seeing Carli have an opportunity to make a call for herself, about herself. We didn’t lie to her teacher. We didn’t avoid her teacher. I think it’s a good learning for Carli, that she’ll hopefully take with her into the business world one day… that duvet-days are necessary every now and then. And when you need one, you don’t have to tell an untruth to have one. You can simply announce to those that matter that today is a duvet-day, and hopefully they too come from a world where they celebrate her decision instead of vilify it!

Posted by Barrie Bramley on November 9th, 2010 .
Filed under: School | No Comments »

Our exciting Gautrain adventure

We woke up at various points between 03h30 and 04h00 this morning. We were on our way to catch the first public Gautrain, running from Sandton to OR Tambo. The plan was to have breakfast at Wimpy, and then catch a train back in time for school.

There were a couple of hiccups and I offloaded (puked) them here, for those that are interested, but outside of that, it was one awesome experience.

The Gautrain is fantastic. It leaves Sandton underground and stays there until it ‘surfaces’ at Marlboro. It then stays above ground until the airport. The entire trip takes around 12 min which includes 2 stops. Pretty impressive. The technology is kewl, and you pay R10 for a smart card that you keep and re-charge as and when needed. This pays for the train, the bus and for parking.

Jordi’s friend Daisy stayed the night and joined us for our adventure. And the girls loved it. It was very kewl to see how easily they slotted into the vibe. As if they’d been traveling on high speed trains their entire life : )

It’s definitely something you should do with your kids. It was awesome for Leish and I, and several times more for the girls.

We got to school 15 minutes late this morning. Not because it wasn’t possible. Let’s just put it down to first day teething issues : )

If you’d like to see some pics click here.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on June 8th, 2010 .
Filed under: Family, Friends, Fun, Photos, School, Travel | No Comments »

Vatch out forrr the Vitch

The girl’s school (Grayston Prep) has a reading drive this year. Simply trying to increase the amount of time all the children read and are read to. It’s linked to some convincing research, so you know that Leish and I are fully behind it.

One of the initiatives has been to invite parents, during school, to read to small groups of children. Yesterday was my second stint with Jordi’s class. I got to read 3 chapters of ‘ The Witches’ by Roald Dahl. I’m ashamed to say I’ve not read one of his books before. And wow, it’s a great read. (I know, a very very sad boy am I)

These opportunities for parents didn’t exist when I was at school. And they’re magical. I couldn’t imagine a better place to be, as Jordi snuggled up next to me while I read, with a smile on her face, that said at least, that she was happy that her dad was there.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on March 26th, 2010 .
Filed under: Fun, School | No Comments »

Public Speaking Festival

Jordi competed in her school’s (Grayston Prep) Public Speaking Festival yesterday. Round one happened last week and 3 children from each class in Grade 4 and 5 were selected to go through to yesterday’s round.

Jordi put massive prep into her speech. She built it largely on her own. She wouldn’t take much, if any, advice from mom and dad. And she said it so many times in practice, that all of us at home know it off by heart : )

At yesterday’s festival three children were chosen for ‘speeches with potential’. Jordi was one of those three. She’s thrilled. We’re all thrilled. You’re amazing Jordi. Fantastically so.

Here’s her speech at the Festival. As you’ll see from the shakes in the clip, Leish was extremely nervous : )

Posted by Barrie Bramley on March 17th, 2010 .
Filed under: Fun, School, Video | No Comments »

An amazing performance at the Prestige Gala

Jordi had her Prestige Gala at Dainfern on Friday. It’s the biggest swimming event of her year. All the schools (9 of them) who swim against each other during the season have a swim-off at the end of the season. Some stiff competition.

Anxiety and nerves were on high alert on Friday morning. It was a fun trip in the car, with Leish and I doing our best to motivate, focus, have fun, and to convince Jordi that she was amazing, no matter the result. She is amazing, in that she’s streets ahead of both Leish and I when we were her age in this area. We had music pumping in the car, doing visualisation exercises in the car. I think it was more for Leish and I that for Jordi : )

Jordi swam in 4 events. Butterfly (3rd), Freestyle (3rd) and then two medleys.

A fantastic day. Fantastic results. She is an amazingly wonderful human being. Watch out world, Jordi is here : )

Posted by Barrie Bramley on March 16th, 2010 .
Filed under: Fun, School | No Comments »

Why Gen X make such painful parents

Susan Gregory Thomas writes a great article, ‘Teachers Guide to Gen X Parents‘. Possibly the best description I’ve read as to how Gen X parents are experienced in a school context by educators and administrators, and then why they are as they are? To be honest, as a Gen X parent myself, I found myself very sheepish reading it. Having been fairly proud of my activity and involvement in my children’s school, I suddenly found myself being exposed with the possible truth behind all that ‘involvement’.

In preschool, we’re the ones anxiously arranging developmentally appropriate playdates for our Siouxsie-and-the-Banshees-T-shirt-clad three-year-olds. In kindergarten, we’re frantic that other parents’ children are starting to read cat and rat, while our Ruby and Dylan are still having trouble identifying lowercase letters. We think the gold-star system and its ilk are archaic and punitive, and we want to have a meeting to present our suggestions for alternative achievement systems.

By grade school, we’re demanding to know why the math program is not challenging enough for our child. We email our complaints about the seating chart. We openly deride the arts instruction and may rally other parents to the point of a coup d’état. By middle school, our kids have schedules and professional support staffs that resemble those of corporate lawyers. Look out, high school: We’re coming.

Thomas suggests the reason Xers as parents, are like they are, is because of their own school experience. Because we didn’t have, in our opinion, a great education experience, we’re determined not to let that happen to our own children. It’s not that we have any evidence that this is in fact what’s going on, we’re going to make sure there’s absolutely no chance it will.

We’ve been taking care of ourselves since we started going to school, and we don’t trust authority figures, because they weren’t trustworthy when we were growing up. Our parents didn’t know what was going on at school, and our teachers didn’t know what was going on at home. We’re not going to let this happen to our children — not even for a second. We’ll do whatever we have to do to make sure our kids get what they need.

One of those great articles worth reading. Be warned if you’re an Xer. It may knock you, as it did me, down a notch or two : )

Posted by Barrie Bramley on February 18th, 2010 .
Filed under: Generations, School | No Comments »

Communities and their peeps

I’ve become increasingly curious about the different types of people one finds in communities. and I wondered if there are others out there, equally curious, who are able to contribute to the list I’m about to create? Of course I may be misguided in this adventure, and perhaps you could set me on a more accurate and helpful path?

Having worked in various community based organisations, from Churches to Schools, from Community Committees to Anti – Child Abuse Forums, and now most recently attempting to be an active parent in our daughter’s school, I have observed that there are particular categories of people, who for varying reasons play out very different roles.

I’m interested in the why, how, where, what of all of this. I’m interested in who are the most useful, and who are the most destructive? Who makes a positive change, and who just makes noise? I’m interested in whether they’ve all got to be there to define a healthy community, or is it worth attempting to highlight this data for more people to join some groups and leave others? I’m also interested if these groupings play themselves out in business, or is it a community ‘thang’?

So here are some of my observations. For sure it’s not a definitive list, it’s just my list for today. To hopefully be added to, edited, and some even deleted tomorrow:

The Car Park Mom’s

This category is one I know has an official title. The rest below get my title, but this group, internationally, is known and can be identified by those in the community. They’re the ‘moms’ (and certainly include dads in spite of the name) that are accused of bitching and moaning, gossiping and criticising anything and everything that goes on. It’s suggested if you want the low down on anyone and anything, all you have to do is insert yourselves into this group and you’ll have all the data you need.

But what value fo they offer? They’re certainly intimidating in their togetherness, their volume of information (no matter how accurate) and therefore the ‘power’ they have in a community. Are they listened to by those with ‘real’ power? My feeling is that this group forms because they’re not listened to, don’t have a voice, feel powerless, and therefore attach themselves to this group in order to feel some sense of an ability to effect the change they’d like to see.

I often wonder if they see what others see? Are they aware of their label? And if so are the OK with it?

The Invisible Influential

I know from many of the community based organisations I have worked and participated within, that there is always a small but invisible group of very influential people, who are almost always behind the scenes, and enjoy an extra-ordinary ability to make things happen with very little effort on their part.

They don’t always move in a herd. They can often be very insulated and isolated characters. They’re the ‘God-Father’, the Illuminati, the decision makers behind the decision maker that we suspect are there, but just can’t prove.

My observation is that they get into this space because of one of the following or a combination of, wealth, position within the community, ability to get impressive things done, have a very big lever by way of something ‘dark’. This could be damning information, a real reputation that creates fear, etc.

The Tireless Workers

This group are often idealists. They trust the system, the processes and the elected leaders. They’re actively engaged. They volunteer to assist in making things happen. They have their own opinion, but will often allow it to be superseded by the wants and wishes of ‘the community’. They’re positive, cheerful, up-beat. The cynics look down on them as ‘push-overs’ and accuse them of being naive. But the truth is, that without them, most communities would come to a grinding halt.

Perhaps their biggest fault, is that, because of their enthusiastic involvement they can keep a bad idea, process or leadership body ‘alive’ far longer than it should ever have lived for.

I suspect that once they get ‘burned’ they step outside and join the ‘Car Park Moms’?

The Blah

There always seems to be a group (and it can be the majority) who just get on with it. They’re not concerned with who’s in charge and what they’re attempting to do.

They pay no attention to the Car Park Moms, and they think the Invisible Influential are the creation of the Conspiracy Theorists. They’re grateful to the Tireless Workers, but they’re not going to put their hands up and join.

They seem to be pre-occupied with things outside of the community, or inside of themselves, but whatever it is, community is somewhere down their priority list. They really don’t seem to care much, as long as their world isn’t impacted too severely. They’re here, but they’re not. They’re in, but they’re out. At times they even seem completely out of touch with what’s going on.

Group X…

So there are four groups I’ve observed. There must be many more? As I write this I’m aware there have to have been others who have done a truck load of work in this space? These groups apply to countries (it is a big community after-all). Politicians must be interested in them, therefore, someone has been funded somewhere to describe them, in order to win their votes. If anyone does have a couple of signposts for me to check-out, I’d be grateful.

Like I said, I’m just curious.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on February 11th, 2010 .
Filed under: Research, School | No Comments »

School – Day 1 – 2010

I have some more pics and will upload, but this pic was taken this morning by a friend. It’s Carli, Emily and Jordi. The beauty of the pic is the poster in the background. Julie didn’t compose the pic knowing it was there, and only saw it afterwards. What a beautiful caption on an exciting day.

Jordi moved to Grade 4 and Carli started Grade 1. All sorts of emotions were flying around this morning. Mostly nervousness. Leish did an amazing job prepping all of us for today. It was a day that worked so smoothly, kept emotions in check, and included us having to jump-start Leish’s car after standing for 3 weeks while we’re away.

Click here to see the full image.

Posted by Barrie Bramley on January 13th, 2010 .
Filed under: Family, Friends, Photos, School | No Comments »

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