Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Empty Chairs at Empty Tables

I never know where to start with these school posts. This one has taken a week to publish.

So much has happened and continues to happen and impact on all our lives, it is hard to summarise it in the odd moments I choose to put blogging above marking, housework and helping the BA with trig.

Where was I when we last spoke? Ah yes, I had joined the Parent Task Force and was waiting on the commencement of talks between the Alma Mater and 'The Boys School Down the Road'.

One of the problems I have is that I have only been 'at' the school for the current year. I made contact with a few of the parents through the Froggie exchange thing and have met one or two others in passing as the BA has attended parties and the like but really, I am not one of the 'in' crowd. This has meant that I have been somewhat out of the loop as far as information exchange and ideas exchange goes. This is not necessarily a bad thing as it means I bring a fresh perspective, but at the moment fresh perspectives are pretty low on most people's list of priorities.

After the hideous roller coaster of the past few weeks we were hopeful of some positive news from the meeting between the 'Advisory Committee' and 'TBSDTR' on Monday. We had sent two parent reps so we expected some idea of the direction of talks.


After waiting patiently for a text or email on Monday night, the school released an 'update' which went like this:

"We advise that the Standing Committee Advisory Group met with representatives of The Boys School Down The Road today. Discussions are in their early stages and further meetings will be held during the course of this week."

Enlightening! A revelation!

Then three days of nothing.

In my heart I knew this was a bad thing, but I consoled myself with other issues.

On Friday we heard that the merger had been unanimously rejected by the Advisory Committee and that the Church were determined to keep the school open. My feeling was that they were in 'LaLa Land'. I finally made the calls I had never thought I would make, to enquire as to positions at other schools. I was an emotional mess.

At this point I need to tip my metaphorical hat to Prof J's daughter's school.
I will call the school St Saviour's because it may very well be ours.

We were looking for a school with a similar size, feel and gender make-up to my Alma Mater. Interestingly, having railed against the whole girls' school thing initially, the BA sheepishly admitted that she did not want to go back to school with boys, so St Saviour's fitted the bill well. Additionally, the BA would know at least one other pupil, albeit in another year group.

I phoned on Friday in a state of high emotion. I hadn't realised I was in a state of high emotion until I said to the Registrar, "Hello, I am an Alma Mater parent," at which point my voice wavered and I collapsed vocally into a snivelling wreck. The poor registrar was rather taken aback and did her best to console me whilst explaining that Year 11 was not a 'normal' intake year and that she couldn't guarantee that there would be a place available.

In one of those amazing 'turns of events', she encouraged me to download an application form and post it in just as Prof J's daughter was approaching the Principal's office for the interview which would inform her that she had been elected Head Prefect. In the fluster of my emotion, the registrar had neglected to take my name and contact details but fortunately I had mentioned that we knew J Junior.

When the registrar saw the Principal and informed her of my call, explaining that she had sent me to the website, the Principal was adamant. "No!" she exclaimed,"We MUST see these parents. We must do what we can to help these families!"

Now if that isn't an amazing advert for Catholic education, I don't know what is!

The principal went on to ask J Junior (after she had delivered the 'Head Prefect' news) if she knew anyone at Alma Mater who may have rung in a highly emotional state. It wasn't too much of a leap of logic for J Junior to identify me. Within an hour we had an interview time.

The Principal herself conducted our interview. She showed us around personally and discussed the BA's subject choices with her. She answered our questions, allayed our fears, introduced us to everyone and finally finished by assuring us that we were under no pressure at all to accept the place, but that we must make the decision that was right for us. I could have kissed her.
I still may.

Tonight we attended a community meeting. To say that attendance was down would be an understatement. There may have been about a fifth of the number of parents as there were at the initial meeting back on the 19th of October. Still, the new Chair of the Board was impressive; honest, forthright, realistic and yet inspiring. The Church stood up and said they would fund us; they know they are going to take a bath but they are committed to the college. They will guarantee positions for the teaching staff even, when challenged by a parent, if only 50 girls turn up on day 1 next year.

So what will we do?

For those of you who have stuck with me through this blog; as my posts have waxed and waned; as my topics have strayed from the original Flaming Sword intent to the petty nonsense of 15 years worth of birthday cakes......here is the pay off. I am leaving it to the BA.

I can't begin to tell you what a difficult and yet obvious thing this is to do. I can hear myself talking: "You are the adult! Do not leave this decision to her, she is too young to choose!!" but I also know that this whole thing is no longer (if it ever were) about me.

My brilliant, beautiful, loyal child has had to defend her naive, overly optimistic mother for the past 5 weeks in the face of a mass exodus of her classmates. She may be one of two or three pupils left in her year; her subject choices may be restricted and she may have to endure the same scenario this time next year if enrolments cannot be encouraged; or she has the option of a clean start at a lovely school where she can re-establish herself and settle in for a solid crack at the final years of her schooling. I know what I would do but ultimately, at this pivotal point in her life, I need to know what she wants to do. And don't get me wrong, there is no 'right answer'.

Part of being invested with the Order of the Flaming Sword is knowing when to relinquish it and when to take it up again. Through all these years you have heard me champion the cause of the proactive, assertive parent but as the years proceed we must trust that we have done our jobs well and that our children have the ability to make valid decisions for themselves (of course if this has anything to do with tattoos I withdraw all comments).

The Baby Angel is weighing up her options. A new start, with all the 'new girl' issues that entails, or a drastically changed, micro school with very few of her friends left. I have encouraged her to talk to someone outside the family about the whole deal because, I said to her, I don't want to influence her or to have her make a decision based on what she thinks I want. She laughed at me and said "Mum, of course you influence me; why do you think I am at this school in the first place???"

Wise , wise child.

Within the next few days the school will call to ask us what our commitment is. How strange, and yet perfectly appropriate, that I do not know. This is not an ordinary situation. It is not something I have dealt with before so I am in no position to give advice. I hope the BA can decide whether she wants to ride this roller coaster with the other faithfuls or whether she prefers the security another school may offer. I have given her this weekend to think about it. Make no mistake however, if she seems to be vacillating past that point or overly stressed by the responsibility I will step in and help her to make the decision. She may be brilliant, beautiful and well adjusted but she is still only 15.

The good thing about me being here and doing all this is that I can report back to you all. You can learn from my lessons and store up experience to draw on when your time comes.

By then I will either be nodding sagely or holding myself up as an object lesson! Either way I hope you don't have to go through what we have been going through these past 6 weeks.


Mid Sis said...

I love you big sis! It will all be ok - I just know itxxx

Elisa said...

oh wise one! An inspirational post.

I believe that you are doing the right thing letting BA decide!
Regardless of what school she decides upon now, it is clear that you decision (just a year or so ago) to stronly encourage the BA to attend her current school has paid off tremendously.

I doubt that boys at all boy schools feel the same way girls do about all girl schools. I think they are a fantastic place to learn and grow for young women. I choose an all women's college and was so happy there. There was co-ed school near enough by that we could find dates for dances :) but in the classroom, all that young adult angst about dating and relationships was absent. It's a great learning environment.

It will all work out as it is meant to be! Setting down the sword for the moment was so difficult, I am sure. But I believe you made the right call!

Keep us posted!!!!!

Maggie said...

You have done such a great job raising BA that I don't doubt that she will make a fabulous decision. She is, after all, her mother's daughter!