The End of One Chapter leads on to a New One

I know things are hugely different this year, but the sentiment remains.
💙💙💙💙💙💙💙

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher. I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman. I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Our young people are incredible. And no class before has ever been tested like our class of 2020.

These young adults are like no others before them. They have had a LOT going on…

They have given their ALL for 2 years, and didn’t get to sit the papers. This will never be understood fully by the rest of us.

Some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.

They were playing the match of their lives, and the goalposts not only changed…they disappeared.

Today is the biggest day in many of their lives to date.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

NO assessment can fully know our children. It can’t measure the whole person.

It doesn’t see their kindness.
It can’t recognise their wit or humour.
It doesn’t measure their ability to change things.
It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers.
It does not define them, nor should it.

And it certainly can’t understand or fully reflect the strength, resilience and bravery required to face final year in a global pandemic.

Be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, your children have come through the most trying end to school life imaginable…and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And this long chapter is finally over. It’s time for the next one.

Today, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents who await the results today.

And remember, those numbers do NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper or words on a screen can change that.

M XXX

Mammy Vs Múinteoir…Back to School.

Maria the Mammy…

Nope. 

Not a hope. 

Not sending them ANYWHERE NEAR schools. 

Need to keep them safe.

Can’t control things when they’re away from me.

Fuck the government and their ineptitude.

I don’t want them to be away from me.

I don’t want them to be frightened or worried or scared by anything.

I don’t want to think about how they can’t hug their friends or play with other kids who aren’t in their pod or whatever.

I don’t want them to go on a bus, mixing with kids from 6 different schools.

I don’t want to have to send them to Afterschool

I’ve had 6 months of keeping them close and knowing they’re safe.

BUT… 

They miss school 

They need school

They miss their friends

They need more social interaction

They need more than Myself and their Daddy

They need normality. 

They need education…because Homeschooling DID NOT happen here. (Kind of difficult when both of us were working full time from home.)

They need other adult voices.

They need routine.

They’re in a wonderful school and have wonderful teachers who I know will do everything to keep them safe and secure.

Maria the Múinteoir…

I don’t want to put myself or anyone of my colleagues or students in harm’s way.

What if I get it?

What if I’m an Asymptomatic carrier?

What if one of my kids gets sick and it’s my fault?

What is it going to be like going into work?

Am I going to be able to do my job properly?

Am I going to be able to make the kids feel safe and secure?

How can I support the students who need support?

How can I teach in my usual groupwork and collaborative style when they have to be socially distanced and I can’t sit beside them?

What about my students with extra needs?

How can I not meet more than 5 friends for dinner, but I can stand in a room with up to 30 young adults for up to 80 minutes?

How is under Jesus is this going to work?

BUT

I can’t wait to get back to work.

I miss my colleagues.

I miss my babies.

I miss teaching.

I need routine.

I need adult conversation.

I need some sort of normality.

My students need school.

I know it’ll be OK

I trust my management to keep us safe.

I will absolutely do MY best to keep my students feeling safe.

Teachers are a resilient bunch. 

We’ll do our best.

And it WILL all be OK.  

We are not in control and we can only deal with things as they come. 

Our front line workers back in March had to navigate their way through terrifying times with little or no guidelines, and they got it done.

They did such an incredible job in the “unprecedented” waters they had to wade into, and they adapted as they went.  They are heroes and while we as teachers are nervous and worried, and our fears should not be dismissed, we too will navigate and learn as we go. 

So many of us are experiencing all sorts of emotions this week, especially those of us who are parents also.  We are genuinely torn.

I need the Mammies and Daddies who are feeling the exact same way as I am as a Mammy, to trust me in the same way that I have to put MY trust in my daughters’ teachers. 

I need the parents who are sending their kids into me, to trust that I will do my absolute best to make sure that their children are able to learn in the new environment, and that they feel safe and secure in my presence. 

I need the parents to understand that I understand THEIR worries, because I too am a Mammy who is nervous (terrified) about releasing my little girls into the big scary world right now too.

I ask the parents of my school babbies to remember that none of us have worked in the current environment before, and that all of the newness in schools is new to us too. 

We are frightened.  We are worried.  We are anxious.  And our fears are real.  

But we are determined and we are professional and we are fully qualified to educate.  And as teachers, we care about your kids. 

The emotional chaos of the sudden closure of schools in March was huge… but that’s a whole other article. 

So while Maria the Mammy might fall apart in the utility room a few times this week at the thought of MY precious babies leaving me every day to go to a whole new world, Maria the teacher will pull myself together, take a deep breath, hang up my tracksuit and go back through the doors of my much missed school, to teach and to support your precious babies. 

And it will all be absolutely grand. 

You Hold Your Own Key

Although it is many moons ago, Mammy remembers getting her Leaving Cert Results.

Mammy was certain that the contents of the little brown envelope were going to change her life. Had Mammy’s life REALLY depended on the contents of that little brown envelope, quite frankly, I’d be living an utterly dreadful, mediocre and half-arsed attempt at one. 😂

Because the results printed on my little scrap of yellow paper were quite awful, if I’m very honest.

The only mark I remember (or tell anyone about!) was my A1 in Honours English. Go figure.

As for the rest of them? I’d say the examiners only passed me so that they wouldn’t have to read my verbal diahorrea again the following year. 😂I’m not exaggerating either.

But the other grades didn’t matter. The A in English was all that mattered to me, both then AND today. Yes, I got into college, but not until I had spent a week back in the brown uniform 😣😣 convincing myself that I needed to repeat the Leaving Cert.

It wasn’t until the second round offers and a trip to meet (attack😛) the Dean of the English Department in Coleraine, that I finally got my place on the degree course. (I might have only been 17, but I was a stroppy one!😂)

English was all I loved. It was all that I wanted to study and, as the little brown envelope told me, it was apparently all that I was good at… All that I was good at THEN.

At 17.

As it turns out, I’m good at a whole load of things.

It just so happened that I didn’t get to take Leaving Cert exams in singing, dancing, shopping or eating.

The Big LC recognised my ability to understand Shakespeare and write stories off the top of my head, but it didn’t (and couldn’t) know how strong I was at things like organisation, being a friend, laughing or leading.

So I was crap at French. Biology for me ended after the section on photosynthesis. But although my maths grade was dismal, I challenge you to find ANYONE who can work out a % as quickly as me when I see the word “SALE”. 😂😂

So there.

Now, over 20 years on, I’m an English teacher.  I’m a writer and I’m a businesswoman.  I’m a whole lot of things that that little piece of paper could NEVER have predicted me to be.

Of COURSE, as a teacher, I value the Leaving Cert.

I love teaching the course and I try my best to encourage my Babbies to give it their best shot.

But I also know that they are young adults. That they have a LOT going on. That some of them have things going on in their lives that are a WHOLE lot more important that exams. 😢

That while some of them will have given it their ALL for 2 years, on the day of the exam, it might just not happen. That some of them are dealing with trying to live up to expectations that might be unrealistic.  That some of them just haven’t yet realised their strengths or abilities in certain areas.

And sometimes, that at 18, they’re just not quite ready for the ridiculous pressure of the state exam.

For a whole load of reasons, Tuesday is a huge day for our young adults. But that little brown envelope is only that.

An envelope.

Despite what it is inflated to be, it is NOT the most important piece of paper in the world.

Yes, the letters and numbers inside it will have an immediate effect.

Yes, some doors will open and yes, some doors will close, but what is written on the page does not define them.

The Leaving Cert does NOT know our children. It doesn’t see the kindness. It doesn’t measure their ability to change things. It can’t recognise their skills as motivators, or thinkers, or makers, or doers. It does not define them, nor should it.

And as parents, yes, some of us might be disappointed for our kids on Tuesday.

But mostly we should be proud, because regardless of what is on that page, they are OUR children and they have done their best and we must remind them that they CAN do whatever they want.

Because WE know what they can be.

Untitled design (1)

There are ALWAYS options and sometimes, the path that they are so determined to be the ONLY one for them right now, was never the right one for them…it usually takes a few years for them to realise that however.

But they will. 💕

So in the meantime, tell them how brilliant they are. And leave them under NO illusion that no matter what words and letters are on that piece of paper, that you are and will always be proud of them and that you will help them to get to where they want to go, may it be straight through the college door or in a longer, roundabout way.

But all roads lead ahead. And before they know it, they won’t even remember what was printed on the page!

It might be over 20 years since I opened my little brown envelope and had my heart broken in a million pieces, but trust me, everything happens for a reason. 😇

Todayt, I send love to all of the young people (especially my own Babbies😘😘) and to all you exam parents whose minions face the brown envelope this Tuesday.

And remember, that little brown envelope does NOT hold the key to their future. They hold that key already.

It’s right inside them.

And no piece of paper can change that.

Mammy  XXX

Some Advice for Exam Parents

Exam season is upon us again.
 
It seems to come around faster and faster each year, doesn’t it?
 
If your little darlings are about to do their Junior or Leaving Certificate Examinations, here are some ideas on how you can help them.
 
1. Sleep: Seems obvious and it’s easier said than done to get teenagers to go to bed at the best of times, and yet sleep is the one thing that we need in order to function properly. Talk to your child and agree a consistent bedtime for the next 3 weeks. Agree on a cut off time for studying, no matter how much they insist that they need to do more. Agree on a cut off time for screens and insist that until the exams are over, screens should not be in bedrooms. Even the simple absence of the phone from the bedroom can do wonders for the sleep that we get.
 
2. Hydrate: Yeah yeah Yadda yadda… but again, vital. Challenge them to drink 2 litres a day. There are loads of cool bottles that help to motivate water intake now. And they all have apps on phones that can help remind them to drink water too. Dehydration leads to headaches and sluggishness; all of the things that they DON’T need at the minute.
 
3.Nutrition: The State Exams can last for up to 2 weeks for some students. If an athlete were going into a 2 week event, they’d be fuelling up their bodies in preparation for months. If your child has a balanced and varied diet already, great. Keep it up. If not, try to introduce more whole foods and more fruit and veg. Convenience snacking is a massive issue when stress and tiredness kick in. Try to have dinners pre-cooked and healthier snacks in the fridge for when they appear from their pit “staaaaaarving”. In fairness to them, the last thing they are thinking about is their food right now. But don’t make a big deal about it. Remember when they were toddlers and you conveniently had lots of healthy snacks and precooked meals in the kitchen? For the next 3 weeks, go back to that! Just maybe ease up on the purees! (AND BREAKFAST is a must. They might not be hungry, but they can’t sit a 2-3 hour exam on an empty tummy. Bananas are great for calming butterflies in the tummy.) 
 
4. Exercise: If your child has a hobby, or goes to a class each week, let them continue with it. As a teacher, I hear parents saying “Oh they’ve stopped that until after the exams”. And while yes, many need to cut back on some activities in order to study, cutting out EVERYTHING is a bad idea. Try to encourage them to do something every day, even if it is simply going for a ten minute walk. Send them to the shop. Throw them a basketball. Dust off the punchbag in the garage. Anything to get them moving for even a few minutes. Times of high stress are the times when we NEED to be able to release, may it be dancing, kicking, running or a gym class. It helps keep energy levels up.
 
5. Keep the stress levels down: And I’m not just talking about THEIRS. State Exams have a way of reducing Mums and Dads to tears. Yes, this is a big deal. Yes, the exams are important, but what is more important is that your child is alive and well and able to do the exams. Don’t dismiss the significance of these exams, but equally, don’t paint them to be the be all and end all. Their best is all that they can do and regardless of what is in the little brown envelopes at the end of the summer, life will go on and they will be ABSOLUTELY FINE!
 
6. Positivity : Rather than constantly “annoying” or “torturing” them, let them hear praise. (Because no matter what we say, they only hear nagging don’t they?) Let them hear you believe in them. Let them hear “You will be fine” or “Do your best” or “I’m proud of you.” Seems silly maybe, but trust me, so many of our teenagers are so skilled at feeling useless and crap all by themselves. Sometimes all it takes is for them to hear someone tell them they can do it.
 
7. Last minute pages: SO this is the teacher talking now. Get them to take an A4 page and for each subject, on which they write down all of the key phrases and ideas and names and keywords, dates etc., all over it, on both sides. If their teacher has things that he or she CONSTANTLY repeated in class, write those down too.
Use different coloured pens and make it bright. Laminate it when they’re done if you like. But have it that THAT PAGE is the ONLY thing they look at on the morning of the exam. I also advise that when they walk into the English paper, before they even read the questions, to jot down as many of the important terms and titles on one of the roughwork boxes or blank pages. That way, they have a go-to wordbank if they get a blank brain AND they won’t forget character names or poem titles in the heat of the exam. (Happens to the best!)
 
8. Ditch the Drama: Warn your kids of the dangers of the Drama Llama on the morning (or afternoon) of the exam. While they’ll want with their friends, so often it is the worst place they can be. Hearing “Oh I only glanced at Chapter 23 last night” or “I haven’t LOOKED at that book!” or “I am so screwed”can cause panic in an anxious child’s mind. They’re already dealing with their own anxiety and nerves. They don’t need JohnJoe or Nancy’s stresses on top of their own. Tell them to politely stay away from groups until after the exam. They are much better served by reading over their last-minute page on their own. They can chat about it as much as they want when it’s over, but being focused and quiet before the exam really does work wonders.
 
9. SPACE it out: If space allows, tell them to skip 2-3 lines between each paragraph. This allows them space to jot down anything that might come to mind as the revise over what they’ve written at the end. (And it makes life easier for the examiner if sentences aren’t written sideways up a margin. With a few subjects being corrected digitally this year, anything written outside the allocated area won’t be scanned. Remind them of this.)
 
10. Believe: While the state exams are possibly THE biggest thing in your whole family’s life right now, it is important to remind the kids that every single person who is older than them, has been through and sat through these exams. They can only do their best. Yes, they’re a huge deal, but they’re also just a bump in the road that you have to drive over to get to summer. They’re well ready and well able.
stumble
 
Life is a big long dance. We all stumble, sometimes we fall. We have parts of the routine that we’d rather skip, but it’s OUR dance. And each and every one of us has to dance our own steps.
 
I hope that exam season passes with as little stress as possible in your house. And remember that if your kids see you stressed, they stress. So even if you want to scream and tear your hair out, don’t.
 
Or at least wait until they’re in bed and then pour yourself a gin and scream in a pillow.
 
And the very best of luck to your minions.

So Mathematagically Challenged Mum

Once upon a time, in a damp and draughty classroom, Mammy here remembers asking the loveliful and unfortunate lady charged with the torture of teaching her Mathematicalisms, a question.

“Why and Where on the Great Jebus’s flat Earth, will I ever need to know this Sin, Cos and Tan crap like?” I asked poor Miss Jacinta.

Because Mammy knew that unless she wanted to train as a fecking astronaut, or be the woman who waved the fricken Ping Pong bats at landing aeroplanes, “Sin, Cos and Tan” would only be at best the name of a band she’d never listen to and at worst, a cocktail she’d never order.

And Miss Jacinta, in her genuine loveliness, somehow managed to keep her shit together with the mathematically challenged Mammy. 🙄
… even on the day when I answered get gentle “What is a+b?” with “Ab” – Duh.

(The difference in a literary and mathematagical brain I guess?)🤣

Miss Jacinta either had the patience of a saint, gin in her flask, or she felt absolute PITY for the Half-wit in front of her for those five long years.

Don’t get me wrong now, I could and can (usually) do the basics.

Like figuring out what 27.3% off a pair of shoes will save me in 0.3 seconds? No problem.

And for some reason, I “GOT” triangle angles which have come in handy for, well… walking around corners and loading chilli on my nachos.

And as for the theorems? I learned those bad boys like bad poems and yet I never understood a single fecking digit. Not even 1…(boom…)😉😉

I have indeed never used “Sin, cos or tan” in the sense of the words she taught. Obviously, I have never sinned, being the saintly legendary Ladybelke that I am… I use “cos” only to describe the foot that goes into those discounted shoes, and my tan is where it should be. In the bottle.

So imagine my annoyance, when 20 years after waving at the lovely Miss Jacinta as I left her classroom for the last time, I suddenly find my mathematilda being challenged again…

Because my 7 year old needs help with her fecking HOMEWORK!🙄🙄

I am however, quite contented and optimistic about the future of person-kind, because let me tell you, by the time our 7 year olds are in 5th class, they will have the mathematical intelligence to decipher NASA’s most secretful codes and be bringing fecking mermaids into existence with their imagination, a calculator and a spatula, just for fun.

This was one of tonight’s questions.👇👇👇

Of course, the child (eventually) saw logical mathe-magical patterns and formulae. (which of course have some pedagogical purpose known only to math whizzes!)

Mammy here, I wondered why the tiger had pink blocks on her back.

I saw a KNACKERED Mammy Tiger, with 57 tabs open on her brain, only a part of her former self, shellshocked and wavering under the weight of a big pile of blocks fecked on top of her.

I wanted to write a short story explaining how the blocks might be metaphoric of the invisible pressures a Mum has to deal with in order to NOT LOOK LIKE A BLOODY NUMPTY in front of her child because of homework that is clever-er than Mammy, or any other adult born before project Math…

So much for singing “Toodalloooooo Jacinta” and smugly thinking I’d never have to feel stupid because of Maths again.
I got THAT wrong too.

Somethings never change eh?

How was your evening?

#FML