Options

We had parents evening for T on Thursday night. For reasons only known to the man in the moon I forgot to book it until 5 days after the appointments were opened. I know. It’s very out of character and I have no defence other than that the reminder that I had set myself on my phone cannot have worked. Luckily the 6am jolting wide awake one Monday morning was useful for once and I had a sudden “oh my god, I haven’t booked parents evening” moment. Twenty minutes later I had managed to book 5 appointments. Not great but not a disaster. Well, a bit of a disaster as T has to choose his GCSE subjects this month and parents evening was going to be an ideal starting point on the decision making process. T has an idea what he would like to do and we planned to sound out the relevant subject teachers for their thoughts on his suitability.

Anyway, back to the evening itself. After an email from the school advising me that one of the five appointments had been cancelled we now only had four appointments (see how good I am at maths?!) with a 20 minute gap in the middle. Because, of course, it would be the middle appointment that was cancelled. Not the first or last one. So, first stop was German. Nice lady. Not happy. Her first words were “T dropped a bit of a bombshell yesterday”.  Oh?  Yes.  Bit upset that he’s thinking of dropping languages altogether. “But he’s so good and he’s been doing such a great job as Language Leader. Are you enjoying it?” “Yes. But there are other things I enjoy more.” You get the gist. We left her with mumbled apologies and assurances of “thinking it all through” and “nothing is set in stone”.

Move on to Maths. Another nice enough teacher who doubles up as Deputy Head. He clearly intimidates T quite a bit and his attempts to reassure him “relax, you seem very tense” and “you’re doing OK, which is high praise from me” didn’t really seem to work. T was wound up like a tightly coiled spring and was highly relieved when the 5 minutes were up, leaving with promises of doing extra work at home to help reach his potential and to ask when he is unsure of anything “I’m not that unapproachable am I?” Sir grimaced. Er, yes.

Next stop French (after the 20 minute break during which A whinged on that she had a headache and needed to go home to bed – such fun.) French teacher clearly hadn’t had “the bombshell” and was enthusing about T being a superstar Language Leader and a role model to other boys in his class and to the younger ones in the school. Did he know which language he was going to take up? Not yet Miss, still thinking about it all. Smart kid decided now was not the time to shatter her illusions.

Finally, English. I love T’s English teacher this year. Year 7 and 8 he had the most miserable old bat imaginable. Actually, she’s probably only in her late fifties and that’s not old but she carries on like she’s a governess in a Jane Austen novel. But this year he has Mrs Briggs. Did I mention that I love her? She was T’s co-tutor in Year 7 and she’s great. Enthusiastic, despite 15 years at the school. Charming, despite 15 years at the school. Just lovely. And she likes T a lot: “He’s a star”. He thinks she’s “OK”. But, he’s 13 and doesn’t get the whole Teachers Who Shape Your Love For A Subject thing. He likes English (even in year 7 and 8 with the old bat) and, although his actual handwriting is horrendous, he enjoys writing. She wants him to push the boundaries and shock her. “I’ll either love it and think “wow” or I’ll hate it and I’ll tell you so, but at least you’ll have provoked a reaction from me”. See why I love her?

So, a great response from the small sub-section of teachers that we actually saw. And a real spanner in the works as far as ‘Options’ go. Obviously, Maths and English are not up for discussion, but languages now need some more thought. I have to say I was secretly disappointed when none appeared on his provisional list. I was a language nerd at at school and have enjoyed helping with learning vocab, etc. But he’s the one that has to do the lessons and put the work in. I can see how Business Studies and Computing appeal more than German or French. But if he’s doing so well it seems a shame not to pursue at least one of them. Then again, I went on to do French at A’ level and have done a big, fat nothing with it since then, 25 years later.

Options. Can you really know at age 13 what subjects will benefit you in your future career when you have no idea what that career might be? I suppose you can only go with what you like doing and what you hope might help in what you hope will be a job that fulfils you and (if you’re lucky enough to get a stab at it) pays well enough to have a comfortable life. If it seems daunting from a 13 year old’s perspective, try being the parent……

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