Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Why the best is no longer good enough

There have been a few interesting articles on education in social media of late. Four year olds saddled with striving for targets at school which nearly half of them fail to meet, the depressing news that we have permitted primary education to get into a "terrible mess", that homework damages our kids and that our teenagers are more stressed than ever before, many suffering mental health problems as a direct result of being put under far too much pressure.

Superficially they might seem to carry the same message - and they do, but it's not the one you might think.

Sadly the underlying problem here, that virtually all parents are complicit in, is the nurturing of excessively high expectations. The modern trend to quantify, assess, regulate and scrutinise is highly commendable in many respects, but we have lost our privacy, spontaneity, professionalism, confidence and resilience in the process. It goes without saying that there is no privacy in today's world. But the insidious consequence of looking too hard and knowing too much is a vortex of expectation escalation. "Can do better" is expected, because surely everyone can always improve? But if improvement is always possible, what is preventing the best being achieved? Thus the tinkering of the system persists, because there must be a way to do better, something much surely be "wrong"? But this perfection aspiration is killing our schools and stifling our children. Sometimes, the best is just not enough. 

Friday, 19 June 2015

Pack up your troubles

It's been a while. We have been rather busy..... 

Four kids, three schools and the end of the school year does not a peaceful time make! I barely seem to catch my breath from one day to the next right now, and my eyes are firmly glued to the prize that is two weeks time, when three of my brood will finish for the holidays. Managing the end of term for one is an absolute breeze - except perhaps when you enjoy the holidays a little too much and forget that one child still needs to leave the house by 8am. Easily done!!

I wrote recently about the difficulties faced by families coping with an array of symptoms- often invisible but nonetheless debilitating, but to which no health professional appears willing to attach a name. That was our reality. The day-to-day self-justification, scrutiny and lack of coordinated care.

Until now.

This week, our label - our confirmation, passport and vindication, our acknowledgement, acceptance, understanding and formal diagnosis dropped on my doormat. 

The letter was not long, but I could not take my eyes off four key words. 

Unable to read, let alone process anything beyond this, I sat for some time just staring. Because not only did we now have a diagnosis, but something truly significant had occurred. Members of the medical profession had actually got off the fence, carefully considered all the information available, and made a decision. That in itself is pretty phenomenal, but that decision - in one single action - removes so much frustration, despair and confusion. 

So what does this mean? 

It means, I don't feel I need to explain that my son feels sick most mornings, and suffers frequent headaches. Instead, we can move on to how to help him feel better. I no longer have to justify pre-emptive care to ensure my youngest son and daughter can continue to join in as much as possible in school, not overdoing things one day only to wipe themselves out for a week. Now instead we can now help them pace themselves carefully. It means basic monitoring will hopefully limit future pain, that my children won't need to learn at age 40 that things they took for granted will be taken away from them. And it means that I am vindicated. Because sticking your neck out for something you believe can be extremely difficult, despite support in high places. Our local hospital has vehemently resisted the verdict from GOSH for two years, making me feel helpless, and marginalised.

You see, having a diagnosis can be the most positive step forward. It's like gaining a suitcase, a suitcase large enough to hold everything you have been juggling, managing and coping with, that you can pack it all in to. And the very fact that it fits so neatly seems to make those burdens lighter, the cumulative whole being less than the individual parts combined.

Because, after all, you can go places with a suitcase.

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