We´re four weeks off the end of the academic year. Finally. Which is still something like ten percent of the teaching days, but the rhythm of Argentina´s academic year means that by this point no-one cares if anyone learns anything or not. I´m fine with that. I´m turning into the opposite of a pushy parent as far as formal education is concerned, returning to my woofty born-in-the-seventies roots of starting from kids’ interests and needs.
Joni is in his last month of primary school. He is looking forward to the summer holidays. I am looking forward to never stepping into that particular establishment ever again. In fairness, Joni has done fine there. But he´s also the kind of kid who would do OK anywhere – no behaviour issues, no academic difficulties, work done, folders up to date, gets on with everybody; a perfect sausage churned out from a sausage factory. Maybe that´s fine, maybe that´s their function, I just have an idea that a good school might offer something more. The thing that particularly draws my attention is that since we changed Danny to a different school, there isn´t a single member of staff willing to meet my eye, let alone talk to me, which has been more than a little uncomfortable for the last two years while Joni has still been there and I have still had to attend parents meetings etc, and heaven forbid that any staff might ask if Danny is still alive or how he´s doing, even though several parents still do. I find it infantile. I have tried to rise above it, but it´s wearing and I´m glad we´re nearly done.
Danny is also looking forward to school being over. Really he´d like to leave altogether, a mere decade or so before time! This year in 3rd grade he still mostly has short days, from 8 till 12, apart from Tuesdays and Thursdays which look more like the English system, from 8, with a lunch break and classes finishing at 2. Next year in 4th grade and above, he will go from 8 till 2 every day. The other day I told him, remember you need to go in for lunch and we´ll collect you at 2, and he said “No way, how many more times am I going to have to do this?” so I reminded him that next year he will have to do it every day. And he cried real tears “When will this torture ever be over…?” He doesn´t really hate school any more since he changed schools, but he´d be happy not to have to do it. And it hasn´t been a great year for him, it hasn´t been a disaster, but last year was his best year ever and this one has been mediocre by comparison. We´re hoping he might get a different teacher next year, he’s in a mixed 3rd-4th grade class this year, and we´re hoping he doesn´t just pass to the 4th grade half of the same class with the same teacher. She a nice enough person, but she’s never got the measure of Danny, and he requires a lot of creative thinking to get the best out of him, which is what his teacher had going for her last year, and this one hasn´t been a relationship made in heaven.
Meanwhile, thinking forward, we´ve finalised Joni’s secondary school place a couple of weeks ago. After lots of chopping and changing, we basically let Joni decide, given that it´s he who will have to put up with it every day. He made a short list of three, the agricultural school, the technical school, and finally he settled on the “proa” (say pro-a) which is a modern experimental style of school being trialled here. We went along to the introductory meeting and he and we really liked the look of what they are trying to do which is way more funky and creative than anything we´ve seen in Argentina so far, with lots of project work based on student led initiatives. Apparently the rest of the city thought the same, which may be an indication of the need to modernise the rest of Argentina´s creaking education system, as there were literally four people chasing every place.
In order to wittle the numbers down, they held an obligatory workshop for parents, which I attended, and an obligatory workshop for prospective students so Joni went along. There they split them up into groups and gave them taster sessions in Maths, English and programming. The secretary told me that she was sitting in on Joni’s english class, where the teacher asked a bunch of questions and Joni didn’t put his hand up, so probably the teacher thought he didn’t know anything so she gave him a piece of paper to read, which he did. The secretary said “I saw that teacher’s face…” Then the teacher said “I like your accent, are you studying English?” And Joni said no. Which is true but… evil child!! Finally, they did a names in the bucket draw for all those who had turned up to the two workshops, which while unsophisticated is probably fairer than the UK system at least from when I was last involved, where oversubscribed schools cherry picked middle class families according to the parents´ability to write an essay on the form (do they still do that?) Anyway we were very fortunate that his name came up. And apparently the English teacher has forgiven him – they met in the corridor after the draw and she congratulated him on getting in and said she was looking forward to seeing him (exacting her revenge?) next year.
So that’s the round up of formal education. On the informal side, on Saturday we put our big paddling pool up on the patio for the summer and the younger element spent the weekend testing it out while it was filling:
Now it needs filtering and chorinating regularly to keep it going till February. And Joni took part in his first horse jumping event:
Proving that school isn’t always the most important place for learning things – heck, who needs quadratic equations if you can save your life in water, and gallop a horse over a pole without falling off?