Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 5) – Bacchanal

So the date is set. Thursday 20th August 2020 and to quote one very Euro 80s rock band, it’s the finalllll countdowwwwwn.

There was a sigh of relief as I, like all other S.E.A. parents was in this perpetual state of limbo and limbo, while it may seem dreamy and amazing, could very well break you in half. When I told Mam’zelle of the new date, she broke out into the Hallelujah chorus and I don’t blame her. She reached the state of ‘fed-upcy’ a loooooong time ago. If you are an S.E.A. parent like me, you would have also found yourself practising these same three subjects (Math, Grammar and Creative Writing) over and over with no clear finish line in sight. That would drive any human up a wall and I really feel it for all those hamsters in labs all over the world.

Covid body included

It took me a minute since the announcement of the date to this present point to write this blog post because I suffered information overload to the point where I was ready to sky (read: fling) my phone. It would absolutely NOT be the land of La Trinité if there was no bacchanal included in damn near everything. So the minute this was announced, the commentary was endless and in some cases, outright insane. (Some of us really need a social media break eh 🙄).

Anywho, let me preface this by saying one of the reasons why my blog is called Trini Mom in D Middle because that is the place where I very often find myself…Switzerland. I am a sucker for reason and balance (except where there is jackassery and the obvious is clear). So the argument of whether the date should have been in August because “some frustrated and burnt out and Covid basically gone” or in October because “some are left out, it was unfair and Covid still here”, landed me square in the middle. Honestly, I understood both sides because I was fed TF up since March and I hate this inherently STUPID exam but I also understand the plight of the academically and economically disadvantaged because I teach them daily in Secondary school. Hence the reason why I wasn’t caught up too much in the debate and made the honest commentary of being more concerned about the uniform fitting (which I am ELATED to announce that it does but still I need to get a belt 🙄. Homegirl was also haggling for new sneakers but the line was drawn and to quote myself, “You have a month to make it work, so ease meh up and doh drag yuh foot too much” 🤨).

Now of course the new date of S.E.A. (and for that matter, Coronavirus) is not the MAIN issue anymore. With the announcement came a parallel announcement that S.E.A. teachers and some school personnel will be paid a stipend from the 20th July to the date of the exam to facilitate readiness for the exam.

Allyuh! What we, the nation eh say about teachers, we forget to say because the commentary was downright vitriolic. Now in case you may be reading and have been one of those who have had bad experiences with teachers and thus may be quick to paint with an 8-inch, let me put my teacher hat on and remind you of the main facts:

  1. Teachers/TTUTA (teacher’s union) did NOT ask for the stipend. TTUTA agreed with the Ministry that the exam should have been held in October. The Ministry rock back with the August date and the stipend figure as a dangling carrot to get ONLY STANDARD FIVE teachers to come out during their holidays and threw TTUTA off balance.
  2. Teachers have legitimate (meaning: written in law) holidays, they don’t get paid over time, if they take no leave they don’t get incentives and I’m not the person to fully detail why this is so at this point.
  3. Teachers are grossly underpaid including the “good for nothing”, “greedy”, “lazy” “bloodsuckers” who “didn’t do one ass but cock up dey foot” since school closed. Teachers need to be upgraded (imagine working 13 years in one position when you have offered proof to your employer of completed study to advance based on recommendations from the same employer). Teachers need to be paid increments as they are working with devalued salaries and moreover, need to be positioned correctly on the scale.
  4. Nurses and other essential workers find this move to be grossly disadvantageous and unfair as teachers were not seen on the frontlines of Covid19 nor could they prove that they added an essential service to the nation (they do have a point EXCEPT for the view expressed by the first part of #3 above because I know of one case where a teacher was up until 2 o’clock crafting online lessons for her students to not do 🙄.
  5. Teachers feel like they are being publicly crucified because 1) they still received salaries during lockdown, 2) ONLY STANDARD FIVE! teachers will now receive a stipend but the paint from the 8-inch brush is now dry (even though they didn’t ask for the stipend), 3) even if they were to now continue their plight to be paid their just salary, they would get ZERO support from John Public and 4) Teachers are divided on the issue (‘we deserve it’ vs ‘don’t be a sell-out’).

All of this confirming the whole ‘divide and rule to get my way’ ideology. How very Trump! Well played government officials.

Colbert is never wrong

Meanwhile (parent hat on now) I can’t stand that teachers are being vilified and I hold to the view that public resentment of ‘blue collar’ workers usually rotates between teachers, police officers, doubles men and KFC employees when the cole slaw finish. We need a 15 minute attention grab from Gary or Watson and we need it expeditiously. Teacher morale is at an all time low and who feels it knows it. Now I am not quick to surrender to group think, I like facts and quite frankly all I am studying is my daughter. Now that there is a date, we just need to get there and move on with our lives. If for some reason teachers decide not to turn up out of principle, or some court matter delays the process or Madam Corona decides to swing back and say “ah was just resting my eyes but I’m back baybeeee”, her mental will be off and I just might forget about this whole S.E.A. drama and start the hunt for a private secondary school (not really eh, but it must be nice to have that option because the way my salary is set up……issa whoole no). The fact is this is all too much bacchanal for one inherently STUPID exam. But then again…where we living again 🤷🏾‍♀️?

Blessings

TMIDM

Swimming in the S.E.A. – Part 2 (One virus shall rule them all)

I’m usually the person who tries to examine all possibilities and outcomes of situations and decisions (which is ridiculous since we mere mortals are never in control🙄) but I hate surprises and usually operate from a viewpoint of ‘hope for the best but expect the worst’. As I mentioned in a previous blog post, since my Mam’zelle is so different from my son I have been unable to pin her down with the S.E.A. exam, his progress was predictable, hers was a gypsy rollercoaster. Eventually she became steady and I finally became settled. As the days passed, more and more my load felt lighter and lighter, my daughter felt less and less stressed and we were both on the same page of being ready for the S.E.A. exam to come (and go😒).  I booked a surprise mini-vacay to the sister-isle on April 3rd just for the both of us and  I was reallllly looking forward to those memories: sun, sea, sips, spa-time and silliness……

Then came the Coronavirus.

giphy

Out of all the negative predictions I could have thought up to possibly interrupt the smooth running of her exam I did NOT foresee a global pandemic. At first I wasn’t so concerned as I expected COVID-19 to reach Trinidad, but this past week wrapped up with nationals panic-buying groceries, my house perpetually smelling like Lysol, multiple television addresses, closing of schools for a week and heightened speculation on social media that would make your head spin. This was coupled with no immediate word about the exam and of course further speculation from anxious parents and teachers. What finally triggered me was hearing schools closing in St. Lucia until after Easter, Jamaica closing schools and soon to make a decision about their own exams and then news that the Caribbean Examinations Council office in Jamaica closing with the May/June exams in the air.😳

In the wake of this virus taking over there is a pressing need to take all the necessary precautions but sadly it’s now brought two sets of anxieties for me to manage: high-stakes exam preparation and worldwide crisis. I asked Mam’zelle what she would prefer, for the exam to be moved up or postponed. She replied instantly ‘Moved up! It’s time for me to relax!’. I wholeheartedly agreed although now even the vacation is up in the air because you know….life….sigh….😔

So the waiting game continues as we start this week at home with the exam initially carded for two weeks away. Revision is planned, online sessions are prepared, leisure time is scheduled at home and of course, hands are being washed. I am hoping and praying for some semblance of normalcy even in the face of this absurdity that 2020 continues to dole out.

Blessings and be safe out there!

TMIDM

 

 

 

Swimming in the S.E.A. (Part 1)

A couple of weeks ago I received a document from Mam’zelle’s teacher to pick secondary schools as choices for her to be placed after writing the S.E.A. exam (not sure what the S.E.A. exam is? See my previous post here). I took the document home, folded it and put it on my dresser. It has remained there to this day.

I am anxious about this exam and nervous for Mam’zelle to write it. My first Son-son did it already and I was nowhere near as nervous then as I am now and that’s mainly because they are two different children. She is not as excited about schoolwork and does it grudgingly at times. Other times she shoots fireworks from her fingers. I think also because she is a girl and the world works differently for females, that this also influences how I feel. Make no mistake though, other than the (light/heavy) encouragement from me or the hubby, I make it a concerted effort not to display said anxiety. There is no perfection there as sometimes I let it slip but often when I feel it coming on because she can’t remember a particular spelling or mathematical formula, I step away to vent to my husband or I log on to Facebook to commiserate with other parents who feel the same as a result of this dreaded exam.

1317044_Wallpaper2
Illustration by Shrikrishna-Patkar (www.hindustantimes.com)

I know I’ve reached that part of the S.E.A. ride where it’s pedal to the metal but I’m really praying for this ride to slow down and stop. I can’t imagine having to wait until May so for that alone, I thank God it was moved to March (although it remains high stakes for a shorter period of time). A couple of weeks ago there was a meeting held for the parents of the standard five girls and I was really glad that my feelings were shared even though I didn’t speak to anybody. The taut body language in the room spoke volumes. In all the years I have attended meetings in that school, I have NEVER seen so many parents (especially the dads….kudos!!) turn out for one year group. There was a lot of nervous energy in the room that no amount of ice breakers, talks and presentations could allay. As a matter of fact, after one of the members of staff did her presentation on how placement occurs, the tension rose and I left because I felt like I needed to breathe.

Since then, I have done my part in remaining in close contact with her teacher, making sure she is physically, mentally and spiritually fed and staying abreast of the conversation about S.E.A. on the networks with other parents which can also drive you crazy if you don’t scroll quickly and limit the amount of comments you read. Examples of Math sums, Language exercises and Creative Writing prompts are posted at various times throughout the day from parents who need help and teachers who want to help. It’s as though everyone is trying to make sure that all 14 million possibilities for this exam are considered in all the three subject areas and coupled with questions, concerns and venting about the exam process, it can become very overwhelming.

Mam’zelle is in lessons Monday to Friday and now Saturdays as well. The way I see it, if the help is offered to keep her brain busy then I’m completely ok with that. She enjoys working with her friends and she listens to her teacher sometimes more than me and I am completely ok with that as well. Any sign of burnout is met with shutdown and sleep and thankfully it hasn’t affected her other than the usual tweenage complaints about school. Of course balance is key so while we don’t have the time for her to be as physically active as she used to be, she is still partaking in one extra-curricular activity because you know….life…….

I am taking it day by day and will continue managing my emotions until the end of this S.E.A. nightmare. Hopefully when I finally get around to filling out that placement document, time will have sped up considerably. In the meantime let me organize breakfast on this goodly Saturday morning and ready myself to drop the child to school.

Blessings

TMIDM

Have merSEA!

Well my Son-son is 11, in standard five in primary school and about to write the big Secondary Entrance Assessment (SEA) exam this Thursday. According to Trini culture and lore, this is the most important exam of a student’s life, destined to make you or break you depending on which secondary school you are headed when the results come in. Parents cry, teachers lose hair and the children drill mathematical formulae, grammatical exercises and seemingly endless compositions up until the dreaded day that they aim to get their first choice out of four. Cue ominous voice:

may_the_fourth_be_with_you_by_themooken-da1apux

http://themooken.deviantart.com/art/May-the-fourth-be-with-you-606841449

Knowing that he is prone to anxiety, I laid all the pressure on Son-son on standard four and eased off the valve considerably. As the date draws near, I think I am more anxious than he is. However my anxiety stems from the fact that I am completely FED UP! of the preparation for the exam. I’m so thankful that his teacher is so meticulous, another parent told me some time ago that he has a ‘system’ to churn out boys to perform at the SEA exam. But at this point if I see YET ANOTHER quasi difficult poem, I will scream. I think a couple of nights ago was the last straw.  He came and said he read the poem and didn’t understand it. So I took a look. This is a poem called Children’s Song by R.S. Thomas which he had to read and answer about ten questions:

We live in our own world,
A world that is too small
For you to stoop and enter
Even on hands and knees,
The adult subterfuge.
And though you probe and pry
With analytic eye,
And eavesdrop all our talk
With an amused look,
You cannot find the centre
Where we dance, where we play,
Where life is still asleep
Under the closed flower,
Under the smooth shell
Of eggs in the cupped nest
That mock the faded blue
Of your remoter heaven.
 
Ronald Stuart Thomas
Dafuq is subterfuge??? ‘Remoter heaven’??? My poor child!
I mean honestly, I get the gist of the poem, but I think it’s a bit much for an 11 year old to find extra deep metaphorical meaning in a high stakes exam. I understand that the poem is usually the difficult part of the exam but have mercy, this or any poem like it reads like stress! The questions that followed were even worse.
So these last few days I haven’t been harping on him at all partly because I think he’s reached his zenith and partly because again…me…fed up…. He had practice tests for the past two Saturdays and beyond that I gave him a free pass to the TV and the games on his tab. Of course everything was done in moderation so he also had to clean inside my car and do his regular chores as well. I don’t want this SEA pressure to fold him in even before the exam.
Thursday morning I plan to wake him up, act as normally as possible and not make a big deal about it. On our way there, he may get a Bruno Mars karaoke session, lame jokes in the car and I’ll kick him out with a hug and a ‘good luck dude’! If I get the butterflies, they’re going to remain in stasis at the very least until he’s out of my sight. I hope I don’t wig out. This SEA can’t drown us both.
Bless up
TMIDM