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 (Treading Water)

When I wake up in the morning like many people, I usually take the time to pray and meditate before I jump start my day. This morning is different in that my mind is focused solely on my daughter. My emotions are all over the place and I’m finding it hard to clear my head and focus. You see today would have been the S.E.A. exam, the high-stakes test which would have defined my daughter’s graduation from one stage of her life to the next. She’s not alone. This morning approximately 19,000 children in Trinidad and Tobago are feeling a mix of emotions from relief to uncertainty to frustration to bewilderment.

Like many of the 19,000 parents and guardians I had plans. I was going to take the day off today, make sure she eats properly, do a sing-a-long car ride, pray with her before she went in and assure her that she got it in the bag, pray while the exam was going on, give her a big hug when she finished (and probably cry knowing that the months of hard work had finally led us to the end), eat at her favourite restaurant, laugh and play somewhere and then whisk her away to Tobago tomorrow for a mummy-daughter R&R weekend. Then COVID-19 pulled through and said you will do NONE of those things on this Thursday April 2nd 2020 Anno Domini.

This morning even as I type this, I consider life, control, plans and routine. Since the ‘Rona the routine has been to continue working (with reduced time) even though we do not know when the exam is going to be. This in itself is frustration (ask any hamster in a wheel) as my daughter was already getting tired of the constant drilling of Mathematics, Language Arts and Creative Writing and if you know anything about the Trinidad and Tobago education system you know that it is considers examinations first and education second. She was ready to move on with her life and had her heart set on a secondary school which offered a range of exciting things to study creatively beyond those three subjects. I’m torn as I know the appearance of the Coronavirus is completely out of our control (although the spread is). I understand that in life things happen that veer us completely off course from the path we are trodding. I understand and accept the adage: a man plans while God laughs. I get that while my mind does the Dr. Strange thing and anticipates all the million possibilities, there may be one I will miss which may be beyond my control. However, my humanity and my role as a mother makes me feel at this particular point in time that it is not fair.

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I think I should be allowed to feel that way for a bit even while pulling up my big girl panties and while encouraging my daughter to do the same. A brief scan of my social media this morning revealed posts with the general themes of  ‘today was supposed to be the day’, ‘grateful for life, some people didn’t live to see today’, ‘SEA not important in the grand scheme of things’ and ‘this too shall pass’. All of these emotions are important and necessary and I suppose designed to bring comfort and support during these strange-ass times but depending on how I feel I will pick one and then maybe revert to the next after all, I am human. My faith is hugely based on God being in total control, but God also made me human with a range of emotions that I am allowed to feel even while trusting Him to do what he has to do. He did the same with my daughter.

When she wakes up, I plan to gauge how she feels. I know like me she’s going to be unable to pinpoint an exact emotion, her head may be telling her one thing and her heart may be telling her the next and I know I shouldn’t force her one way or the next as today may be difficult.  The best I can do I suppose is to let her know that sometimes in life the ship can sail smoothly from one destination to the next. Other times it can take in water, you may make it to the shore, or you may be forced overboard but you have to keep treading even if you cry. It’s a very, very tiresome thing but it keeps you alive and that’s all that matters.

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.

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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

Can I breathe please? 

3a763df1eea27563354f7db6bf6c87b8--daily-mantra-inhale-exhale-tattooThese past couple of weeks have been a complete test on my ability to multitask and to do so with all the patience and grace that I could muster.   To say it passed in a blur would greatly understate how I feel at this present point in time. I was actually in the hair salon under a dryer when I started this post, that’s to tell you how possible it was to find a proper minute’s peace. And even now when I’m supposed to be shaking off the shackles of a secondary school term that left me 😥😥😥😥😥, I still feel like somebody owes me a five day for night stay somewhere sunny with a beach  and copious amounts of alcohol (any kind, not picky at this point).

So rather than give a blow by blow of what happened, I think I will just share my not really random thoughts/questions on these various events as they occurred. Nice? Here I go:

ON SON-SON’S GRADUATION

  1. These things should have tissues. I felt so old! Sniff! 😭 I couldn’t concentrate on all those programme items though I was too busy staring into space wondering where the time went. 🙁20170629_114016
  2. I get that schools have a limit to work with but they should really consider opening it up to three invites per graduand, modern families and all that.  There were a lot of visibly irritated “chile mudders” and “chile faddas” present.
  3. All of a sudden I noticed these 11 and 12 year olds standing up posing and talking like they already finished a year in secondary school. Again, whither goeth the time? 😮
  4. Are novelty photo booths a thing now? 🤔 They are everywhere!
  5. I’m glad the term ‘tea plate’ has evolved into a box of sweet AND savoury pastries AND a drink.
  6. What compares to a look of relief on a teacher’s face? (Biased? Yes!)

ON SECONDARY ENTRANCE ASSESSMENT (SEA) RESULTS

  1. This anxiety that I thought evaded me hit me square in the gut in July 4th. Nobody warned me  sufficiently. 😩
  2. Why do people find shit to complain about when they feel nervous, awkward or expect you to feel the same and concur? All ah we standing up in the hot sun. IIIIIIIIII doh feel like chatting about how hot the sun is…… 😐
  3. That anxiety again. I hope never to feel like that ever again. Even though I have two more to go. But by that time I think the novelty would disappear.
  4. Son-son did not pass for his first choice which reflected on his face in a way that only his mother would observe however, he was super stoked as he got placed in his second choice, a very good school where FIVE of his closest friends were also placed. Can’t complain about that.

ON FORM ONE REGISTRATION

  1. De journeyyyyyyyy now start
  2. I was so happy to observe that Form Six students were leading the programme for registration. I loved the culture of the school already.
  3. So I had to take out a five year insurance because my son wanted to do an extra-curricular sport activity. First I’d heard of it but better safe than sorry right? Plus it was only $100.
  4. Government issued textbooks were piled on but only when I got home did I notice the atrocious state of  one of the books. Moral: Take your time even though you feel overwhelmed.
  5. Secondary school is gonna be sweet.

ON MAM’ZELLE’S FIRST COMMUNION DAY

  1. The first communion ceremony, in spite of its great importance to any young Catholic girl, is also largely a pre-cursor to how you may envision your daughter on her wedding day. 20170630_0908351
  2. Mam’zelle looked really proud and big girl happy. I, on the other hand, stared into space……. 😭
  3. There’s a big difference between a boy’s and a girl’s first communion day. The difference lies in how extra parents are regarding how the child looks. (See 1. above).  With the girls I noticed more necks craning, eyes staring and eyebrows raising.
  4. I didn’t think that the girls actually ‘got’ what the rite was about, even though they got the basics. But like most of us who passed through it, eventually they will.

ON CONDUCTING AND MARKING END OF TERM EXAMS

  1. Why did we have end of term exams?
  2. The stress to create the perfect paper in the third term which would adequately cover what students did with a pinch of first and second term, was entirely too much.
  3. The stress to mark these papers also applies. Particularly when you KNOW you almost literally bled for your students and then you are faced with… 20170627_124852(The sad thing is that this was a national test that they got weeks earlier and I TOLD them that they would get a repeat of it for their exams rather than subject them to a new exam….so……sigh……..)
  4. People tend to say that the teacher influences the student. I wonder if they know that the reverse is also true? And not always in a positive light. Frustration is real. This term was bad. My nonchalance set in quick. I’m at pains to apologise.
  5. People also tend to say that teachers are lucky that the get vacations. I wonder if they know that most of us deem this much needed recovery period? Like post-trauma…. Salute to all of you who finished on a high note though! 👏

ON BOYO TURNING ONE

  1. Turning one year old is an important milestone!! This milestone however was not celebrated by anything resembling a party. Cake, ice cream, snacks only if you want.  I held firm to this with all my gremlinz. They. Will. Not. Remember. A. Thing. Let me underwhelm in peace.
  2. Smash cakes however are essential. Icing is awesome.
  3. My Boyo turned 1 a looooong time ago. We plebs are simply now catching up. 20133683_10154400439936706_179359571_o
  4. (Stare into space……. 😭)
  5. All babies of this generation are being led into world domination by Asahd Khaled, Beyonce’s twins and the genius soon to depart from Serena Williams. I’m noticing that my Boyo along with his peers are operating on an entirely different level. Look out 😐

ON MOVING

  1. And I maintain….it is only when you are moving that you realize HOW MUCH SHIT you own!!!!! AND MOST OF IT UNNECESSARY!!!
  2. A van is an important vehicle to own. Money saving tip yo. 💰💸
  3. Despite the general consensus in Trinidad, some landlords are really nice, I was grateful to score one.
  4. You can be attached to material things and you can’t help it. I was really sad to leave my home but the life beat goes on.
  5. If you suffer with slight OCD like me, ensure that you know EXACTLY where everything has to go. Chaos is no friend to us.
  6. Don’t stop when you’re tired, stop when you’re done.

ON DEATH

  1. When it happens particularly when it’s some degrees of separation away, I always retreat into myself examine my life, my purpose, think about my gremz. It’s a rollercoaster of hope and depression. There is some element of strength that I still need.
  2. Death has no respect for protocol. My husband told me that and it has stuck with me since. It’s whoever, whenever, deal with it. This is the hardest thing to stomach.
  3. Live your life and make those memories. This is what got me through the rough times and I imagine would continue to.

 

So the holidays are upon me. It will be filled with exercise, camp, activities, road trips, swimming, mall runs, the usual. I’m going to try to be gremlin-centred but try not to kill out myself in the process and of course post a couple of updates!

Bless up

TMIDM