Prison Break

It’s been hard to write for the last day or so after my last blog. I suppose I used to think of mainstream school as a bit of a prison. Kids caged up together in an artificial environment surrounded by rules and regulations. Overall, Lulu agrees with this. She struggles with the uniform concept, has had detention a couple times and generally feels the atmosphere of an institution.

For sure though, that’s how it has to be – otherwise there’d be no control. Put a bunch of hormonal teenagers in a building together and there’d just be chaos. Yesterday morning Lulu moaned about it waiting for the bus in the rain. It’s become the usual, ‘This place sucks,’ or ‘Why do I have to wear that stupid tie?’ or ‘The teachers are just so mean!’ The last quote I’ve pared down for the sake of good taste, but you get the point.

What I hadn’t really taken into consideration though was InterHigh was a bit of a prison too. And it was a prison that we, Lulu’s parents, had created. Sure, she was getting good grades and learning in an independent, research-based way, but it was still a bit of a prison. She wasn’t experiencing and learning about different people in the bungalow. Different groups. Different values. I still have the urge to shrug my shoulders and say, ‘Meh.’ I still think good grades are more important at this stage. Shoot me! Ok, don’t shoot me.

In the last weeks at school, Lulu has got to know different people she’d have never met in the bungalow. She’s made value judgements by learning the subtle nuances of engagement. She’s bantered, watched people her age either laugh or take offence depending on what mood they’re in or what political statement they decided to make that day. This has been an education for her. Without even taking into consideration the process of just making friends.

It’s hard for me not to see her secondary school as a melting pot of cage-like chaos. But after the things she’s said, I imagine for some kids it’s also a place they feel safe. Thinking now, I realise I’ve so far totally taken it for granted because my kids are safe. But, particularly in reference to my last blog about this vulnerable girl in Lulu’s class whose help seems out of my reach, safety is massive. I’m wrong actually. It’s everything.

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