The Turnaround

‘This isn’t as bad as I thought it would be.’

At Lulu’s voice, I stared at her sitting on the sofa. A laptop on her lap. It was a mixed feeling seeing her sit there. On the one hand, it’s nice to have her back doing internet school since she’s home studying again and we get to see her more… but is InterHigh really going to be as good as mainstream school? For GCSEs? Suddenly it’s hard to think it will be.

Why? Subjects are now taught in 40-minute online classes. The timetable has tightened. And with a difficult curriculum and lots of independent learning tasks thrown in, doing well seems a tall order.

Still, I tried not to let any of these worries show on my face. I must have looked like I had worms crawling under my skin. ‘That’s great, Lu. It’s good to have you back.’ Ok – don’t panic. Worse comes to worse, Penglais will have her back next year.

This is a turnaround feeling. A year ago, I wouldn’t have trusted Penglais School to open a book up. The only English-speaking secondary school in our very Welsh community, they’d had a series of poor inspections. The school was officially almost failing. Now, I’m judging InterHigh in the same,  harsh light.

It was when Lulu said some months ago that going to mainstream school gave her more support overall, the light switched on for me. She was right. They must do. No matter how the school is performing, teachers face to face must always be better than teachers on screen. Plus, InterHigh has a different feel about it then when we started four years ago. Lessons are now broken into lead and follow lessons. The lead lessons are like university lectures. A whole raft of students log in and listen to the teacher. Interactivity is keep to a minimum so teachers can get through the subject content. This is not a bad idea for gettting through content. But if you don’t understand? And when Lulu doesn’t understand, she isn’t exactly the most patient kid to be around.

’I don’t understand!’ she tends to yell at the top of her lungs. The neighbours cock their heads towards our house. The neighbourhood dogs start to whine. Lulu isn’t shy with her frustrations. It’s not her fault. It’s a family habit, that.

So how best to help her? Yesterday I caught her doing Physics. Speed, distance, time. Looked a little scary. I came down and sat with her. A bunch of graphs on the screen with varying gradients.

The teacher asked, ‘How do you work out the speed by using the graphs? Put your answer on the screen with your initials.’ 

She gave them pen tools so they could write on her slide. Lu calculated. I stared at the question with some horror. This was the first week? Before I could stop panicking, she’d put the answer on the board with her initials.

’LO, you are absolutely correct.’

‘Wait a minute, Lu, that’s you,’ I said.

She smiled and adjusted herself on the sofa. ‘I know. Could you go make me a cup of tea?’

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