Today was just… one of those days.
One of those days where you’re exhausted and frustrated from trying to advocate for your child.
Why can’t schools seem to understand that not all kids are the same?
It seems to me that schools today are built for a specific sort of student. Or maybe it’s two sorts of student.
First, there are the extrovert kids who love the school environment, who thrive on competition, and can mix easily in any new community. They’re the first to volunteer for new activities, they’re easily identified by teachers because they’re vocal, enthusiastic and positive. They’re the kids who are always selected for activities, teams, school roles and so on.
Then there are the kids with challenging behaviours. The ones who truant or sell drugs or talk back to teachers.
With these kids, teachers have processes and systems designed to intervene and support them. They’re recognised and highly visible because they DEMAND to be noticed.
Then somewhere in the middle are the other kids.
They’re the quieter kids. They’re polite and amenable and do well enough academically not to raise any red flags. They are sociable but they are thoughtful, maybe a bit self-conscious. They’re the sort of kids that make teachers say, “Oh, she’s never any trouble,” and “He’s such a lovely young man.”
But they’re basically invisible.
Polite kids don’t push themselves forward for opportunities – but they’re rarely asked to take on those opportunities, either.
They don’t want to compete with other kids – but they’re not necessarily encouraged to see how well they could do if they pushed a bit harder. They’re doing perfectly well without anyone paying too much attention, after all.
If your child is in the invisible middle, they’re probably quite happy. They’ve got friends and they get decent marks.
But so many of the opportunities of school are just passing them by.
What breaks your heart, just a little, is that you can’t do anything. You can drop your child at the school gate and try to pour the words of encouragement into them, praying that they’re absorbing what you’re saying.
You know – you really, truly do – that they need to find their own way. They WILL find their own way.
But for right now, you just wish that there was someone at school who really NOTICED them.
You wish there was a teacher pushing your child to see what they might achieve if they just tried a bit harder. Someone giving them a new opportunity – even though they didn’t raise their hand in class to volunteer. Someone to give them a (kindly) shove once in a while, to get them out of their comfort zone. Even just someone to say, “What about you? Why don’t you give this a try?”
As parents, we advocate for our kids, no matter what. Because that’s our job. We’re the ones who annoy the teachers with our unreasonable requests for special treatment, even while we know it’s impossible to treat every child like an individual in a busy school packed with kids.
But still. It’s hard to accept that you’ve been banging your head against the same brick wall for months, to no avail.
Schools these days love to talk about how inclusive they are, I think. But inclusivity isn’t just a slogan for a website or a box on a form that says “open to all”.
Inclusivity is about understanding why some members of a community aren’t taking part in something, or being represented. It’s about giving them just a little extra support to overcome those barriers, or making changes to remove them altogether. If you aren’t doing that, then you’re NOT truly being inclusive.
At least, that’s how inclusivity works in my job. Marketing might be different to education in lots of ways, but in this respect I’m not so sure. Because it’s really all about making sure nobody is invisible. Isn’t it?
I think all we can do, really, is focus on the positives.
I’m lucky that there are many, many positive things to focus on at my daughter’s school. And as for the other stuff? We will focus on giving her experiences and opportunities outside of school that make up for some of those blind spots.