My friend had great news the other morning. Her daughter was offered a place in the secondary school of her choice. “What a relief!” this mum said, “The great thing is, it’s her decision. And being co-ed, her brothers are guaranteed a place when it’s their turn in a few years time!” I was delighted for her. I know only too well, the stress associated with getting your pre-teen into second level.
What a difference to our own experience two years ago when all the schools we’d applied to were oversubscribed. Our eldest son had to wait for months before eventually being allocated a spot. However, when it was his younger brother’s turn, the criterion of ‘older sibling’ guaranteed a place and took the pressure off.
These school open nights followed by letters of acceptance or rejection bring back that period of uncertainty. I’m relieved to leave that worry behind. But such is life, that when we overcome one challenge, we face another.
A month or so after our son settled into his new school, I received a notification of another kind. An information meeting would be held for the parents of First Year students to cover issues about their child settling into second level.
The principal began with a few common sense comments. Our kids should now know their teachers’ names, their way around the building, be familiar with their timetable and not feel anxious.
As in primary school, the homework journal must be signed off and used as a means to engage with our child, to check how they’re doing and coping with the curriculum. “But don’t expect them to have their head buried in the homework for three hours,” he advised, “I can guarantee they’re not doing it!” Similarly, mobile phones should be curtailed from being a distraction to homework and getting a good night’s sleep.
He addressed the issue of the weighty schoolbag. Despite using wheelie bags and lobbying the department of Education to reform the system, a solution is to pack only the textbooks required for that day. Even so, my son’s bag still weighs a ton. He could leave some tomes in the locker but he’s lost that key already!
The principal spoke about bullying, alcohol, solvents and drugs – all stuff parents pray their kids won’t suffer from or dabble with. “Teenage years are not a preparation but are part of life,” he concluded, reminding us that it’s not all about eventual Leaving Cert results. These teen years where our sons and daughters grow into adulthood are vital, to be savoured and enjoyed.
Settling into secondary is stressful, but worse still is the anxiety beforehand, awaiting the offer of a coveted school place. With my three now settled in secondary, I no longer have to worry about the “We regret..” letter, at least, not until college or when they start job-hunting!
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Maeve O’Keeffe, the Frazzled Mammy! ©Maeve O’Keeffe 2014
Maeve O’Keeffe is a Cartoonist, Illustrator and Journalist in Cork, Ireland