Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Speechless

This year, for some unfathomable reason, my ten year old's sense of achievement has been stirred. He suddenly wants to produce schoolwork, including extra curricular, unrequested extravaganzas of self-initiated work that mirrors the class topics.

Good work gets shown to the class - paperwork goes up on the walls and PPSs get shown on the wall screen, including stuff you did at home.

The kid who used to look at a four-question homework sheet like it had the plague, suddenly spent four hours researching World War 2 and making up a seven page Powerpoint presentation, complete with flying bullet points and moving graphics.

An hour of that time was spent on the phone to his Gran, and both left the conversation with a sensation of being special. They bonded.

In fact, most of his presentation was to do with the little things she told him - born in 1930, my mother was ten when we went to war and fifteen when it all came to an end.

She told him (and he quoted) that:

  • Some children were evacuated, and some of those were used as unpaid slave labour on the farms when they arrived - treated as good only to replace the farm hands that had gone to war
  • Some children (like her) stayed in London with their families ("If we go we'll all go together") and that for them there was a kind of club you joined to collect newspaper and shrapnel for the war effort. You started out as a Private in this official club and went up the ranks according to how much you had collected. It meant she tailed the ARPs etc, waiting for a bombed house to be declared safe, to clamber in and get the shrapnel - her and a whole bunch of kids, who would compare finds to see who had got the biggest bit. It put some fun and purpose into facing blown up houses.
  • She ended up as a Field Marshall.
  • There were queues everywhere. If you saw a queue you joined it, no questions asked, because it meant there was something worth having at the other end.
  • Because every scrap of good meat was for the human rations, the pet shops would stock horse and whale meat, for the pets. There were a lot of imaginary dogs where she lived, people 'created' animals, so they could bump their diet up with a bit of horse. The pet shop always had a long queue.
(No I am not going to make some scathing comment about the reports that some New Orleans residents have disdained fresh food and water because it wasn't burgers and Coke.)

He took this in to school on Friday morning, on his own memory chip, having first done a grand presentation to us at home, so I know exactly what ended up on the finished piece. He even removed the point that dressmakers would ask the butchers for the net that the meat arrived in, as it could be bleached and was the only material around for making a wedding dress (unless you got your hands on a rare parachute silk - although those had their own black market for making women's underwear.) He thought that was gross, too yucky to use.

His teacher didn't have time to look at it that day and ended up keeping his chip for the whole weekend. Then she was in and out of class yesterday and he finally got it back today. Since he completed his mini project on Thursday night, he has waited five days to see whether he would be allowed to share his effort with the class. So much tension and excitement, and hope.

No. Apparently his teacher said it was unsuitable for two reasons:
  1. Too many exclamation marks.
  2. Some of it wasn't true.
He asked her which bits weren't true, but she said she couldn't remember.


Post Script due to comments:

Lewis is Aspergers and dyslexic, with a bad case of the "I can't so I won't" and trouble reading faces and inferred intent. He has a 'Note In Lieu' at school and does a lot of work on the computer there because his handwriting is so appalling. Last year they 'discovered' his brain when a teaching assistant regularly took dictation for him.
Up to now he has been encouraged with House Points for good behaviour and teachers are free to award them in extra amounts to kids who struggle.
He has NEVER recorded them or paid them any attention because you mark your own points on the board at break time or the end of the day and too many times he has amassed enough for teachers to wipe them back off the board, calling him a liar - so he just doesnt play.
This year, if he does every single piece of homework, he feels that he will be presented with £5 cash, in assembly, by the headmaster.
I didn't think this would inspire him but it has, I guess because homework sheets are tangible and can't be called imaginary - not that he has EVER done a single piece of homework outside of school hours.
He has also started trying, like this instance, to put in even more hours.
Perhaps she was stopping him from getting ego issues with it, from becoming obsessively carried away, but I really do have to go in and see, don't I, I can't let it lie.

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