I knew when I read it this morning that this article would highlight 2 schools of thought. I’ve read the comments on the article and I have read some of the tweet debates that are starting to come out of this and it has all made me feel a bit rubbish really. And here’s why.
I have been a single parent for most of the past 17 years. I didn’t choose to be, it’s just the way that it worked out, but I have worked for the entirety of that time. I’ve worked bloody hard. Because I worked and because I always earned just on the cusp of the amounts needed to qualify, my children didn’t get free school meals, they instead went to school with packed lunches, but sometimes even that was a struggle. Yes, I worked, but do you know what? We don’t all earn enough to provide everything that we want for our families. There were days near the end of the month when I struggled to provide the basics, there were days when I went without meals to make sure that they had something and even then there were days when I sat up all night worrying about how the hell I was going to make sure that my family survived. And do you know what? Even now I’m an experienced teacher, supposedly a member of the ‘middle classes’ there sometimes still are worrying times and I have worked really hard just to get here.
This morning I have read comments that suggest that schools should be ‘punishing’ students because their parents haven’t paid for meals, because it teaches them a life lesson. I have read comments from people who think they are saying the right things suggesting that it is not fair to punish children for their parent’s ‘failings’. Think about how the wording of that feels – ‘failings’ – despite working my butt off, because at some points I don’t have enough money I have been a ‘failure’ as a parent. Just think how it would feel if someone walked up to you, without knowing you and said ‘you’ve failed as a parent’, because that is what it feels like.
I’ve been lucky. My children went to schools and had teachers that cared. They didn’t treat them like they were worth less because of their mother’s financial situation. I’ve known teachers that spent time and energy searching ‘pots’ to find funding to help my children to have experiences that would enrich and support them and NEVER did it in a way that made them realise that they had less than others. It was always done discreetly and without fuss.
I now have one child at university and one doing A levels and about to go – that’s something in itself, because we’ve had to fight the statistic that says they won’t get there. I know that I have taught them some good values, I have taught them the value of working hard, I have taught them that them how to budget to afford the things they want and I have taught them to be grateful for every good thing that life throws at you. They know to be kind and never look down on people because they will never know the battle they are fighting, and they never know how others have ended up in the situation they are in. They know that hard work can get you places, they know their mum completed a degree despite giving birth and completing her final year with a newborn and they watched for the year their mum worked herself into the ground on the tough 80:20 GTP to get a teaching qualification – to make life better. I know that eventually both me and my children will be in a situation where we are able to give something back. I kind of hope that training to be a teacher as I was travelling along that road has allowed me to do just that, to provide education and care for children from a variety of backgrounds.
So before you generalise, before you make sweeping judgments about people and the lives they have to live, just think. Imagine that your child was reading some of the comments about their parents having ‘failings’ or imagine it was said about you.
I’ve actually gone past caring whether the story in the article is true or not. If it is, then I have serious concerns that children are isolated and made to feel inferior. I also have concerns at the levels of grammar mistakes in letters to parents. If it isn’t, great, wonderful. For me, I’ve inadvertently been made to feel rubbish by some of the comments in the debates surrounding it all and I’m sat here knowing that I couldn’t have worked any harder and yet because money makes the world go round, some people believe that my children don’t deserve to be treated the same. And that’s a bit soul-destroying.