It’s 5.30pm on a wet and miserable Wednesday evening and I’m picking up my son from his after-school club. The club is a fantastic thing as it allows me to work within normal hours safe in the knowledge that he’s being well looked after and fed.
He loves it because he gets to play video games.
I ring the buzzer on the door and wait patiently for the door to be answered. And wait. And wait. In the end I have to go and bang on the window of the room that the kids play in, startling the children but gaining the teaching-assistants’ attentions.
This happens frequently; they say it is because their walkie-talkies are out of range of the door-buzzer; I say, they don’t like getting up and answering the door, hoping that the caretaker will do it instead (he often does).
So after being let in to the building by one of the teaching assistants I notice that she has a concerened look on her face. ‘Is your son’s mum in France* at the moment?’ I tell her that that is indeed the case. ‘Oh right’ she says ‘That might explain it then’. ‘Explain what?’ I ask her.
‘Well’ she starts ‘He was playing outside earlier on and he went in the wrong direction and made the wrong choice, his teacher asked him to make the right choice but he again went in the wrong direction’. I look at her, trying to decipher this statement.
‘So what did he do?’ I ask her. She looks at me like I have just been dropped on my head and repeats the same mysterious sentence.
Now, at the school my son goes to I have encountered this type of language before, when my son has been guilty of using ‘unkind hands’ and ‘unkind words’. That’s fairly self-explanatory, but I’m at a total loss as to what he has, or hasn’t done, on this occasion.
I think the rationale behind it is that teachers don’t want to outright describe the situation, they prefer to label it in a roundabout fashion. I’d personally prefer it if they just said ‘Your son misbehaved today – he was hitting Maisie over the head with a watering can so he had to go for a timeout’ – much easier to understand than the current method of cotton-wooling the facts.
I wait for the assistant to fetch my son and replay the conversation in my head. And I’m still none the wiser two minutes later when my son arrives.
The teaching assistant looks at me ‘We’ll put it down to his mum being away I think, hopefully he’ll go in the right direction tomorrow’. I nod my head in agreement at whatever it is this woman is saying to me and leave the building as quickly as possible.
We will be moving to France soon where the teachers most certainly will not speak the same language as me. But, in many ways, they may actually speak a language that I understand a lot more…
I did actually ask my son, when we got home, what he’d done. He is a typical six-year-old boy, so all I got was ‘I don’t know’. Later that evening when I Skyped my partner and relayed what had gone on she was similarly curious as to what had happened, and neither me nor my son could proffer an answer…
*We are shortly moving to France – more on that at a later date – and so she has started her new job already – one week she’s in France, one week she’s back in the UK, one week back in France, one week in the UK then we move over there permanently.