The nice young man who gave conversation classes to the boys this year has gone back to France. We had him round for a cup of tea before he left and he stayed for two hours. That is such a long time. We gave him a small present. When we gave him a present at Christmas (a coffee pot and some coffee), he told us he didn’t like coffee while expressing his gratitude with great charm. Our present this time was two books: Dubliners by Joyce and some Yeats poetry. Later he texted me his thanks while commenting that he had previously started Dubliners but had given up. This would give him an incentive to try again he said. During the afternoon when he came around he mentioned in passing that the French regard hypocrisy as absolutely the worst vice. Honestly, this explains a lot. Anyhow, he is the last person who we will be having round to speak French with the children. It’s the end of an era. We have had Francophones (mostly French people) in the house since we came back from Belgium in 2008 talking to them, minding them and giving them the kind of values that mean when Michael hurts himself he still says stoically, “La douleur ça passe”. I’ll miss them.
This year has been a bit of a disaster at school with teacher supply. History and Geography, both of which Michael wanted to study were timetabled back to back in school so he did History outside school. We picked History to study outside because the Geography teacher in school was so good. He had her for fifth year and she was amazing. But – good for her but bad for us – she had her first child at the start of this academic year and over the year her role has been taken over by a range of subs of varying quality. The Maths teacher went on maternity leave in January and since then, the boys have been taught by a number of people with no teaching qualifications. I mean, you would like it to be a bit better. I had a neighbour’s child up the road who is doing a PhD in maths give them a grind. Daniel’s fantastic Physics teacher got a job in a new school at the end of the last school year. She was replaced by a zoom class after school once a week with a less than stellar substitute. I paid for extra physics classes for him on Saturday morning. The German teacher is off on maternity leave too. She was great but both boys say that the substitute is even better. I guess you’ve got to win some of the time. Anyway, all things considered, it has been pretty disruptive for them both. However, now all grinds and extra classes are mercifully over as they have started into the worst exam any Irish person will ever sit – the Leaving Certificate – go on ask any Irish person you know, I’ll wait.
Their school graduation was on a Thursday. They had various mild pranks (they were all going to wear a mustache to school) planned in the run up to it. Monday was “anything but a bag day”. They all brought stuff to school in wheelbarrows or whatever their vivid imaginations suggested. The principal sent a text message to all parents at 10 in the morning saying “6th year students are finishing now in order to prepare for the Leaving Cert. We will see them on Thursday for graduation.” This was news to the parents, students and (rumour has it) the teachers. They got given breakfast and black plastic bags to clear out their lockers. The kids were really upset. I felt it was disrespectful and horrible for them and, apart from anything else, those three days in school with their teachers wouldn’t have hurt given how interrupted their schooling has been. To be fair to the authoritarian authorities, there had been something of an incident with a water pistol in a previous year and it seems to have marked them.
On the Wednesday, a really nice teacher invited them all in for a cup of tea so that was good. And then the graduation itself was lovely. They gave the principal a present while I gritted my teeth. They did an amazing video which made us all laugh and many of us cry. It was really super and helped to make up for the previous Monday’s debacle. It made me feel really sorry for herself who had a graduation with parents watching online.
The children, the teachers and some parents (not us at the urgent request of our children) went to the local GAA club afterwards and stayed late. They seem to have had a great time. One of the other students asked Michael (yes, 17 year old Michael, all the rest of them, except his twin obviously, are 18) why he wasn’t drinking. “Is it because you’re a Catholic?” he asked. There seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding of the rules of engagement among the younger generation.
Anyway, there we are. I have no children in school. What a weird feeling.
Keep your fingers crossed for my guys in the Leaving Cert, they are in the middle of it and they are not exactly having the time of their lives.
No more uniforms though, so there’s that.