Category: Personal

Image result for perfect eyebrows

“You just don’t understand what it is like” is something that I have been hearing a lot lately. Not from the students in my classroom but from my own daughter.

I was in her bedroom this morning mooching around as she was getting ready to go to work. She took the brave step two months ago to leave college and start a full time hairdressing apprenticeship.  She sought this out herself. She’d been unhappy at college on the course she was doing, this was causing trouble at home, and she really still doesn’t know what she really wants to do. But finally she talked it out and she made a call. Organised a trial day, and he presto was accepted. We are so proud that she took the leap all by herself. 10% Braver.

This was the confident young lady I had hoped I had brought up. Resilient, forthright, brave and somewhat outspoken at times! But she had stood her ground and got what she wanted.

Yet this morning, she sat at her dressing room table and not for the first time uttered those words… “You just don’t understand” as she tried for the second time to straighten a kink in her hair, and put more foundation on to an already beautifully flawless face.

She hollered about the fact that her eyebrow pencil had run out and she couldn’t put her eyebrows on today. I looked at her face and thought to myself that her eyebrows looked fine, but what do I know about eyebrows these days. They’ve gone from being plucked to within an inch of nothing, to looking like great big slugs, shaved and everything in between, I’ve seen them all in my classes over the years!

“You just don’t understand!” came the refrain again as she ran around looking for her handbag, “they are all perfect at work and if I don’t look perfect they will fire me, it’s all about how you look, You just don’t understand! They all judge me”. Well talk about arrows to my heart. I wanted to scoop her up into my arms and shield her from the world right there, while at the same time rage at a world that makes a young girl feel like this.

I thought I had spent the last 16 almost 17 years instilling in to my beautiful, intelligent daughter that we are more than the sum of the outside. That what is important about ourselves is how we perceive ourselves. Our own self-worth is not judged by others. It is what we contribute to society, how we take care of ourselves, what we value as important, our core morals, ethics, and our internal drivers. Not what is in the mirror, or on some dress size label or what we wear.

So how did I get it so wrong? In this #selfie obsessed culture, where every moment is captured for everyone to scrutinise and be scoured over. Hours are spent in some of these so called instant Instagram moments, can’t she see this. That this isn’t the real world, that she is more than the sum of her perfectly plucked and shaped eyebrows, contoured cheek bones, which I might add are stunning without extra shading, her flawless and blemish free skin. I can’t bear to see her compare herself and come up short. It breaks my heart when I hear her put herself down day in day out, how low her self-esteem is, yet what I am seeing is perfection.

She has the body that is the perfect size for her 5 ft 6 inch frame, with curves in the right place, do I think she exposes this too much for her age, yes, but once again “You just don’t understand! All the girls are doing it; it’s the fashion in this day and age!”

We have been at war for a while, she can’t talk to me without yelling, storming out, and communication is tough, is this because she is in that phase of trying to be an adult but not really ready for that yet. Or am I holding her back afraid that I haven’t prepared her well enough. Underage drinking, drugs, late nights, pregnancies are rife in our area, do I worry that these are situations that she will be exposed to, influenced, succumb to without thinking it through, living in the moment of the #instant #selfie life. She is working full time with adults, I am worried that they will forget that she is only 16/17 what influence will they have on her, as they also live in this #online self-obsessed world, where every moment is documented with no thought for the future or tomorrow, but only comparing how great their life if compared to the next, or reaching for the #celebritygoals, #bffgoals.

Am I getting too old, am I trying to hold on to my little girl? Am I afraid if I let her grow up I will lose her for ever to this scary online world that I’m not really a part of. That ‘I don’t understand’!

How can I show her the way to confidence and pride in her own being? How to take care of herself? I have worked all my life, to overcome own body image issues and swore not to put those on to her. Praised her for her successes, achievements, not for the way she looked although secretly gloated at her beauty and poise (not something I had at her age, being something of a calamity Jane! Speak to my Mum).

I always talked about the fact that as women we should never let anything stand in our way, we are capable of doing anything, only we are the masters of our own fortunes, only we hold our destinies in our hands, not our looks dictating how far we go, it’s our ability to employ our brains and intellect, our ability to use failure as a tool to grow, belief in our own vision, and never let others dictate who or what we can be to hold us back.

So how did this fall on deaf ears. “I don’t understand” when did this all change for her, when did my confident, little go getter become so lost. So angry at the world; so worried that she wasn’t good enough? When did her looks become the most important thing?

I don’t understand how to combat this. Maybe this is the cry of every generation of parents; maybe this is my right of passage as I move through my phases of motherhood. As I transition from the mother of a child, teenager, to the mother of an adult, I have to learn to let go and realise that she is right. May be she is right! I don’t understand and probably never will.

I guess time is not on my side , “It is slipping though my fingers”. (Mascara warning)

All I need her to know is that no matter what I am proud of her, love her, will always be here for her and her place in my heart is never in doubt, no matter how much she shouts, yells and slams doors.

One thing is for sure no matter how much she doubts herself that she thinks she isn’t good enough she will always be perfect to me.

Eyebrows done or not.




Last term we held an intervention evening for the year 11 students, who we thought as a school were in the ‘danger zone’.


You know the ones, the quiet kids, who are below their target grade because they don’t know how or are too scared to ask for help.

The noisy bumptious ones who can’t sit still and be quiet so never complete the lesson work, forget their homework, but  are good to have in a class because they aren’t afraid to speak up, share an idea, ask a question.

Then there are ‘those’ kids, the ones whose name is always mentioned at staff briefing and have been since year 7, always  get the blue slips to see the pastoral team, or the white slips for the lunch time detentions. They are late every lesson and walk in like its a badge of honor with the retort ‘I was with miss!’ No apology, no explanation.

We sent out letters for the parents to book appointments with the teachers who have concerns, and we all mustered at our various tables,evidence of infractions, books identified,  battle plans prepared for what needs to be done to improve, war was to commence.

The parents arrived one by one, looking worried, concerned, each 5 minute appointment became 15. Some parents I’d not seen at a parents evening before but had spoken to them on the phone numerous times before.

Some were ready for the war, to lay all the blame at the schools door, ‘you haven’t done enough to support my child with their English’, ‘I’ve asked for help but no one has come back to me.’  ‘What are you going to do between now and the exam to make sure my child achieves?’  These are the parents whose child doesn’t speak up, sits quietly, wishing they’d stop talking, as they know that we are doing every we can to help them, but actually they need to ask more, do more in lessons.

Next are the parents who come in knowing that no matter what their child has done, if only we understood them more, had more time, gave them more resources they’d do better. They are waiting for the school to do all the work.

Finally there are the parents who have spent more time in school since they left school, then they ever did when they were supposed to be there. They sit there apologizing to me for the behavior, attitude, but ‘there are issues!’ They are pleading with their child to realize their mistakes before it’s too late, willing them to do better, not repeat their mistakes or those of others they knew.

Explaining that they are at war with their children. They don’t listen to them, don’t respect them, are drinking, possibly doing drugs, on their gadgets for endless hours and when they aren’t they are out late when they should be revising. Their child sits there, slumped in the chair, sullen, refusing to make eye contact, not caring whether they are causing their parents pain, worry. Not wanting to be in school because ‘it’s boring’.

They are looking to me to provide the answer, not to give up on their child, because they need to believe that I care and that somehow I can get through to them. Make them see that education is the key to a bright future. It isn’t about the grades at this stage. It’s about relationships, understanding and making it through to the end. Surviving the dog fights, to prove that they are capable and worth something more.

I help by giving them the strategies to help with revision, the apps that might engage them, the revision sites that tell them everything they need to know to make it to the end. Parents thank me, leave with their heads low and furrowed brows, waiting for the next battle when they get home.

As the teacher I sat through this evening listening, understanding, reassuring  these parents. But, I was struggling with my own situation.

For some of  you, you are aware that I have a son ‘with issues’ and this year,  more so than others these issues have caused us not only to enter the ‘danger zone’ but be living in it continually.

I look at my now 18 year old son, who, for reasons to many to share has disengaged with education, family and society to some part. Which has led me to be ‘That’ parent, looking to the college to provide answers, support, guidance on what I can do to help, change or prevent total melt down.

But we are only human, both as parents and teachers, sometimes there is nothing more we can do, we have provided the framework of a good home, manners, respect, responsibility, we have scaffolded the learning so that each year they built on their knowledge, expertise. We have modeled the behavior that society expects. We fed, clothed, helped with homework, put plasters on knees, lent them the car when theirs was in the shop, loved them.

But there comes a time when we have to step away. We have to let them be who they are. Allow them to stand in their own skin.

Ultimately its’s their decision.

So as a parent and a teacher I won’t give up. But I won’t take on their issues, the excuses anymore. Now is the time to be counted. Interventions are part of what we do as professional teachers, but as parents sometimes we have to stop, walk away. Hope that all we have done is enough and that somewhere inside the right decisions are made in time. That they reengage.