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Opportunity Knocks!

Fulltime Foster Carer - Harriet author of: A Less Ordinary Family

Opportunity Knocks!

Tuesday 1st March

Opportunity knocks, often at the most unlikely of times, and in the strangest of ways!

Charlie got a text from Annie this afternoon asking for a lift home.  School is less than 10 minutes walk from home, so we instinctively knew something was wrong.  He immediately got in the car to fetch her.  As she approached the car, Charlie could see her face crumple, she had been holding it together all afternoon, but at the sight of her Daddy she let go of her emotions and burst into tears.

She had been given a detention by her English teacher for not completing her homework.  Annie is the most conscientious girl when it comes to school.  She has always worked hard in every subject, and she has always been a good all-rounder.  She always does her homework when it is set, so it was a surprise to think that she had not done it.  It appeared that the teacher had been a bit too quick off the mark.  She then felt coerced into signing the Notice of Detention, even though she felt she had not done anything wrong, and she wasn’t given an opportunity to protest.

Through the tears, we finally unpicked what had happened.  It appeared the teacher had set a piece of homework on an online student website during the middle of the half term holidays.  As Annie had completed all of her homework at the start of the holidays, there was no way she would have known the piece had been set.  He then gave a reminder to the students about the homework, however Annie was at an Orthodontic appointment, so missed the reminder.

School policy states that a student must first be given a warning before being given Notice of Detention.  This had clearly not happened for Annie.

Negotiating Secondary School in Year 7 is tricky at the best of times. But negotiating it when you have a teacher who has acted unreasonably is impossible.  If Annie deserved a detention, we would back the teacher.  In this case, we need to teach her about justice and fairness. We need to teach her how to speak up and challenge (appropriately) when things are wrong.  She needs to know we have got her back!

After a lengthy phone-call with the Head of Year 7 – explaining fully the situation, we breathe a sigh of relief that she understands what has happened, accepts Annie is not at fault and she says that she will bring the situation to a resolution in the morning.  True to her word, she cancels the detention, removes it from her education record and puts her mind at ease that the situation has been resolved.

As we look back on this incident we feel a mixture of relief for Annie that it is sorted, annoyance that the situation ever happened, but there is also something else we feel, something that surprises us.  We feel this was an opportunity, an opportunity to show our daughter than we love and support her.  That we will advocate for her when she is unable to speak up for herself.  It was also an opportunity to help her learn some resilience, as school can be such a difficult place.  On this occasion, we felt pleased we were able to step up.

It reminds us that such opportunities exist each day, that even when bad stuff may happen, and difficulties and challenges come along – we should not have to face this alone.

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