Torn between then and now

20th November 2009 at 00:00

"I don't do well in tests," remarked a second-year boy.

"Do you get nervous?" I asked sympathetically, as this guy is smart.

He grinned: "Nah, I just can't be bothered revising - I'd rather be out with my mates!"

I suddenly realised that if his mum knew about the looming test, she might curtail his social life the night before. And I wondered how easy it would be to set up a website to give details of exams and tests, or even class homework, throughout the school.

Then I wondered how feasible it would be to have email links with all parents, filtered through an admin worker to avoid direct correspondence between class teacher and over-anxious parent.

Some schools do put class notes on line - a boon for many parents who want to help their child but can't make sense of their jumbled, illegible jotters, or who might have a child off school for any length of time.

I could see from the bemused expression on the boy's face that my eyes had taken on a demonical light.

I think it is possible - but would it be wise? Would some parents take control and, while it might encourage some pupils to revise more or do homework on time, perhaps the child would not see any necessity to organise his or her own learning.

I would imagine from past experience that parents trying to help an unwilling offspring often end up doing the homework themselves. Relationships between teenagers and parents are traditionally rocky, so maybe an over-zealous parent would be hammering several more nails into the coffin.

Equally, though, it might just mean that parents can refute the child's insistence that there are no homework tasks, or could provide real help to a kid who needs more support than they are getting. We can all recognise the diligent middle-of-the-road pupil who is missing out while the teacher deals with discipline problems.

And of course, it would widen the divide between those households where the computer is non-existent or the child's domain, and the house where everyone has their own laptop and the parents check emails daily. But wasn't life ever thus?

I find myself torn between wanting to move with the times and use technology to the hilt - and getting back to the days when there was more emphasis on writing legibly, listening to the teacher and doing written work in silence.

Penny Ward is a secondary teacher.

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