• Sanyade Okoli

Please don't judge me...

As you can see from a couple of my recent posts, I am flailing a bit (a lot?) with trying to juggle this “remote working whilst supervising remote learners” business. I had those “rabbit caught in the headlights” moments twice again yesterday.

Am I the only one finding that so-called “work tools” such as iPads for school are being used for leisure – sometimes even whilst in class? On this basis, I now try to collect the one device I reasonably can at the end of the school day and return it in time for the next day’s class. This, though, does leave one in the position of having to ensure you return the device charged and in time for class registration at 7:50am. I managed to do so successfully yesterday morning but also had the (mis?)fortune of hearing my child’s name being mentioned twice for not having completed his homework. It does appear however that one teacher’s claim that he had not completed 10 out of 12 pieces of homework was a gross exaggeration (why do teachers do this sometimes?) but the fact still remained that there were outstanding items of work.

Fast forward to the last class for the day of another of my children (I hope you have noticed how I try hard not to name and shame them even though anyone who knows my children can readily guess J) and I just got this nagging feeling that she may not have completed her tasks in class. Saying “nagging feeling” kind of makes me sound more intuitive than I really am. The fact that, despite my protestations, she seemed to have been role-playing during a good part of the session was a bit of a give-away. For the sake of clarity, this was an ICT class and not drama. So at the end of the class I did what any self-respecting child hates; Mama pops her face into video view and speaks to the teacher. It turned out I was right; she hadn’t submitted any of the classwork for the day. But wait, it gets worse… I then go on to check her list of outstanding items for all subjects and she had a list as long as your arm. Do you remember when your parent would call your older sibling when you had done something wrong to “talk to you”? I did just that!

Having sought “senior sibling intervention”, I went on (like so many women do) to briefly ponder about my failings as a mother :-). Come, I myself, what was I looking at as the list was growing?! You would think that after being a mother for 17 years with four children in tow I would have a good handle on this. The honest truth is, I don’t! I think there are a few reasons for this.

First things first; let me not deceive you; I have been struggling with helping out with school work for a little while now. It is precisely because I have been doing homework for so long that I now struggle – it’s been at least 14 years with a good few more years to go. As I have joked with a few close friends, I feel like I should be “post-homework”. I am tired of “doing homework”. I am tired of getting back home from work and having to try and remember to “check homework”. You see, at the risk of being scoffed at for stating the obvious, I am not as young as I was when my eldest was 7. This has several implications – good and bad. Let’s face the “bads” squarely first. (1) I have less energy (yes…. I know I should exercise), (2) I have more things on my mind (including more kids, of course) so I don’t always remember, and (3) my attention span seems to be regressing. The good thing however is that (1) I am more relaxed (which of course you could say is part of the problem :-)) and (2) I am more rooted in my faith so I worry less. Bottom line? I just need more grace in this area.

Secondly, is it just me who is often riddled with angst when doing school work with their kids (especially secondary school entrance exam preparations)? Surely I am not alone on this! As I work with them and they seem to not be quickly grasping certain concepts my mind would get flooded with thoughts of, “Oh God, are they not smart?! Does this mean they wouldn’t get into a good university?! Does this mean that they are doomed to work in menial jobs all their adult life?! Will they get good spouses at this rate?!”. Talk about projecting a mountain onto a molehill situation! My tension rises and I pass it on to the poor eight year old who is learning to make inferences from a comprehension passage in which they have zero interest. Of course he/she picks up your tension and your angst and the whole exercise quickly degenerates into goodness knows what. I kid you not, I eventually learnt that I needed to hold a “short prayer meeting” with my children before attempting to do any school work with them that would last longer than 5 minutes. I think that’s definitely one of the few occasions they would gladly pray with Mama as they themselves know that it is in everyone’s interest. Again, more grace Lord; more grace!

Last but not least, this is a new experience for us all. Getting to grips with effective remote working is difficult. Getting to grips with being an effective “Class Assistant” to effective remote learners is difficult. Trying to do all at the same time…. well, let’s just say that it takes some getting used to. I am pleased to report however that it is (kinda) getting easier. Having accepted the fact that my seven year old will not “get herself to class” on time without supervision, I have now set an alarm for myself for 5 minutes before each class. The next step is for me to learn not to ignore the alarms. The penny also dropped yesterday afternoon that I could simply access her classroom on my laptop to keep an eye on things. I don’t know why it took me so long to figure out that strategy but at least slowly but surely I am learning. You guessed it! More grace!

So I mentioned to you earlier that I was more relaxed now than when, say, my eldest was seven. There are a few reasons for this.

Over time I started to recall that as much as I now find it easy to understand a Year 4 comprehension passage (I wonder why?), I was actually quite bad at it when I was at school. I remember being very perplexed as to how some of the children seemed to get almost all, even 100%, of the answers right. In fact, even when the teachers would go through the corrections I would wonder how they arrived at those answers. I also remembered that “The Great Mama” even went as far as to fail some of her exams in her day. Dare I confess, the last geography exam I ever took (Form 3), I got 10%. When I reviewed my script I quickly realised that my teacher had incorrectly marked some of my answers wrong. As you can well imagine, I rushed over to him to have my paper re-marked. That earned me the unscholarly revised score of 16%. To add to my pain and shame, the teacher went on to draw a face in the figure 6. How churlish! J Yet, here I was, with all my inglorious academic moments, seemingly being sufficiently intelligent, got a university degree and even got decent jobs. So it slowly dawned on me that failure to immediately grasp times tables, or any other academic concept for that matter, would not immediately doom my children to becoming “failures in life”.

Also, I started to recognise that my children were very different and unique individuals – not only were they different from each other, they were actually different from me (duhhh!). As a result, I tried to flow with who they were instead of trying to mould them into my own picture of who I thought they should be. I have come to accept them for what they are – part spirited, part cheeky, part naughty, and totally loveable. Not least because not only did I not make them (well…. You know what I mean ;-)), we have dedicated each one of them to their Creator. Our responsibility therefore is to nurture them to be the best their first Father has made them to be.

Most importantly, however, is that I try to remember something the Lord whispered to my heart about 10 years ago. I can remember it as if it was yesterday. We had a friend visiting and she had been “whipping me up” by telling me about all the fantastic things she and her friends were doing with their children to ensure they excelled academically. She seemed positively appalled that none of my children had “lesson teachers”. After a somewhat bruising conversation, I went into another room and sat on a chair with a sigh, questioning if and how I was getting it wrong (hmmm, I clearly wasn’t even a Tiger Mum 10 years ago either. Lol!). Then came the quiet whisper to my heart, “If you trust Me and follow Me, I will show you what to do with your children.” Gbam!!!

That one line has been an anchor to me so many times. And (I am so loving breaking the rules our teachers laboriously taught us about not starting sentences with “But” and “And”. For the sake of completeness I will try and sneak in a sentence starting with “Because” before I end :-D) God has truly shown Himself as faithful over the years. I haven’t always done what He has told me to, when He has told me to do it (Lord have mercy on me) but He has stayed true to His promise – a nudge here, a whisper there, guiding me along this awesome and truly rewarding mothering journey. Whenever I am tempted to do things “because that’s what our sort do”, He reminds me, in one way or the other, whose blueprint we are meant to be following as we raise His children.

I pray to God that in my somewhat “chilled approach” or periodic disobedience (or delayed obedience) I don’t make any costly mistakes with the children. I am learning to trust, however, that even if I did, their original Father is ready, willing and able to redress my failings – In His own way and In His own time. After all, they belong to Him. I am also in the truly blessed position of not having to walk this road alone, Papa too is “on it!”

Postscript: Spare a thought for teachers who now have to teach classes knowing that there may be almost as many parents “in the class” as children. Because (I promised…:-)) in their shoes, I would find it most disconcerting to have all these parents, whether visible or not, in my class. Do you think they think we are judging them? Just wondering….


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