Sunday, 7 October 2012

A comfortably average performance. Not...

DAY SIX At School
Mussoorie: the Queen of Hills is a hill station, popular with tourists for it's scenic beauty, but it has also developed into an important centre for education and business. I totally underestimate the length of time it takes to drive around the hillside, it is school drop off time....
It feels like a cross between Katmandu and Darjeeling to me, less cows in the streets, more pack horses. Lots of pashmina's and wooly jumpers on sale. Very local but safe. Cars travel slowly, max 40km's per hour with the horn on, the turns are worse than a hair-pin bend, often taking several manoeuvres to get around. Surprisingly there are few dents in the cars and the drivers are masters of getting through the smallest of spaces.




We stop at yet another traffic jam next to the men's toilets, I catch myself staring at a man having a slash, half impressed that he has chosen to do so here rather than on the streets, half impressed with the beautiful tiles in the latrines and the other half wondering why on earth they didn't finish the job and put a door on..... I am wondering whether there is a ladies equivalent somewhere....




We move on edging past the cars jam packed with kids in smart shirts off to school. And I mean jam packed cars licensed only for 5 in Australia with 12 or more. At this point I have realized I haven't put my seat belt on.... No one does.....




I arrive at the famous school gates, there is no welcome committee, no one to say congratulations for having made it or thanks for coming - I suspect most Parents will have had equally impressive journeys to get here....
I find a desk and get my son's report card and sit in the sun reading it. First comment English "...a competent student who has yet to distinguish himself significantly.... He will need to exert himself to challenge his existing abilities and seek to grow beyond his comfortably average performances."
I crack out laughing. I cannot think of anything my son has done in his 16 years which has challenged his existing abilities more, than his first 12 weeks at Woodstock, the fact that he has achieved a comfortably average performance is impressive to his Mother, and bursting with pride I set off to find the teacher.




That is easier said than done. The Quad was full of staff crammed in by subject, maybe 6 Maths teachers squashed behind a trestle table each with a yellow tablecloth and maybe 5 chairs in front. It is an academic version of musical chairs and I miss out getting my bum on that seat on several occasions, upstaged by Parents who know the ropes. Every single teacher I need to see is talking earnestly to parents... After two rounds of all the tables I am just about to retire defeated when I spot an ex staff member from our Melbourne school. We have a lovely chat and I head off for round two.
I loiter with intent in front of the French teacher, the Indian Dad is now off topic and not even discussing his son.... I find a random chair and noisily pull it up, this is clearly a tad rude, but they get the hint. Made it! Needing to make up with the teacher for interrupting I start with "Hi, I'm from Australia (not simply a 26 hr road trip......) I come bearing gifts" .......as I plonk the entire Yr 10 French syllabus and worksheets given to me by my son's Aussie French teacher in his lap....He is great, I like him and very accommodating to ensuring that both Indian and Aussie French homework is completed by December..
Tick - off to find another Teacher. Biology is free. a young teacher. He has written a glowing report "a successful quarter in advanced biology" but starts by telling me that there is a bit of an attitude, but thinks it is more due to where he sits in the class. I am shocked. In all my years of Parent - Teacher interviews I've never had this before. I launch a counter attack, I blame it on the thinness of the air..... "well move him then, you are the teacher" the teachers around snigger into their chai, realizing that I have just offended the poor teacher, I quickly follow up with the comment that I will have stern words ... I move swiftly on.....
English - I really liked the teacher, I would imagine his classes would be fun. I tell him that as a English teacher I knew he would have chosen his words on his report card carefully, but that I had been surprised by the comment. The Aussie teacher next to him, tells him "yeah you can't write that to the Aussies' they will challenge you on it, it works with the Asians!"
There are no more teachers free and I head in to see the residency staff. . The conversation stops abruptly as my son arrives. He looks thin but happy with really long hair!
We head off to explore the school, I am struck by how big it is and how spread out. Everything is a hike.... The kids look happy. I attend a meeting about applying for college. 10% of students stay in India, 10% return to Korea the rest go all over the world. The poor careers lady has her work cut out trying to keep on top of what is required for the different countries. She advises for each student to narrow it down to 1 or 2 regions in the world. How cool is that?!




I join the queue for lunch and try to work out who are the parents to sit with. There is no real system for this and it feels hard work, I feel like the new kid on the block. Where's the Parent's Association with the welcome table?!!!
I meet my son after school.... his first words were " Mum, the Biology teacher is going to e-mail you, he said to tell you he got me confused with someone else...." I'm not bloody surprised if it was tough for the parents, it must have been even worse for the teachers... Four hours of non stop talking, and not knowing which Parents would win the musical chairs to be next in front of them....
I am left with the overall impression of how glad I am for my son to be having this experience, as we stop to admire the view on the walk home, we both agree it's beautiful here.
Little Wandering Wren

Location:Mussoorie, Uttarakhand, INDIA

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