Mother Daughter
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It seems a lifetime ago that I used to drop my son off at school and drive off. In my case, it was to the peace, quiet and serenity of my sunlit home where I could potter around in peace for the next 7 hours.

Today that peace is a distant memory as the daily toil of getting my son to his desk — a “journey” that often takes longer than the 15-minute school drive — is steadily taking its toll on me!

The war starts with the first battle — negotiating his “five-minutes-more” bleats when we wake him up — carries through an ever-so-slow (grrr) breakfast accompanied by the rising decibel of my voice reminding him to watch the time, and finally on to registration, often a good 5-10 minutes after the set time.

In case you think that’s that and I am free, you are sadly mistaken. For my blood starts boiling again when I notice how he is either slouched into his chair; or sliding down it to rest on his back his neck unnaturally bent, or if none of these then with his legs up in the air — in short anything and everything that would classify as poor posture. This results in another little skirmish.

And while I am there I can’t help notice that the first hour is Drama! And that’s what I might have inadvertently brought in, because I couldn’t see any of it happening online.

In the space of three months of remote education, my Harry Potter crazy son equates me with Dolores Umbridge — one of the most hated characters in the series.


Over the next few weeks I notice that this seemed the template for most subjects including those, that one would imagine, practically beg for student-teacher interaction.

An hour of drama means a task put up on Google Classroom — design a stage; create characters; create a plot ... and upload the document in the end. “If you need me for anything, you’ll find me on Google Hangouts” is the invariable post-script to the instructions.

Two hours of Physical Education on a Sunday afternoon translates into 8-10 YouTube links — there’s Dance, HIIT, Aerobics, Yoga, Gymnastics — choose what you will and “just do it”. P.S.: “if you need me you’ll find me on Google Hangouts”.

Music means researching stringed instruments one week, followed by researching percussion instruments the next ... As usual if needed, find the teacher on Google Hangouts.

It seems to me that the school is functioning on the premise that a 12-year-old will, when left to himself, draw from wells of motivation to diligently work through schoolwork set on virtual paper.

So who brings the inspiration; who draws a child out of his or her shell to coax him to move out of his comfort zone; to not just do the bare minimum asked for, but to think of ways to challenge himself? Where’s the teaching, which to me would be the teacher creatively using his/her skill and knowledge of the topic to help their students grasp a concept?

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So though ill-qualified my husband and I try and fill in, only to be met by resistance every step of the way. “I think my handwriting is fine just the way it is”; “that’s not what the teacher has asked us to do ... “; “no I don’t want to do the challenge questions; look it says ‘optional’ ... and on and on it goes.

I give thanks for those hours, when teachers, such as my son’s Arabic teacher, plods through live classes, asking each student a question and encouraging them to speak in the language. Not surprisingly, live sessions are my son’s bête noire!

In the space of three months of remote education, my Harry Potter crazy son equates me with Dolores Umbridge — one of the most hated characters in the series.

Clearly my son and I have both been scarred by the online learning experience. I realise now that school — and I mean the physical building 10 kms away — is not just a place where my son is supposed to learn, but more significantly a space where my son and I could grow in our separate ways, free of each other!

— Maria Elizabeth Kallukaren is a freelance journalist based in Dubai