One of my main concerns during lockdown has been my daughter’s education. During the latter stages of the previous school year, when all students were home-learning, the amount and quality of learning she experienced wasn’t as in-depth and thorough as it would have been had she been in school. This is absolutely not a slur on her school and the teachers, who did the very best they could under extremely difficult and unprecedented circumstances, nor is it a slur on my daughter, who did as much as could be expected. It is simply a statement of fact. My daughter is now 14 and has just begun year 10. The difference in just a few weeks is certainly noticeable – she is very happy to be back at school, spending time with her friends, and being back in a stable and familiar environment in which high quality learning is a given.
I really do fear another situation arising where she must again learn from home for any period, especially as I see this academic year as easily being the most important in her life to date. Should that be the case, I will do everything I feel necessary to fill in the gaps, even if it means having little time of my own, though that still wouldn’t come close to the level of learning she experiences in the physical school environment.
Having said that, one of the few benefits we experienced during the previous lockdown was a lot more family time together, particularly time spent watching films. I like nothing more than bringing my daughter up-to-speed on the movies I consider to be classics – films I watched at a similar age to her during the 80’s, plus a few from more recent times. We watch a wide range: action movies, comedies, thrillers, musicals, and British comedy-dramas being our favourites. It was only relatively recently that I noticed that in addition to enjoying that precious family time, some of the movies were acting as subtle education aids. Before I elaborate, I’ll just add that we’re now quite comfortable in watching films which include bad language. She is sensible and we know she won’t be going around swearing like a trooper. When broaching this with her, we also got the classic response ‘well, I hear it in the playground most days anyway!’
Standout examples include The Full Monty, which, in addition to being hilarious and having a fantastic soundtrack, illustrated unemployment and the hardships certain communities have gone through in recent times. East is East highlighted the diversity in our communities and the sociological landscape of the 1970s, especially in cities like Salford and Bradford, whilst also prompting some interesting discussions on religion, race and racism. Billy Elliot illustrated the state of the UK in the early/mid-80’s and described the miners’ strike much more effectively than I could have. It also led to some interesting discussions about homosexuality, class, and imposter syndrome. Rocketman also led to interesting conversations about homosexuality, mental health, honesty, and the importance of being true to ourselves.
In thinking more about this, I realised that it wasn’t just the British comedy-dramas which proved beneficial. Even films like Mamma Mia and Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again highlighted many of the values and beliefs we’ve tried to gently instil in my daughter over the years, not least the fact that there is a world full of wonder and excitement out there just waiting to be discovered and, should that seem appealing, it would be wrong not to follow those dreams in favour of living the life so many of us settle down to. It would break my heart to see her leave to live somewhere else but I wouldn’t want it any other way if that’s what she wants to do. Excuse the cliché but life is short and I wish I’d seen much more of the world than I have. I certainly don’t want my daughter to reach her mid-40’s and think the same way.
So, I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that there can be positives to be found during the dark times, if we look hard enough. We didn’t set out to watch any movie because of the educational potential – far from it in fact. Nor did we force any of the conversations I reference above. This was, however, a welcome by-product of spending some time together. The examples may seem nonsensical but popular culture, especially television, movies and music, form a huge part of our lives. If they can help me and my wife to help our daughter become a well-rounded, tolerant, informed person, then I’m all for it.
The sooner we fully emerge from the Covid-19 situation and return to something resembling normality (whatever that may be), the better. I now feel though that perhaps I should step back, take a minute, and consider if my worries / concerns / anxieties are well-founded, or might there just be a few more positives to take from this? I certainly won’t feel guilty again for plonking the family in front of the TV with some chocolate and a classic movie for a couple of hours or so.
As always, thanks for reading and take care.