If you believed everything I’ve been told, you would have great concerns for Archie’s level of intelligence. This is because someone who had never met me or Archie but who was the Registrar at one of Sydney’s elite private schools, said to me over the phone in a very matter-of-fact tone, ‘Your son has severe learning difficulties’. And I did wonder how this had never actually occurred to me. And she didn’t say ‘Slight learning difficulties’, or ‘We’re concerned he may have a learning difficulty’ or, ‘Have you ever had your son assessed’; she was instead very clear that Archie was in the ‘severe’ category. I’ll tell you the story.
Towards the end of Archie’s primary school education we started applying to private schools for his high schooling. One of the schools, (the school that will be the subject of today’s post), sent a letter advising Archie needed to attend that school on a Saturday morning and sit some tests that will then be forwarded to an accounting firm to be marked and graded. ‘Fair enough’, we thought and so one wet and soggy morning we trekked to the school and waved goodbye to Archie as he was led away with a large group of other boys to sit around and endure four hours of tests.
We weren’t at all concerned about making Archie sit these tests because he’d been going to school at least six years and although his reports were never of the kind you would frame and hang on a wall, they were okay. We were aware he wasn’t good at maths, just like his father (and his mother for that matter), but at age 11 he was reading and spelling at the level of your average 17-year old so we thought he was your typical child displaying strengths and weaknesses.
Archie walked out of the tests with not too much to say except, ‘They were okay. I think I did okay’, and we thought nothing more about it. We went home and waited for him to be offered a place in the school. And we waited. And we waited and waited. Finally it was nearly the end of the year and we realised we still hadn’t received the enrolment forms. We rang the school and were put through to the Registrar who said, ‘Oh, no, we don’t have a place for your son. Your son has severe learning difficulties’.
Clearly Archie hadn’t done well on those tests that were sent to a bunch of accountants for assessment. And based on the feedback from those accountants the staff at this private school had decided Archie has severe learning difficulties. I have a problem with this school for looking upon a child in such a narrow way. Those tests were looking for future academics; students who excel in learning traditional, non-creative subjects; students who will bring recognition to the school by the school being able to maintain or push forward its position as a school that graduates the top students in the State. So they didn’t want my Archie bringing down their average.
Never mind. Because the story has a happy ending. A few days later, Carl was driving along a road and saw a sign for a school we hadn’t considered. He turned into the school’s driveway and after parking his car, walked into the reception area where he was warmly greeted by the Registrar. ‘Bring Archie in and I’ll give him a tour of the school’, he said enthusiastically.
A week later we took Archie to the school and he was given a tour by the Registrar who asked him lots of questions about himself and the subjects he’d like to do and did he have any idea of what he’d like to do when he graduates. Then we bumped into the school’s principal who invited us into his office for a chat. He talked to Archie for about half an hour and then he asked the Registrar to take Archie on another tour while he talked to us. After Archie had left the room the principal said, ‘That’s a very intelligent young man you have there and we’d love to have him in our school’. I just burst out laughing. I think he wondered what I thought was so funny but just a few days before some accountants and a Registrar at a different school had said Archie had ‘severe learning difficulties’. It was hard not to think that was funny.
We sent Archie to the school where the principal said he was an intelligent young man. Archie was never the kind of student to be awash in prizes on Speech Day but in the HSC he passed all his subjects with his highest mark being 94%. And that was for Drama; a subject the other school excluded from its assessment program.
When someone tells you your son has severe learning difficulties in the same casual manner as being told your son has blue eyes, you need something sweet and white chocolate is always good for sweetness. Here’s a white chocolate rocky road to help you recover from any insensitive remark.
Degree of Difficulty: 2/5
Cost: Depends on the quality of white chocolate. I bought Lindt but there are cheaper alternatives.
- butter for greasing
- 250g plain chocolate biscuits
- 124g unsalted butter, melted
- 1 x 375g pkt white chocolate melts
- 1 x 250g pkt mixed marshmallows, halved
- 100g raspberry licorice, coarsely chopped
- 15g (1/4 cup) flaked coconut
- 1 tbs flaked coconut, extra
Brush an 22cm x 22cm (base measurement) slab pan with melted butter to grease. Line the base and 2 long sides with non-stick baking paper, allowing the sides to overhang.
Place the biscuits in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely crushed. Add the butter and process until well combined.
Spoon the biscuit mixture into the prepared pan. Use the back of a spoon to press the mixture firmly over the base. Place in the fridge to chill.
Meanwhile, place the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a saucepan of simmering water making sure the water doesn’t touch the bottom of the bowl. Add chocolate and stir until melted. Carefully remove bowl from the heat.
Place the marshmallow, licorice and coconut in the bowl with the melted chocolate. Stir until just combined. Use a spatula to spread the marshmallow mixture over the biscuit base. Sprinkle with extra coconut. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes or until firm. Cut into small squares to serve.
This recipe has been adapted from Taste.