Wooden Letters
Lessons From the Classroom

Lessons From the Classroom – Child Development

Okay, so I’m assuming that by already reading this title you’re pissing yourself laughing. “Ames, you’ve stated many times you hate kids!” Yes, yes I have. I hated them even more when I was fifteen. Yet, I still picked Child Development as a GCSE.

Why? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps I unconsciously needed to fill the void after not choosing separate sciences, perhaps I wanted to force some sort of maternal instinct or perhaps I wanted to choose a subject that I knew I had a good chance of passing. It was almost like the “easy” side of biology. Reproduction – you know, the “fun” aspect of biology. Then it was a bit of common sense stuff – as babies they’re all cute and lovely but then they turn into toddlers and become complete assholes. Maybe even at the age I was I quite liked the “psychology” side of it – the individual stages of development and so on. I don’t bloody know.

Of course, at the time, there was a definite reason why I wanted to do Child Development. And that, dear reader, is because I ultimately wanted to work in childcare. I’ll pause so you can again piss yourself laughing. Yes, for whatever reason, I decided at fourteen that I wanted to go into childcare. I wanted to work in a nursery, or perhaps even become a nanny. STOP LAUGHING.

If I could go back and punch that overly optimistic bespectacled wonky toothed little dickhead in the face, I would. However, looking back on things, there were quite a few laughs that were had during the days of Child Development – largely, with my friends Beth and Cilla (both of whom I’m still friends with over 10 years on). Of course, because it was a GCSE, the memories of this subject span over just 2 years, but there’s still a lot to cover…

Lessons From the Classroom: Child Development Pinterest artwork

Theory

Not to toot my own horn, but I was good at theory. I feel as though because it was an interesting subject matter (to me anyway), I made the effort to listen and take things on board. It was ironic that the wonky toothed bespectacled little weirdo took endless notes on contraception and safe sex when she herself was in fact a massive dose of contraception. How I landed my boyfriend and subsequently husband is still a massive mystery to me, but there you go. I guess, if you look at it now, it means that I sort of win.

Yes, I’m aware there’s still a fair bit of self loathing going on here – as an adult, I wouldn’t pick on a 15 year old me at all. However, kids in secondary school, especially girls (and I don’t want to be sexist here, but I think anyone in a similar situation to me at this age would agree), are C**TS. If anyone who looked like me at that age expressed ANY interest in sex or contraception, it was “Why are you bothering? No one’s going to have sex with you!” And I say that 100% from experience. To the point where, at 16, when I was put on the pill to help with horrendously heavy and painful periods, one of the first things I worried about was how the other girls would think of me. What’s this little uggo doing on the pill when no one would even think about having sex with her?! Ugh. I hate them all.

Anyway, I went off topic there. One of my key memories from Child Development was the big ol’ box of contraception that our teacher brought out. It was bants a’plenty – Mrs C, our teacher, brought out what can only be described as a big red lunchbox. She opened it revealing your classics – condoms and the contraceptive pill – as well as the (at the time) slightly less talked about things – the coil, the diaphragm, the patch and so on. I distinctly remember the class passing round a femidom (still a method that’s “common” but that I’ve never seen in Boots) and being like “OH MY GOD MISS HAS THIS BEEN USED?!” One can only be glad I didn’t have contamination OCD back at this point.

Another memory that sticks out in my mind is the childbirth video. Of course, we all remember that sex-ed video we watched back in our last year of primary school, but that was tame AF compared to this graphic piece of work. Even if you’ve seen a few eppies of One Born Every Minute, at least the vajayjay is pixeled out – not in this instance. Oh, I should also mention the fact that this was back in the day where VHS tapes were still a thing. Not only did we have that beast of a TV wheeled into the classroom, but we also saw the downsides to not rewinding a tape after you’ve watched it. Our teacher was determined not to rewind too much, so she opted to do it while we were still able to see what was going on rather than stopping it first. It was in this instance, we saw a baby going BACK INTO THE VAGINA AT DOUBLE SPEED. I’m not sure what disastrous lessons you’ve had in the years gone by, but bloody hell, I still see this in my sleep.

Practical

Believe it or not there was also a practical element to child development. Sort of. In my case, I essentially had two – work experience (which wasn’t actually related to child development as a subject but I’m throwing it in this post because #content), and the virtual baby. Let’s start with the virtual baby, because I’m sure you’re all dying to know how this impatient child-hating basket of crazy coped with a fake child.

Amy & Amy

The virtual babies were a fairly new thing around the time my class had a go with them, and everyone that knew of them was gagging to do a shift with them. There was a boy and girl – or rather, Ben and Amy, as they were called. Yes, of course one of them was fucking called Amy, and of course, this is the one I was allocated. 

Essentially, throughout the first year, those doing child development would do a 2 night “shift” with the virtual baby, and after those 2 nights you would bring the baby back where the technician would be able to see the data on how well you did. The aim would be for a score of 100% – all feeds done, all changes done, responding to crying in an appropriate amount of time and so on.

The babies themselves had a sensor which connected to a bracelet you had to wear (think of a very VERY basic version of the Apple watch – i.e. no screen and barely works). Every time the baby needed something you had to scan the bracelet next to the sensor on the baby’s chest, and you could then do what it needed you to. Now, I’d heard about versions of virtual babies that physically shat and peed and puked as well as screamed the place down. Thankfully, the ones our school had weren’t quite that advanced. They just cried. A lot. But they still needed “feeding” and “changing” – you just didn’t get all of the fluids that came with it. Alongside that you had to comfort it if it was crying, wind it after feeding and so on, and if the sensor picked up any movement that was a bit too aggressive, or if you missed a feed or a change, it would affect your score.

So, I set off with baby Amy one evening and was keen to prove that I could be a decent parent. The first night, all went well. She woke up twice during the night, after which I fed her and changed her, and she went back to sleep. They were programmed to turn off during the day while you were at school, and they’d come back to life after you got home, but the second night, she kicked off big time. Very much like a real baby, she wouldn’t stop crying that second night, and it got progressively louder. To the point where Mama J got involved, and also, my scumbag neighbours started pounding on the wall threatening to “come round and fuck us up.” Oooh, that took a dark turn, didn’t it? If you read my post on getting school counselling, this is actually the incident that kicked things off. They’d been doing a number of things to harass us prior to this – things like threatening to kill my rabbits and put them in a pie and so on – but this is where things got properly nasty.

I won’t go into great detail, but essentially, these threats about coming to fuck us up got more and more menacing, all in the space of half an hour or so. I was in a state, as was my mother, so we took the executive decision to open the “emergency envelope.” I make it sound like it was this big thing, whereas in reality, it was a paperclip. A paperclip you stuck in the back of the virtual baby’s neck to turn it off. It was given by the teachers but was only to be used in the case of severe emergencies. We took being threatened by our neighbours to be a severe emergency. Cut to me the next morning crying my eyes out to Mrs C, my teacher (and also my form tutor) and clutching a carrier bag which contained Baby Amy and a highly descriptive letter from my mother about the previous night’s events.

It was a shame actually. Up until the point where we broke out the emergency paper clip, I’d scored 100%, which, if anything, pisses me off more. I’m sure there’s plenty of you reading this thinking that I immediately failed, because you can’t just turn a baby off when it’s crying gets too loud. Let’s just say, I’d be a shitty parent worrying about what my neighbours think of me.

Work Experience

Alongside my disastrous experience with the virtual baby, there was also my disastrous work experience placement. If it’s unbelievable enough that I chose to study child development, you’ll absolutely wet yourself when you read that my work experience was a two week placement at a nursery for 2-5 year olds. I’ll give you five minutes just to put some paper down. 

Initially, I applied to do my work experience at a bakery in town – the owner was an old friend of my Mum’s – but unfortunately, it all fell through about 2 weeks before the placement started. Cut to me sat in an emergency meeting with the teacher in charge of it all who gave me a big booklet of options. Me being flustered and desperate to get it all sorted (rather than actually taking an extra few minutes to consider what options there were), I immediately saw a listing for a nursery and thought “I’m doing Child Development, that’ll do.”

The nursery I applied for seemed nice enough – the ladies working there were all really friendly, and it was a small enough nursery that I wouldn’t be allocated to just one age group and one team. It all seemed quite promising.

My first week went pretty well. Surprisingly, I actually quite liked the kids I worked with (I’m trying not to think too much about the fact these kids will have started secondary school and more by the time I write this), and I even got to lead on a few activities. It was a nice bit of nostalgia too, playing the games I used to play as a child and stuff. It was all going well until the end of the first week, where I came down with one of the worst colds of my life. I’m not even exaggerating. I was so fucking ill.

Present day me would be absolutely raging, but because I wanted to continue making a good impression, I went in for the whole of that second week. Despite the fact I was sweating my tits off and that I could barely talk. I guess it’s an occupational hazard of working with kids – you pick up every single germ going. It’s probably worth mentioning that at this point, my OCD wasn’t really a thing. Emetophobia was most definitely a thing though, but thankfully, I didn’t suffer on that front, so I guess in that respect you could say I was lucky. Although, I could have done without the disgusting lurgy that lasted for nearly 3 weeks.

Blagging It

Part of the course was also a long-running project that we had to do. As part of a project on Play and the all of the different types (creative, physical, social, emotional, imaginative – I think that was the lot but who knows anymore), we had to study a child under 5 for a period of 6 weeks or so (I think), and write about how they developed over that period. Many people had young cousins or even siblings to study, but me being a total fucking idiot, I had no one – despite being aware of this requirement before I even picked the subject. I was assured by teachers that there may be the opportunity to study a member of staff’s child, but when the time actually came that option was never even brought up.

Eventually (keep up – it’s complicated), my Mum’s friend said that she had a friend with a 2 year old son. Thus ensued a long, bloody difficult way of setting up these visits with her little boy. I managed two visits but it became more and more difficult to get them arranged, with the mum rarely replying to my messages, and giving vague responses on the occasions that she did – presumably because she wasn’t keen on a funny-looking fifteen year old writing notes about her child. I can’t say I blame her. So, with two visits’ worth of material under my belt, I stretched it out and made up a lot of the details for subsequent visits. I’d read enough theory to know what a child of his age would be able to do in terms of skills and play, and I essentially wrote about how I would have interacted with him if I wasn’t an absolute failure at interacting with children. To be fair, in this project, we had a lovely time. We watched In the Night Garden, we made cakes together, we played with Play-Doh… I feel I owe Mrs C an apology for giving her a book full of lies as my final project.

It gets worse – I got an A in that project. I mean, at the time, I was buzzing. Despite being incredibly socially awkward with children, I was clearly a bloody good writer. Now I just feel guilty. I feel I should also point out that my OCD is telling me not to share this because I’ll be sent to prison for fraud. By all means, take the GCSE away. Maybe I can exchange it for another one of the sciences? LOL (you’ll only get that if you’ve read the Science post from this series).

I was so happy when on results day, I found out I’d got an A overall in Child Development – for years it was still the thing I lead with when it came to writing CVs and generally listing my achievements – “So, I have an A in Child Development, but let’s politely gloss over the fact I blagged my main project and actually hate kids.” It felt ironic that the subject I was bigging myself up for was the one that I would never actually pursue – I mean, can you imagine me going into some form of childcare? Lucky escape.

So, what did I learn – if anything – from those brief 2 years studying a subject I never pursued any further? Let’s recap.

Key Lessons:

  • Apparently you can have it all – just look at the girls who took the virtual baby to the annual fair in Somerfield car park. Jump on the Miami with the little bugger strapped to your chest – that’s responsible parenting right there.
  • Listen to yourself – if you hate kids, chances are you probably won’t end up in a job where you’re working with them.
  • Just because you’re good at something, it doesn’t mean it’s the right path for you.

Do I regret Child Development? Meh. I don’t know. Yes, it was absolutely fucking useless, but I had some great laughs with Beth and Cilla, and I got an A – probably not something I would have got had I picked something else. Plus, as you can probably tell from this post, I had some cracking anecdotes that any therapist would love to pick apart further. So, I guess it all worked out. 

Featured image by Ryan Wallace on Unsplash.

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Art

3 thoughts on “Lessons From the Classroom – Child Development”

  1. Finally recovered after laughing and crying about the birth rewinding! When I read the bit about your neighbours, I instantly thought you did the right thing because you took Amy away from a scary situation. Despite what was happening, you still put her first. Go easy on yourself! Loved reading this like I have with all your other lessons so far Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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