The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Efficient School Administration: an unmet need.

There is a tendency, in many cultures, to pay little for the work of a receptionist. Being of a lower salary, the receptionist is, in turn, frequently of lower ability. I think this is a mistake. Just because the job does not, in theory, require much intelligence, this does not mean that intelligence, in such a role, is without its utility. In fact, it seems from my experience, that greater intelligence is required in such staff, than is usually present.

Today, we needed to make arrangements for our son to come home at an unusual time. I wanted to leave a message for his teacher that he should be allowed to leave the class to go down to a bus that could take him home. There was only one opportunity to catch this bus.

I called the school office, around lunchtime. Someone picked the phone up - and immediately put it back down again.

I was somewhat surprised.

Then they picked it up again and started to dial out.

I said: "Hello!". Whether or not they heard me, they put the receiver down again.

Then they picked it up again. I said: "Hello!"

They said: "Hello?"

I repeated myself: "Hello."

They put the phone down.

Then they picked it up again and tried dialling out again.

I gave up and replaced the receiver. Clearly, whoever was on the reception at lunchtime was unfamiliar with how to use a phone. Such people still exist in the early twenty-first century. They were also unfamiliar with what you must do when you find someone on the other end of the phone: speak to them.

I decided to call back a bit later in the hope that someone with a functioning central nervous system might pick up the phone instead.

Sometime after 2 pm, I called back.

The conversation seemed quite straightforward. I explained that my son was to leave at a particular time and needed to catch the bus. I asked for a message to be delivered to his teacher to allow this to happen. She assured me that all would work out just fine. My son would catch the bus home.

Later this evening, I got home and discovered that Ainan, who should have been home about two and a half hours before, was still not home.

I called the school and began: "Where is my son?" without introducing myself, precisely because I rather suspected that the person I would be speaking to would be the person to whom I had entrusted my message.

"The boy, ahh?" she replied, eloquently.

"Ainan: my son."

", ahh. In the office."

"Why did he not take the bus home?"

"Mum get him...or something." she said, with meaning, but without regard for the conventions of language.

I couldn't speak to her anymore, I was too irked - and let my wife handle the rest of the conversation.

In brief, she denied being the person who had taken the message - and denied knowing who might have taken the message. It must be an awfully big reception.

When I finally got to the office to collect Ainan, who had been waiting for three hours to be collected, rather than taking the bus home, the receptionist was on the phone. She didn't even look at me in the several minutes I stood in front of her. It was as if I didn't exist.

I didn't bother to interrupt her call: she would only have denied being on duty earlier, anyway.

From this experience I have come to understand that it is important to ensure the quality and ability of staff in all roles - even those that seem to require little in the way of real intelligence. At my son's school, the reception is unable to answer the phone - and unable to relay a message. Failing in these two functions means that the reception is failing entirely in its role. The proper response to this is either to retrain the staff (I know it seems incredible but some people need training on how to take a message) - or sack them.

I didn't need the surprise of finding my son not at home in the evening when I got home. My first thought was that something might have happened to him. Such worry is unnecessary and was created purely by the incompetence of the school administrative staff.

I worry, further, now. You see, if a school system cannot even do simple things like answer the phone and take messages - how can they handle the vastly more complex challenge of educating a child? The clear answer is that they can't.

I suppose I have been warned. So have you.

(If you would like to learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, a scientific child prodigy, aged eight years and one month, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, four years and seven months, and Tiarnan, two years exactly, please go to: I also write of gifted education, IQ, intelligence, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, College, University, Chemistry, Science, genetics, left-handedness, precocity, child prodigy, child genius, baby genius, adult genius, savant, gifted adults and gifted children in general. Thanks.)

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 11:33 PM 


Blogger Miao said...

I worked as a Chinese relief teacher at a secondary school for a month. The administration there irked me tremendously. I couldn't tolerate it any longer and therefore resigned after spending only one month there.

9:44 PM  

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