Posted in Education, teacher, teaching, wellbeing

Brain Dump.

It’s the penultimate Sunday night before school starts again. It’s been a funny old summer and really has just felt like I’ve waited to go back to school. 6 weeks has flown by and this week is time to get back into work mode. There’s a few different things I need to do this week so I’ve come here to get it out of my brain and into one place.

  • Go into school and prepare resource packs for each child
  • Find missing chairs for the children
  • Plan the first few days PSHE – class culture, mental wellbeing and support etc.
  • Map out the first half term of English
  • Plan the first few English lessons
  • Map out the first half term of maths
  • Plan the first few maths lessons
  • Read up on the Ark Curriculum+ Year 6 units for background knowledge
  • Re-read the end of KS2 expectations
  • Read over the most recent DfE guidance for the return to school
  • Re-read KCSIE and the school Safeguarding policy
  • Go over notes for any SEND children and plan for their first few days
  • Create/find initial display resources and put up in classroom
  • Check school clothes and buy some more long sleeved dresses/tops (long sleeves hide the tattoos – Dangerous Minds)
  • Enter important dates etc. into TPTC planner
  • Buy laptop bag for new school laptop
  • Continue with ‘Reading Reconsidered’
  • Get 2020-21 appraisal docs from head and populate my parts
  • Sign contracts with school manager
  • Go over English subject development plan
  • Continue with ‘Teach Like a Champion’
  • Spend some time getting used to using the classroom desktop and Google Drive to access resources
  • Handover of class Twitter/Google Classroom etc.
  • Make contact with children via GC and signpost parents to back to school support
  • Email housing developers to arrange viewing of show home and look around the plastered 3 bed home we’ll be having in the winter
  • Update budget spreadsheet once paid and organise funds for the month
  • Get petrol ASAP
  • Make time to pick BSL course from lockdown back up
  • Make time also to read over any CPD notes taken from lockdown to refresh memory
  • Take a moment to look over upcoming birthdays and arrange cards/gifts/money

That’s probably not even everything! However, must remember to take it one day at a time! Tomorrow is Monday – wake up, go to the gym, come home, get changed, get petrol on the way to school, sort anything for the children tomorrow – that’s the priority.

I think I’ll browse the internet for KCSIE and the latest DfE guidance, that should induce sleep at least! (the DfE guidance, not KCSIE!)

Posted in Education, teacher, teaching, wellbeing

The impending new school year…

I appear to have a touch of insomnia tonight, and I can only put it down to the beginning of pre-school year jitters. I didn’t nap today and I’ve even had painkillers with drowsy side effects, yet my eyes are like saucers and no amount of calming piano on Alexa is getting me sleepy.

Admittedly I’ve felt a bit lost at times over the holidays. I think leaving one school, my first school, and starting another during this pandemic has been an odd experience – nothing happened in the usual manner and it’s felt more like I’ve slipped out the back door unnoticed. Not that I’m missing the dreadful awkwardness that would have been getting called in front of a whole school assembly to receive a leaving gift and inevitably give a short speech and farewell! That would have been the height of my anxiety thus far in 2020 if it had gone ahead.

I was eagerly awaiting more information from my new school. I wanted all the details, I wanted to start to plan, but it’s only in the last week that I’ve gotten a work laptop and access to the planning and timetable for autumn, so I’ve been in limbo until now. I mean, it’s probably a good thing, I’d have most likely worked all summer if I could have. However, I still haven’t felt like I’ve had a break. I wonder if all those lucky enough to usually go abroad for 2 weeks have found the same? It’s like that is the peak of the summer holidays and without it, it sort of feels like you’re just waiting to go back to work.

Anyway, since my mind won’t hush itself for me to get some sleep, I’ve been surrendering to listening to its thoughts. Those are mainly of my new class. I’ll have 26 children, but 1 is a full time integrated resource child, so I’ll only have 25 in my class – that’s a weird thought, I’m used to 30! Almost a third of my children have SEND needs, so I’ve spent a lot of time reading up on them and thinking about how best to provide for them. I’ve had information today about the timetables and how I can structure the first week, so now I’m thinking about those crucial first few days. I want to have a really positive focus, I’m thinking of some sort of ‘happiness and positivity project’ where we use lots of different mediums to explore what this looks like in school and in life, with lots of work on SEMH and creating an open and loving culture where they feel like they can talk to each other and me. After all, I’m totally new to them as well!

It’s scary moving on to new colleagues too. At my previous school I’d gotten to a point where I had a solid little group of work mates, ranging from the building supervisor to the deputy head. I liked having friendships with not only teachers, but admin, learning support, SLT and caretakers. It seemed to give me some sort of balance and it was difficult to let that go. Luckily, I’m seeing said group this Friday for my leaving do. I must say, despite the additional effort, I do love the notion of having to book tables in advance for 2 hour slots. We have the whole night planned and I can wear heels fearlessly knowing we have a table and seats at every bar! I guess I’m just also having the ‘making new friends’ jitters, I think it’s harder as adults, especially in professional settings where everyone has their own stuff to do and keep them busy. That being said, the staff culture at my new school is incredible. Everyone I’ve met so far has been so friendly, helpful and really positive. I think that will be really good for me.

Anyway, I’m starting to ramble now. I guess the main purpose of this post was to try and tire my eyes out, but I still feel quite awake, so I guess the next stop is Family Guy on the tele until I fall asleep! I can’t believe there’s only 13 days of the holidays left. In 2 weeks time I hope I’ll be getting a good night’s sleep, because we’ll have finished the INSET day and be ready to welcome the children back tomorrow! Just, wow!

Elle.

Posted in Education, teacher, teaching, wellbeing

Pause.

100% coincidental that the blog subject is ‘pause’ and it comes after a 7 week hiatus from writing.

Things have been busy since we welcomed more children back to school. I’ve tried to get ahead of myself and plan as much as possible early so that I can be present for the children and not be worrying about the workload.

I’ve taken this evening to pause and reflect. I spent an hour long PSHE lesson today working with my bubble on managing uncomfortable feelings and exploring scenarios and good advice. I’m taking some of it.

I’ve found myself becoming overwhelmed by the changes that are about to happen in my life. I’m moving from my school of four years, the place I began my teaching career, leaving behind a few great colleagues and moving to a brand new school. I’m so excited to start at my new school. I’ve already connected with some new colleagues, I’m meeting some of my class next week, I feel fully supported by my new Head Teacher and the school in general aligns with my values.

I think it’s just the circumstances in which I’m leaving that are niggling away at me. I don’t get to say goodbye to all the children, I’ll miss my friends… As positive as I feel about the move I’m bound to be anxious about fitting in somewhere new and essentially starting again.

I’m taking a moment to pause tonight. I’m reflecting on my time at my current school, the highs and the lows, and ultimately my reasons for leaving. I’m reflecting on the most hardcore interview process I’ve ever been through, and how sick I felt because I wanted the position so much. I’m elbowing out the imposter syndrome that creeps in by reminding myself that the Governor, who was on the interview panel, said I was a pleasure to interview and was outstanding a week after the interview when I bumped into him.

I’m reminding myself that little things like having a stricter uniform policy (tattoos need covering, no exceptions) don’t matter, and I can conform because professional settings will never change their opinions on things like this. However, I’m concerned about how the one on the back of my neck and my forearm will be consistently covered… Surely we draw the line eventually? It’s an excuse to lose some weight and go shopping for some new school clothes that keep me covered!

I’m pausing to remember that these last few weeks in school are about plugging the gaps, but also about enjoying the time we have together, making memories and ensuring the children are having fun and doing okay personally. That mindset has seen a few Maths Mastery lessons go out the window, being replaced by interactive iPad and Seesaw based learning.

I’m pausing to consider how far we’ve come. I desperately miss my boyfriend, who I don’t live with and who I’m not really allowed to see. Since March we’ve maintained a long distance relationship over around 4 miles. I’m pausing to reflect on the last few weeks where we’ve been allowed to spend some limited time together and feeling grateful for that.

I made a conscious decision to leave my laptop at school tonight to ensure I don’t do any schoolwork. Even at a time where the stresses and pressures are different, it’s important that we take a break and find room to breathe.

I encourage you all to take a moment to pause.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, teacher, teaching

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 19 – Inclusion

I’ve been away from my blog for a couple of days, I’m afraid to say that I just haven’t felt like writing! I hate that feeling because I feel like I’m betraying my love of reading and writing. This topic in particular confounded me last week and sort of brought about my writer’s block. I’m only a few years into my career and, of course, as a teacher I believe in inclusion. I’ve seen it work brilliantly and I’ve seen where it doesn’t. In my current class there’s a clear example of inclusion probably doing more harm than good, but when you’re stuck between the EHCP process and a hard place you have to do what you have to do.

So I was going to write about my personal experience, but then I got scared about GDPR and anyone being identified as it is quite a unique case. What has prompted me tonight to write about inclusion is my enrolment in an online British Sign Language course. Firstly, I need to plug this course. I’ve done one module so far and it’s brilliant. It’s normally £25 but with everything that’s going on they’ve developed a cheaper, tiered price list that starts at £3! Find all the details here.

There are two key things I’ve taken away from this recent venture so far, the first one I want to mention is the vastness of inclusion and what that means. Now I don’t know if I’m being naive, but at this stage in my career I understand inclusion to be about ensuring that everyone has access to the same teaching and learning as everyone else, regardless of learning or behaviour disability or challenge. I’ve never taught a child who is Deaf (or deaf – look it up, capitalisation makes a difference!) and until this year I hadn’t taught any children with complex needs, only a few challenging behaviours. The reason I feel that inclusion is so challenging is because it is so vast. We talk about the unique child and how everyone is different, but then every disability is different isn’t it? I’ve taught a handful of children with autism, dyslexia and dyspraxia and whilst two children may have had the same diagnosis, none of them were alike at all. The learning support assessment would flag up the same suggestions for supporting them in the classroom but you could not apply some or all to each child exclusively. What works for one hasn’t always worked for another in my experience.

This is why I reserve having a loud opinion on inclusion. Whilst I would love for everyone to access and experience the same, for some children it just doesn’t work. There can be so many barriers outside of that child’s own disability. Staffing, training, funding, resources, time – all of these things can impact our ability to promote inclusion, and these are the challenges we face if the child is even able to cope in a mainstream classroom. I know of one child however who I taught during my training in Y1. An abundance of complex needs that branched out into the physical and behavioural and led to this child having to be restrained for their own safety on a number of occasions. I recall conversations where the main concern was, ‘What happens when this child gets older and gets stronger?’ We couldn’t see how we could help this child experience mainstream school because there would come a time when real damage could and would be done that would be unable to be undone. It brings me great joy to say that I worked with this now Y4 child all day last week as they have started coming into school for childcare provision and it was a wonderful day. Everyone’s, not least the child’s, hard work has paid off and whilst entering for any formal examinations is off the table, they are about to embark on a Y5 journey, and I’m sure Y6, in a school that didn’t know if they could keep them safe and educated. That is when inclusion succeeds. What happens after Y6 is yet to be seen, and truth be told this child probably will need to attend alternative provision for their own safety and to receive appropriate education, but not yet – and that’s the win for me.

Where it doesn’t work? Well, my complex child who attends different classes and ‘accesses’ two different curriculums in the name of inclusion but who has made little to no progress over the last 12 months, and that is nobody’s fault. I should note that I typed accesses in inverted commas because the curriculum I have to provide for this child is of little value. What would a child get from Y5 history when they have the reading comprehension level of a Y1? We’ve worked so hard, as has this child, but we are still battling to get an EHCP so that we can start the process to get them into alternative provision because a mainstream secondary is unthinkable for this child. It’s a disgrace that the way the system works means that this battle has been going on for far too many years. The vast array of SEND means that inclusion is, and in my opinion always will be, a tricky, challenging and controversial (for some) topic.

The second thing I wanted to talk about was what I’ve learned so far from my BSL course. I’ve only learned the alphabet and numbers 1-10 so far (that’s session 1) but I’ve really surprised myself at how well I appear to have picked it up. I can look at words being finger spelled and follow along to identify the word and I can recite the alphabet almost fluently. I put off signing up to this despite telling my colleagues I was going to because I was worried it would be too much and I just wouldn’t be able to remember it. I looked at an image of the manual alphabet and just thought there’s no way! I’ve proven myself wrong tonight and it’s given me a little boost. I’m very lucky that my brain works in such a way that physical things, such as using my hands for sign language, sink in quite quickly – and always have done. It’s not that way for everyone and this is where the connection with inclusion comes in, what I have picked up easily could take another person weeks to get right. I’m not being big-headed, there’s a plethora of skills and knowledge that will never sink in for me that come naturally to many people I know. It just got me thinking about inclusion and the idea that it never stops. Adults can face as many learning difficulties as children, and I think that for us to fully understand and appreciate the challenges of inclusion in schools, we need to be able to apply it to our own lives and experiences.

And finally, I’m hoping to learn more about inclusion and SEND as my new school has a dedicated team and an integrated SEND facility as we have quite a few children with a whole range of SEND. I only got a glimpse at my interview but from what I can remember there’s a sensory room, walking frames and apparatus and a whole bunch of technology to support their learning, I can’t wait to find out more!

Posted in daily writing challenge, poetry

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 18 – Love

Love is like oxygen. Love is a many splendored thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.

You ask me about love,
I ponder it for a moment.
What is there to say?
If you know, you know.

I hope that you know the love of a parent,
Unconditional and warm.
A safe place to always go,
A protective blanket to shield you.

I hope that you know the love of being a parent,
To have your world revolve around a child.
To know that they are hope,
That things can get better, and will.

I hope that you know the love of a sibling,
A rollercoaster it may be.
Knowing that you’ll kill for them,
But no way can they borrow your clothes.

I hope that you know the love of a grandparent, 
An uncle, aunty or cousin.
The wider family that form a structure,
So vital for each part of your life.

I hope that you know the love of a lover,
The other half of your soul.
A different love to that of your family,
A powerful force that can shake the earth.

I hope that you know the love of being a lover,
To put an unalike blood before yourself.
Two separate spirits, entwined,
A marriage or a companionship.

I hope that you know the love of being a friend,
Someone who knows all your secrets.
A sibling that you choose, 
A best friend to keep you going.

I hope that you know the love of an animal,
To be blessed to keep a pet.
For they are only part of your life,
But you are all of theirs.

I hope that you know the love of self,
To find hope, joy and peace inside.
They say until you love yourself,
No one else will love you.

Well you see, that’s not quite true,
We know self-love is important.
But for the times when that is tough,
That’s what the other kinds of love are for.

Family, friends, lovers, animals.
I hope you know love in any shape or form.
If there’s one thing you pursue in this life,
It should always be love.
I hope that you know love.

Credit: Charlie Mackesy @charliemackesy
Posted in daily writing challenge, teacher, Uncategorized, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 17 – Wisdom

W – Words. One of the many ways that we communicate and which have the power to do so much.

I – I think, therefore I am. Does this mean that by merely considering the wisdom of years gone by that I embody it?

S – Stoicism has guided me so much through these dark days. What’s bad for the hive is bad for the bee. Surround yourself with support.

D – Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you. I’m not a Christian girl, but there’s something about that particular line of wisdom that rings true right now. It’s also something my Nana used to say.

O – Obviously we need wisdom to get through times like these. Words from days gone by that help us to make sense of the chaos that lies outside our front doors.

M – My efforts today have been poor, I’ve looked for wisdom and today found none. Sometimes you just need an early night and some chocolate cake.

We all have dark days, I hope that you all have some wisdom that you can turn to that will help to guide you.

Posted in daily writing challenge, teacher

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 16 – Perseverance

Perseverance is a key quality of a growth mindset. Perseverance is the acceptance that you will likely fail many times before you succeed, but you must experience the failures before you reap the successes.

Credit: https://discoveryourprint.co.uk/2016/08/10/just-keep-swimming-how-to-swim-with-the-current-of-change/

I probably channel Dory in my daily life more than I’d like to admit as a 30-year-old, but she has a point, no? Just keep going, persevere. Don’t give up.

As educators we face challenges that require perseverance all the time. We can’t give up. We don’t give up on our children, we don’t give up on our colleagues and we don’t give up on ourselves. If we did then there’d be nothing left.

Perseverance is a state of mind. It’s the idea of mind over matter, and it is harder to be strong of mind than strong of body. I struggle with perseverance every day, more so in my personal life. I’ve been in a constant state of ‘getting fit’ for around 10-15 years. I’ve had bursts of determination and perseverance where I’ve seen the rewards of a strong mind. In a similar way, I’ve had plenty (probably more) of instances where I’ve allowed my mind to weaken and fail. I’ve woken up today with a sense of perseverance and no more excuses. I want to get fit this year, once and for all. I want to lose weight and develop healthier habits and right now is the ideal time to do it if I can get my mind straight. I always used school as an excuse. Too busy to eat, too busy to food prep, too exhausted to work out etc. Not a lot of that stands anymore, so why am I still making excuses?

The answer is that I’ve lost my perseverance. At the start of the year a nasty week of Norovirus gave me a kick start and the perseverance followed. I had a good 2 months or so of fitting in some exercise but most importantly of all, eating well and observing a calorie deficit. Now I need to find that perseverance without the grim side-effects of that particular sickness virus.

I will persevere with my morning yoga until it becomes an indispensable part of my morning routine. I will persevere with daily exercise, whether it’s a light walk or a moderate run (did the ‘run5k, donate £5, nominate 5 people’ challenge yesterday!)

I need to persevere for my health. Others need to persevere for their careers, their families, their futures. Our Government needs to persevere to beat this virus. Our communities need to persevere to support one another. This country needs to persevere to withstand lockdown for just a few more weeks. I am genuinely terrified that people are beginning to disregard the guidance and this will lead to another spike of infections and deaths and no doubt result in a longer, more severe lockdown.

Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas, ‘Do not go gentle into that good night’.

You can’t give up, you can’t give in. You need to fight against the dying of the light. You need to persevere against the challenges that you face.

Posted in daily writing challenge, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 15 – Friendship

Credit: https://www.etymonline.com/search?q=friend&utm_source=extension_submit

If there’s one thing I’ve developed and strengthened throughout all of this, it’s my friendships. I have a couple of different pockets of friendship groups, as I’m sure many people do, and each one has grown and matured in its own way since lockdown began.

I have my uni girls, best friends for a decade now. Three of us live within a couple of hours of each other and one lives down in London, so we’re used to an online relationship and only a handful of reunions when all four personal and professional calendars align. We’re all at very similar yet very different junctures of our lives. One has a baby, one has met a new boy and started again, the other is busy renovating a house to move into and I’m just on the cusp of buying my first home. We always check in with one another and make time to catch up with the group chat, but we’ve really looked out for each other over recent weeks. One of my girls works in the NHS, another two have been furloughed and I’m providing key worker children’s child care. We’re all experiencing such different elements of COVID and lockdown.

I have my school and sixth form friendship group. This consists of my best friend since Y12 who I’ve known since Y10 and some friends I met in sixth form. They’ve always kept in touch but I sort of went my own way during my 20s. Over the last few years we’ve all reconnected somewhat and I’ve probably spoken more to these girls in our group chat and over Zoom calls in the last 5 weeks than I have in the last 10 years! Not counting my bestie. I like this group because we’ve known each other for around 12/13 years, and we’ve done our own thing, but we’re all capable of reconnecting and learning from each other. I love that I’m a part of this little group because we’re all so different.

Finally my work colleagues, I wholly consider these people my friends. We’ve had a group chat since December. It doesn’t contain everyone, just a group of us that went on the Christmas do. We’ve written in that more over the last 5 weeks that we have since December. We miss each other. as a team we’ve been torn apart. Two of our teachers are self-shielding and from this week we’re on a social distancing rota which means we’re only in school for limited times and with as few staff as possible. I maintain that when a natural school holiday comes around, we’re ready for a break from school. This isn’t a natural holiday and we’re clearly missing the contact we’d usually have. I’m truly gutted that I only have 3-4 months left of technically being part of this team, our relationships were just starting to bloom. However, I know that I’m going somewhere good and where I’ll also cultivate friendships and feel supported.

Truth be told, I don’t think I’d be getting through the dark days of lockdown without friendship. Obviously relationships with family and my boyfriend counts, but I’m trying to make a distinction between friends, family and boyfriend. They all play a vital role in my sanity right now. I sincerely hope that these friendships continue to go from strength to strength after lockdown.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 14 – Creativity

I have a love/hate relationship with creativity. I always considered myself creative, so did others. People would say I’m creative in friendly family/friend chat. I sometimes do feel creative. When I make something for my classroom, when I create a display, when I improvise in some way. Then I look at literally anything else my teaching colleagues do, make a brief comparison and then conclude that I’m not as creative as I wish.

I’m not bad at art. I have a good eye for detail when I focus and I can sketch quite well. I’m always envious of anyone who is effortlessly artistic. I just don’t understand how they can pick up a paintbrush/pen/pencil/marker and create something amazing with little error and vast talent. One of my colleagues knocked me up a Chinese dragon in an afternoon out of scrap resources from the art cupboard and honestly – it’s the best damn thing you’ve ever seen! I’ll be so sad to leave it behind when I move schools in the summer.

The good thing with creativity is that it’s subjective. Educators are having to get creative now with how they deliver knowledge and skills to their pupils. This looks like many different things, live classes, challenges, setting written work, online assignments… School’s are being creative with how they communicate with families, becoming more reliant on social media perhaps…

To be creative is to create. And we create learners and leaders of the future every day. I’m going to stop putting myself down every time I see a display that’s better than what I could do. We all create, it just looks different for everyone. My creativity comes with how I balance my life and teach my children.

I invite you to explore what you create and how that shapes your creativity.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 13 – Community

Community is

Checking on your neighbour to see if they need any shopping or medication.

Sharing a knowing smile with your neighbour as you pass at a 2m distance.

Taking to the doorstep at 8pm on Thursdays to applaud and cheer our amazing care network.

Setting up new Whatsapp groups for various friendship groups you no longer see.

Calling someone you haven’t spoken to in a while.

Watching the Friday night musical on YouTube.

The weekly family FaceTime quiz/catch up.

Buying a tin of biscuits for the supermarket staffroom with your essential shopping.

Putting on a brave face for the children you still care for in school.

Hosting a water fight for the key worker’s children because they haven’t missed a day yet.

Developing stronger bonds than before with less physical contact.

Saying what needs to be said.

Leaving some things unsaid.

Sending updates to the school Twitter page just to keep in touch.

Sending a photo, video or message to someone just to try and brighten their day.

Thinking about others before yourself.

Understanding that we’re all in the same boat.

Friendships built on one thing in common – lockdown.

The only thing that will get us through this in one piece.

Community is everything.