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.

Posted in daily writing challenge, fitness, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 12 – Rituals

Ritual – noun – a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone.

I think it’s safe to say that over the last month or so, everyone has had their daily routines, habits and rituals interrupted, uprooted and altered. I think it’s important to define the difference between the above 3 nouns, as I often confuse them and may call one by another name.

Routine – a sequence of actions regularly followed. Wake up at 05:20, brush teeth, eat breakfast, put make-up on, drive to work etc.

Habit – a settled or regular tendency or practice, especially one that is hard to give up. Morning coffee, taking medication, exercising regularly, putting your car keys in the basket on the stairs, sitting in a certain spot on the couch etc.

Ritual – a series of actions or type of behaviour regularly and invariably followed by someone. For me, this is some sort of a synonym for a routine, but the term ritual strikes a different note with me. It’s something meaningful, special, important.

The roots of the word ritual all connect with religious rites or activities. I think this is why it seems a more solemn idea for me than just what I do each day. I’m thinking deeply now about what a ritual means to me, and I can conclude the following:

-Something that assists my professional development

-Something that helps my mental wellbeing

-Something that helps my physical wellbeing

-Something that improve my life in small or large ways

I don’t think I ever had rituals before lockdown. I had routines and habits – things that I just did automatically or tried to do because it was good for me. I believe I’ve found some solace in developing and putting rituals in place since our lives changed so dramatically. I have a couple of rituals that I will now explore:

Daily yoga: I wake up at 05:20, take 10 minutes to make my bed, tidy up, lay out my yoga mat and get YouTube open on my television, then I do a yoga practice with ‘Yoga With Adriene’. I have, up until now, done this ritualistically for 10 days by following a 30-day program. She has several of these so I fully intend to continue with them. Yoga had provided me with a clear starting point to my day. It gives me time to reflect, think and connect with my body. Every session is different and some are more challenging than others. My abs still hurt from day 7, but then on day 8 it was a healing practice that didn’t consist of any strenuous movement. I fully intend to continue with this practice when lockdown is lifted as I worked out that I can stick to that ritual and still reasonably get ready for work and leave the house at a sensible time.

Meditation: I’m working on making this a ritual. I don’t do it every night because at the moment my bed time varies from my usual routine to 2 hours later after reading endless blogs and perusing Twitter and Instagram. I’m still not entirely sure what day it is! Before the lockdown, when school routines were normal, I couldn’t go to sleep without following a Headspace meditation wind down. I would never reach the end because it would work its magic and I’d be asleep within 10 minutes. I’m still dipping in and out of Headspace and exploring the different meditations they offer. This again gives me time and space to reflect and evaluate my day and help me to make sense of anything that’s troubling me.

Those are the two rituals most important to me right now. Sure, I have other routines I now follow. Video chat with the girls on Wednesday, NHS clap and virtual pub quiz on Thursday, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical on a Friday night, family FaceTime quiz on a Saturday evening. Those are short term routines though and I don’t consider them as rituals for me right now. They are still important and worth noting as behaviours and activities that are having a positive impact on my mental health at this time.

Yoga and meditation isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. There’s even times when I listen to some of the stuff they say and talk about and an internal scoff echoes through my head. Not in a disrespectful way, but in a ‘you would never say these words aloud to anyone’ type of way because it’s just not in my personality. I can’t suddenly start rocking up to drinks with the girls full of chat about inhaling love and melting my palms into my heart space. However, I respect those elements of yoga and meditation and commit to them fully during rituals.

To conclude, whether you focus on your routines, habits or indeed rituals, you need to focus on what is right for you. If the current climate isn’t the idea one for you to start building new routines and rituals then don’t. Find what feels good for you.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education, wellbeing

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 11 – Perspective

Problems only exist in the human mind. Our perspective of these so-called problems underpins every aspect of our life. I believe that for the last 5 or so years of my life that I’ve slowly morphed into a Stoic without actually realising it until recent months. I’ve lived by a mantra of ‘if you can’t change or control it, don’t stress about it’. I try to advise people not to focus their energy and attention on something that won’t change, get better or get worse as a result. A current example being: my boyfriend and I are ready to buy a house, Coronavirus has had other ideas, everything is now on hold and we’re in lockdown in separate houses with our parents. We’re now into week 6 of not seeing each other and it sucks. However, is this within our control? Not at all. No amount of huffing and puffing and moods is going to make the pandemic stop and lockdown end, so why stress?

I don’t advocate a sunny perspective 100% of the time. I don’t think it’s in human nature to be positive and take the ‘right’ perspective of every situation every time. I think it’s important to reframe your outlook whenever possible if the result has a positive impact on you, but also sometimes we need to call a spade a spade, and a s**t situation a s**t situation. When you look at the world now you could so easily take the perspective of the victim. We’re being indiscriminately targeted by this evil virus, doctors and nurses don’t have the tools they need to save us and, slowly, confidence in the government to handle it is slipping. This I think requires three perspectives. The ‘real life’ one, the ‘Stoic’ one and the ‘positive’ one.

The real life perspective: Things are bad. People are dying profusely, years of underfunding and neglect are starting to peek through the cracks in the civil services, families are being torn apart, some never to see certain family members again, people are dying alone in hospital beds, children are missing school, people are stuck in lockdown with abusive partners, parents or other house-dweller, we are isolated and alone and there’s nothing we can do to change the situation. No amount of community spirit, clapping, FaceTime or hashtags will change the situation we find ourself in. It’s harsh and miserable but that’s the truth of the matter.

The Stoic perspective: All of the above, but with the acceptance that, no, we can’t change anything. I won’t take my emotions out on those I’m with because that won’t change anything. What I will do though is take this experience to learn and grow. I will evaluate what I see and read and hear and consider how I can develop from this. What beliefs and values of mine are coming to the surface right now? Do I act on these already? If not, how will I make them a key part of my daily life when all of this is over? I am not controlled by my mind, I control my mind and I will decide how this scenario plays out for me as far as is within my control.

The positive perspective: Taking both of the above into consideration, but seeing the positivity. Tragedy aside, people are talking more, we’re raising money, we’re voicing our opinions, we’re spending more time at home, we’re finding new ways to work, we’re spending time together as families, we’re exercising in the great outdoors, we’re looking after our homes and gardens, we’re learning new skills, we’re reading, we’re studying, we’re growing, we’re embracing the opportunities before us.

You aren’t a bad person for looking at the pandemic from a different perspective. For the first few weeks, I was still in shock of suddenly not being at work, so I quite enjoyed my early Easter holidays. I starting writing more, I tidied and cleaned, I read A LOT, I watched box sets, I cooked, I did my make-up properly, I took more care of me and I spent time with my parents. I felt so guilty when I first reflected and concluded that I’d, on some level, enjoyed myself. Then I realised that it’s all about perspective. I chose to take a positive perspective which probably did wonders for my mental health and helped to cushion the transition between being a full time teacher running round like a headless chicken to being a 3-4 day a week childminder.

After I was positive, I had a week of ‘real life’ perspective, and I got down and sad and fed up. I was undoing all the good work my positive mindset had done for me previously. And here we are, into 5 weeks of lockdown and I’m living by the Stoic perspective. I will worry about what I can control and let those that I cannot to continue happening around me. This perspective will save me a lot of worry, and I hope some of this is helpful for you too.

Posted in daily writing challenge, Education

#DailyWritingChallenge – Day 10 – Change

I pondered this for a while today. First instinct, as ever, was to look up the definition of the word and research its etymology. This time though I wanted to go at it from a more organic angle. This is how I considered change today while I was in school with the KS2 children.

There is so much change happening in the world today that thinking about it too much actually made my head spin a little bit. I decided to focus on the change right in front of me. The first thing that struck me was the changing relationships with the children I teach.

On average I’ve been providing child care for 2-3 of my own class, a couple of Y4s and some Y7s that are staff children. I found the first few days in this format really challenging. Give me a class of 30+ children and I’m away, a small group of 4-6 and the atmosphere is totally different. It has demanded a dynamic shift of how we relate to each other in the classroom. Whilst I already had a good relationship with the pupils in my class and school, I feel like there’s a sense of ‘in this together’ and in time, we’ll be the ones who went through that weird time when school was open but not school together. Almost like there’ll be that sense of knowing what it was like when it’s been such a unique experience. This in itself is a sadness for me because I won’t be back in September, so if we don’t return to school before the summer I won’t get to even tell the children myself that I’m leaving. That’s why I’m so focused on making these days with them fun and making memories together! We’re having a water fight on Thursday, pray for nice weather for me!

The other change I’m experiencing is with my colleagues. There’s a group of us who keep in touch via a Whatsapp group and I think we’ve all found ourselves dipping into it more. It’s like we’re changing and becoming closer despite actually seeing less and less of each other. It’s almost as though colleagues cope with the holidays and not seeing each other because we’re expecting that to happen, but now that term time has been stolen from us I think we’re realising that actually we’re more than just colleagues and we’re genuinely friends. This, I think, will be a lasting change that will bring us closer as time goes on. Again, this is bittersweet for me as I won’t be returning to the same school as them when all of this is over.

Change could easily have turned into a mass of purple prose – but I’ve kept it simple. I hope that this resonates in some way. We’re all going through changes, but change and adaptability is what helps us to survive. And we are survivors.