Mr Cellophane

Today, at playtime, his lordship decided to show his true colours to his new 1:1. (Who he has started calling his assistant!)

He was playing a game on the stage near the field. There was a mixed group of children playing with him. Everything seemed happy. Fine and dandy, until he decided he didn’t want a particular child to play with him. He told him to get off the stage, so the child said “yes,” but refused to get off the stage all the same. His lordship lost control and pushed him, started hitting him and ran off when the whistle was blown, signalling the end of the playtime. 

Realising he was in trouble for pushing another child and hitting them, repeatedly, he absconded away from the play ground. The rest of the children walked back into the classroom. I called for help on the walky talky, whilst another member of staff followed him, when he climbed over the fence and onto the field. He walked around, but eventually calmed down and walked back into class, only to be caught by the headteacher and handed a consequence. 

I spent ten minutes after playtime, listening to 4 children’s versions about what happened. I repeated what they had told me the best I could remember and kept asking whether it was correct or not. I felt a little bit like Judge Rinder, checking over the facts in a court case. I was getting nods and agreements so it all went down on the incident report. 

Apparently it was unfair that he was being harassed about this whilst the other child got off free, for ruining his game. He returned to class after sensory, with a bumped head sticker. He admitted he had hit his head on a chair whilst he was talking to the headteacher. I can’t say that I was surprised. His usual avoidance tactic is to hide under a table or chair and pretend the conversation isn’t happening. He also said he tried to be invisible when he was on the field. Sorry dude, but only Harry Potter owns an invisibility cloak. 

He carried on in the morning with his 1:1 (assistant), completing a SPAG assessment and a maths assessment, with much bargaining and sulking. We won’t see him until Thursday morning now, with any hope, he might have completed his four pieces of incomplete homework and extra maths work in his book bag by then. Who am I kidding…?

Hysterical sobbing on the kitchen floor…

From as early as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher. I’ve wanted to make a difference in a child’s life. I’ve wanted to impart my knowledge and wisdom onto them. I’ve wanted to make a child feel loved, cared for, important and smart, when they might not feel that way at home. I’ve wanted to have played a role in making tomorrow’s world a better place, because maybe I could teach the person who discovers a cure for cancer? Maybe I could teach the teachers of tomorrow?

When I lived in Cyprus, I made a club with my friends where I would be the teacher, they would be my pupils and I would teach them what I had learned at school that morning. I guess now you could say I had mastered my learning, if I was teaching it to other children after school. 

I thrived in my year 10 work experience in a local primary school for 2 weeks. I went back to volunteer and help out whenever I could after my GCSEs and during my A levels. Being a teacher was all I ever wanted to be. Until one night.

I was so desperate to become a teacher as quickly as possible, that I begrudgingly went to University for 3 years to train because it was the quickest way to do it. I never wanted to go to university as a child or student sitting at an interview with the careers advisor .

I’ve taken quite a few knocks along the journey to becoming a such a ‘great’ teacher, as I’m so often told that I am. I failed my AS levels spectacularly. I got Us in everything but English Language. I picked myself up and dusted off the humiliation. I worked harder in my second year of sixth form but felt like such a failure at the same time. A feeling I am so frequently familiar with these days. 

I had torturous placements in schools at University. In fact I failed my final placement because my mentor thought I couldn’t teach year 3, at all. I had to spend my transitional placement building my confidence back up, at a local school where I was teaching year 3 again. I had a great mentor there, who was a life saver in reviving my dream of becoming a teacher. 

After graduating, I struggled to find my first job because my confidence was so low and my Grandad had just passed away. I started doing supply with an agency and did that until Christmas. In January, the local school, that saved my dream, gave me a chance to teach a class, make it my own on a term by term contract for a sick cover that lasted until July. 

I started my NQT year, officially, at a school in special measures around Christmas time in 2011. Naively, I told myself it couldn’t be as bad as the rumours kept telling me. I worked hard, took a lot of bullshit from a few colleagues and parents that year. The school went from special measures to good in my second term.(We were almost outstanding, but progress had not been sustained for a long enough period of time.)  I don’t remember much about the last HMI visit there, except that it was on a Wednesday and Thursday. I was a zombie in school, on the Friday and my other Grandad died on the Saturday morning after that. It was the shittiest week of my entire life. I finished my NQT year successfully, the next Christmas, with a borderline outstanding RE lesson observation. 

I have felt like such a failure on many occasions in my adult life. Apparently, I haven’t changed that much over ten years because I still feel quite like a failure most weeks. Sometimes, people can tell you that you are amazing at what you do, but you never really feel that way. Why do we put ourselves down so much? Is it because our job is so relentlessly challenging and everything is always made to feel like it is our fault first and nobody else’s? We can’t pass the blame when it comes to accepting responsibility for the lack of progress in our children within 10 months. Especially when they have such poor attendance, or a disruptive member of the class, or a completely different, harder, ridiculous curriculum to learn! We’re not allowed to make excuses for why the numbers are so low, just give reasons for why they might be. 

Last year, I taught year 2. It’s a lovely age group to teach, if you don’t mind wobbly teeth and snotty noses, but it’s also a stressful one. I taught my class to be independent children. It took me 9 months to train them to actually get up and find the resources that they needed, instead of waiting for pencils to drop out of the sky and land in their hands. By the end of the year, they could walk sensibly and silently to assembly, without having to be reminded 20 times, along a stretch of corridor. They cottoned on that when I said they’d be in at playtime, I meant business and they would finish their work then, or in detention, or worse still…golden time! All because I did such a sterling job! 

Well one night last year, I didn’t feel like I was doing such a great job anymore…

05.05.16

Today I feel like the worst teacher in the world. The worst person in the world. Today I forced my wonderful children to sit in silence whilst I read out petty rules for a standardised reading test, which I am supposed to make feel like a ‘normal’ lesson. I’m sorry, but in a normal lesson, I don’t have 8 adults dotted around the room siting 1:2 ratio with the children, encouraging them to have a go and read the next sentence. I only have 2 adults between 27 children. My children might not be brilliant readers with expected level comprehension skills but they can tell that something very different is happening when we have more adults than normal for a reading activity. 

Due to the strange circumstances of this ‘normal’ reading activity, a child had a panic attack at question 5 on the test because they couldn’t find the answer in the reading booklet and everyone else was turning the page over to the next questions. 

I’m such a horrible teacher, that I made a child, who has been absent for 2 days, sit both reading tests in one morning because the other 83 papers, for each test, cannot be marked until he has finished them. 

I’m such an amazing teacher, that I am now having to force my children to write crap about crap so I have enough evidence to suggest that they could be working towards or at expected levels for ‘average’ 7 year olds. Statements that were only really given to us 3 months ago. Really? Like we don’t have anything better to do instead…like learn how to swim?

My children can’t even spell 50/109 Year 1 and 2 common exception words, yet I am expecting them to tell me that a bird is a noun and kick is a verb. Beautiful is an adjective and gradually is an adverb. A contraction is a… a prefix is a… a suffix is a…etc. I am 27 years old and I remember exactly when I learned that nouns were nouns – in year 3. I remember when I learned how to use connectives other than and or because to extend my sentences and keep my writing interesting…year 4.  

Im nothing like my year 2 teachers, Mrs Donut (Don-nut) or Miss Evans. I’m the kind of teacher who makes children sit compulsory tests so the progress can be measured, I can tick off crap on assessment sheets to prove that each child is actually not working towards age related standards because my children are bored of having to write everything. They don’t want to write. They just want to have fun. I want to have fun. We want to make jelly, cakes and magic potions. We want to play pretend, dress up in old clothes, play with dolls or cars. Play in the sand and water trays and have longer gymnastics lessons on the apparatus. 

Instead I am sitting on my kitchen floor, sobbing hysterically at what an awful day I have put my children through. I’m crying because I know non of my children are working at greater depth, only a few are working at expected levels, most are working towards expected levels at best. I’m crying because after a long, stressful day, I have just dropped my dinner on the floor. It is 10pm and I’m tired. I want to go to sleep, but I can’t because I need to assess 27 children on things they can’t even do properly, despite my best efforts. All I keep thinking is…in just over a week, I’ll get to feel like this all over again when we do the Maths SATs. 

Why did I want to become a teacher again? Why did I choose a career that makes me feel like this so often? Will I ever find the balls to just quit and work in tescos instead? Will I ever feel like I’m good enough? Will I still be able to do this when I’m close to retirement? If I feel like I do now, then. I’m not sure I’ll make it to retirement. Not in this vocation anyway. 

Whizz forward a few months to November, and I’m playing back the horrors of that week, last academic year. I’m now realising that no matter what my job entails, it doesn’t matter. What matters is the children I teach. I know them. They know me. That’s all that matters. We can read better than last year. We can count further than last year. We can remember how to count in 2s, 5s and 10s with more accuracy this year. We can swim further than last year. We can do loads of things that we couldn’t do when it ‘mattered’. But did it truly matter? Does it really matter? Each child is different. No 2 people are the same. So what if they couldn’t do it  in June? They can do it now and I know exactly why… there is no pressure to get it done now. I’m not pulling my hair out when they are struggling to write an exclamation sentence, or add two two-digit numbers together, because it just doesn’t matter. The only things that matter is that we are here, we are learning and we are still trying to have fun. 

“Show me some respect!”

I’ve never said this to a child, personally, but this week I’ve heard a child say it to another child. Apparently the other children don’t listen to him when he tries to tell them what to do… (Well, if you ask them like that, I don’t blame them for ignoring you!) 

He hasn’t been with us since the beginning of our time together and to say he’s struggling to understand our established classroom routines and expectations, is a tiny understatement. 

Apparently, his Mum is really confused as its not like him at all. My guess is that his last school probably didn’t have the balls to tell Mum such things as I do. 

Ever since he arrived, on the first day, he’s made his presence on his group’s table known. He argues frequently with the most outspoken and bossiest child on the table. He even argues with the children who are so compassionate and compromising around others, he’s practically walking all over them. 

I’ve moved him up a table because he seems quite bright, but he’s clashing with the characters on that table too. And I say he’s quite bright, he would appear even brighter, if he tried to put more effort in. Things seem to come easily to him, so he rushes EVERYTHING! And even when he tries to take his time, his work is still rushed because it actually hasn’t been that much longer than it would normally take him, if he rushed it. He’s bright but lazy. 

There’s rumours and 5% possibilities that his lordship could be leaving us, to go to another school. If, and it’s a mammoth if, he does leave, my bets are on this one taking his place. What code name shall I give him? Suggestions on a postcard please? 😂

Chief meerkat broke me today.

He was bubbling all day yesterday but managed to pull himself together before lunch, to avoid a detention. In the afternoon, he continued his reign of terror by messing around, disturbing other children and bossing them about. He had no idea what we were doing, yet seemed to have an undying urge to reveal his psychic inabilities, by telling children what they needed to do, before I’d even got to that stage of the instructions. 

We were making switches and testing them during a science lesson. He decided to tell children to get more batteries to see what happened. So I ended up with 6 children running backwards and forwards to try out different batteries. “We’re testing them to see which ones work,” he explained. So I followed him and found his table had seven batteries on it all lined up in a little row, ready to blow the bulb he was using. That was the nail on the head yesterday afternoon. I told him he needed to buck his ideas up today and even encouraged him by giving him a very important job to do, if he behaved.

All morning, he has carried on being disruptive. He talked during the register, even after I stopped twice to remind him to be quiet. He already knows why he needs to be quiet, he can explain very clearly why he can’t talk during the register, yet he still did it. 

He didn’t practise his spellings at home, this week, so his score was lower than it’s ever been before. In his defence, many children got low scores today. To say I was baffled by this, would be lying. I know why they didn’t do as well, because so many of them kept leaving their home spelling books on the tables at the end of the day. This evening, I made sure that every child had their home spelling book in their book bag, before they walked out of the door. Honestly, I can’t do that every week, it just took too long. Is it too much to ask 27, 7-8 year olds to remember to take their book from their tray, when I remind them 5 times every day at 3pm anyway?? I tell each table once. There’s five tables in the class. That’s 5x each evening. What more can I do? Physically put the book inside their book bag for them? How about I staple each child’s book to their forehead?

During English, he abandoned his group and started disrupting the other groups. He crawled underneath tables, threw pencils and pens across the room when I wasn’t looking. Neither my TA or I saw him physically throw pencils and pens, but many children reported it and they were getting rather annoyed by him too. He ended up with a detention by this point so I just added it to his list from yesterday. When I caught him crawling from underneath his table after a child in his group yelled his name, I’d reached my limit. I orange carded him and sent him to the phase leader. He came back, apologised, then as soon s she’d left the room, he started messing around again. 

In guided reading, he messed around and completed his independent task too quickly. He’d rushed it, and had scribbled his picture when colouring it in. He was rubbing out the whiteboard instructions for his group. He was generally annoying all 5 girls in his group. Which was, in turn, annoying me. As each girl took a turn to come and disturb me and my focus group, to tell me what what was (or wasn’t) doing. He went to detention, and then after lunch, he went to use the toilet. So much noise was coming from the boys toilets whilst I was doing the afternoon register, my TA went to check on the situation. She found him standing on the toilet itself, peering over the partition separating the cubicles. 

That was it. I broke. My patient, Mary Poppins demeanour crashed down like a tower of Jenga bricks. I sent him back to detention to explain himself to someone higher up. For once, this week, I managed to finish the register in a silent classroom. He came back with an a apology, a warning and a requested update after every lesson this afternoon. He was on a behaviour report for the rest of the day. He was given a detention for the entire lunch break tomorrow and I needed to have the awkward conversation with his mum after school. 

The meerkat broke me. He actually broke me and the class knew it. They all kept a very close eye on him, all afternoon. If he stepped even a millimetre out of line, they were on him like a tonne of Jenga bricks. It’s amazing to see how a class of children can recognise when the teacher has reached her limit, and rally together to back her up. Ultimately, my class of darlings, performed my behaviour management routines for me this afternoon. It made me realise that they do, truly, listen to me. Even when I think they haven’t, they’ve heard me repeat my cautions and encouragements so often, they can literally say them for me now. (Even with the sarcastic tone for the smarty pants I have.) Maybe I am doing a better job than I give myself credit for. Maybe my words don’t fall on deaf ears, like they appear to, most of the time. Maybe I can make it until July. Just maybe. 

A blooming ‘tubby’ nightmare.

A quick dash to Toys R Us, after work today, ended up being quite eventful.

First of all, I had to figure out how to get there. I’ve driven past the store several times whilst driving around the city centre, but I’ve never needed to go there, so far, so working out how to get into the car park was daunting. I followed the signage and managed to drive myself around the back of the store…it was dark, literally no other cars around, so I carried on driving aLong this one way road. I eventually ended up at a junction where a car was exiting so boldly drove in, hoping and praying it wasn’t a one way exit to leave Toys R Us. Seemed like it was ok and the arrows were psitively showing me I could drive through, so I followed the arrows and parked in the nearest non-parent and baby parking space I could find. There were many available so I doubt parking in one would have caused any inconvenience to real parents with children with them, but being an honest person, I parked where I was technically supposed to park. 

I don’t know what it is about this store, but whenever I first walk inside, I always say to myself “There’s so many toys!” I find it slightly overwhelming. I don’t recall having many toys r us experiences where shops were stocked with toys from floor to ceiling. Maybe this lack of experience in my childhood causes me some minor anxieties, walking into this particular shop. 

I wandered around aimlessly, in search for the Teletubby section. I was almost run over by a child, called Precious, test riding a princess bike. Maybe she might get it from Santa on Christmas morning, unless she did run somebody else over in the shop.

I initially only went into the shop to buy a Dipsy soft toy, for my niece’s second birthday on Thursday, but a carefully placed design of wrapping paper added to my £10 shop ever so slightly. As I reached onto the top shelf to grab the green Dipsy doll, Po made a suicidal jump off the shelf, landing on the floor with an “E-oh,”. I quickly picked her up, dusted her face and placed her at the back of the shelf. No more jumps for freedom on my watch.

Having found my desired present for little Miss V, I headed towards the tills to pay and head home. Why do they put the baby stuff in between the toys and the tills? I almost knocked over a few prams on my way past and spotted a gorgeous crib too. I don’t have any children of my own, yet, but I’ll keep it in mind for when I do.

At last, I had paid for Dipsy and his teletubby wrapping paper. I headed out of the door and got stuck behind a slow walking, elderly lady. I think she must have been psychic because every time I dodged and weaved to try and overtake her, she happened to move in that direction too. Maybe she was drunk? Luckily, there was loads of space in the car park to give her a wide birth and overtake her, otherwise I would have had to follow her at less than 0mph all the way to my car, which I had conveniently parked right next to hers. 

In the end, I managed to get to my car and take off before she’d put her seatbelt on. I whizzed out of the car park and headed home. It’s been a long day. My quick stop at Toys R Us seemed to take forever…but I’m home now, ready to wrap this teletubby and every time I press the cello tape to the wrapping paper, against his body, he starts talking! 😩

Little Miss V had better love this “Dippy Tubby” 

Christmas Show tantrums.

It’s that time of year again. Where teachers have a constant loop of Christmas songs playing in their heads. It isn’t even December yet, and we still manage to find the songs playing, dimly, in the backgrounds of our brains. This year, we haven’t gotten so far as even deciding which songs to sing whilst telling the Christmas story. 

I do remember this time last year though, his lordship had declared that he didn’t want to be in the Christmas show. He’d spent the entire afternoon spinning on his bottom, polishing the hall floor with his trousers, refusing the join in and take part.

He didn’t want to sing the songs.

He didn’t want to go on the stage.

He didn’t want to have a speaking part.

He just didn’t want to do it.

If it was any other child, I would have put on my stubborn face and stood my ground, forcing him to take part, whether he liked it or not, but by this point of the year, I think I was flagging already and struggling to maintain my composure. He was wearing me down, daily. He couldn’t handle the noise and I couldn’t handle the defiance. I left him to it, spinning around at the back of the hall, as the other children practised their songs. 

The next practise session, I left him in the classroom with my TA to sit around. No doubt about it, he probably managed to sneak onto an iPad whilst she was busy building props and spaceman costumes. He had a sly way of sneaking onto an iPad within a split second, then, when you caught him and told him to get off, the argument would escalate into a tug o’war over the electrical device. It didn’t help that a girl in the class is JW and can’t do any activity even remotely religious, so she was sitting at the back of the room/hall playing on an iPad anyway. Even though she wasn’t taking part in the show, she could still tell you the words to the songs, just from listening to the other children sing them.

His lordship on the other hand, was different. We would try to squeeze in a last minute practise at the end of the day, before home time, and he’d scream all the way through it or try to turn the music off. He has ear defenders which you’d remind him to wear whilst we were singing but he’d still kick up a fuss, claiming he could still hear the music and it was too loud. His tantrums were becoming unnecessarily frequent and over the most insignificant things as well. I had to explain to his mum that he didn’t want to do the Christmas show, if it was ok with her, we’d give him some extra work to do whilst we practised and performed the show, she wouldn’t need to come and see it, if he wasn’t going to be in it. She didn’t seem bothered which proved to me why he wasn’t bothered about it either.

I think this was the moment, last year, when I realised that it would be a long year. Yet, I still chose to keep him and the class rather than teach different children at the end of the summer. What is wrong with me? 

I’m betting a bag of haribo sweets, that his lordship won’t want to take part again this year – which is probably for the best, seeing as he will never be in school for the afternoon practises. 

Disco Diva

Tonight was the school disco, after school. Even though somebody was too late to buy a ticket for the disco, his Mum managed to wrangle him a ticket by kicking up some sort of a fuss. He was on a half day today as well so I’m not entirely sure why she was so desperate for him to go, especially when it would mean that she’d have to walk to school to pick him up at lunch, walk back later to drop him off and walk back again to pick him up before their train to London. That’s a lot of walking for someone who complains about how often she has to walk a mile each way to drop him off and collect him from school. 

So the morning went pretty ok, considering we did no maths (his favourite subject) and he started to strop, when we were doing phonics before playtime. He didn’t have his book bag which contained his guided reading work that he was supposed to be catching up on, so he couldn’t even complete that in guided reading before he went on an iPad for free reading… I did make him do a story review before he went on an iPad. Just because I felt like it. Anyway, apparently, his mum had told him to forget his book bag this morning, because he wouldn’t need it!? How did she know he wouldn’t need his reading book and guided reading work with him, this morning. 

He had a minor meltdown when he could only buy one cake for children in need instead of 5. He had a pound and enough to buy 5 cakes. How very dare the PTFA let him buy only one? (Well considering they were letting him attend the disco when he had missed the opportunity to buy a ticket last week, he should count himself pretty lucky!) he went out to play happily and came back afterwards, excited for maths. When I told him we were actually going to be doing no maths today, like it said on his timetable, he flopped onto his chair exasperated. His 1:1 arrived to take him to sensory, just in time. The class and I started our English, writing similes, and when he arrived, he asked what he had to do for his learning. He got on with it, without any fuss. During English, he started asking why he couldn’t stay in school this afternoon, because he wanted to stay. (And mum probably wanted him to stay in school too.) 

At lunch, he managed to keep to his requested lunch option, so I didn’t need to chase him around school trying to force feed him fish fingers and chips today. He did, however, drop his cheese wrap on the floor as he was trying to sit down at the table. So we had to go back to the hatch and request another. By the end of lunch, his mum was 15 minutes late collecting him from school. My crystal ball started glowing, telling me that she would be incredibly late collecting him from school. Maybe 3 hours late? After collecting him from the disco? Possibly? Nobody was more surprised than me, when she arrived ten minutes later to collect him. 

He went home and came back at the end of school for the disco. Desperate to get to the party, he was climbing on the door, trying to open it. As soon as my late collect was released to her parent, I let him through the door, after I witnessed him kiss mum goodbye with a cuddle for the first time ever, after a little prompting from myself to say goodbye to mum. But in in my 14 months of teaching him, I’d never seen this kind of interaction with mum first hand. I walked him down to the hall so the party could officially start, with his presence announced by the rest of my class welcoming him. The children were all sitting down for the house rules. The first game was musical statues. He didn’t win but surprisingly, he took losing in the best way I’ve ever seen. When he was told he was out, he simply said, “I’ve never got that far in the game before,” and walked to the side. I stood in shock for a moment. Where was the scream? Where were the tears? Where was the drop to the floor and massive tantrum? 

At the end of the disco, he was called to meet his mum. Another adult, said she’ll assist him travelling through the hustle and bustle of parents, so he could meet his mum outside. Panicked ensued as he remembered his train that he couldn’t be late for. The adult went to grab his hand and as she did, he tried to push past her to whizz out of the door. For fear of him getting squashed amongst the parents or hurting a waiting younger sibling on his way out, we both grabbed him to steady him. He dropped himself to the floor, trying to wriggle away. This is when his meltdown happened, instead of after losing musical statues. Repeating that he had to get to his train and he couldn’t be late over and over again. He ended up on the floor, right in front of the doorway, where waiting parents could see his behaviour and waiting children had to walk around him in order to get to their parents. He wouldn’t stand up and walk sensibly, so I think, at one point, my colleague actually lifted him back up into his feet, but he dropped to the floor again as he tried to wriggle away. In the end, my TA took his hand and they both led him outside to is impatient, waiting mum. 

The last remaining children were collected and I returned back to my class to get ready to go home. I’m hoping he doesn’t leave his glasses as his grandma’s in London this weekend. Although, I’m not holding my breath, I am willing to bet a packet of haribo sweets on it!