The tea leaf.


Did you know that a teacher’s job also includes looking out for light fingers?

Nothing is sacred in a primary classroom. Nothing.

From rubbers, to pencils, to paper, to paper clips. Anything can mysteriously go missing from a classroom at any given moment in time. The gold dust inside the classroom though, is blu tak, don’t ask me why as I have no idea! 🙄

A few years ago, I had one child who would try to steal the toy cars from school. One afternoon, I noticed that he was limping slightly so I enquired as to what was wrong with his leg. He quickly replied with “nothing,” and tried to walk away. However, my eagle eye noticed that his trouser leg looked heavy at the bottom, near his shoes. Never in my life did I ever imagine that the words “What is inside your trousers?” Come out of my mouth. Inside the classroom. When I’m talking to a young boy. 🙄 He emptied his pockets of a rubber and a few stones he’d found on the playground…the search continued and eventually I had to ask him to jump up and down a few times… because apparently shuffling the toy cars up your leg as you lifted each trouser leg was the key to hiding your loot!

Aha! A few toy cars dropped from inside his trouser leg and onto the floor. Needles to say, he was embarrassed I had caught him but didn’t seem to realise that I’d already known they were there. A detention was given and he was on high alert for the rest of the year. Every time he went to the toilet, I’d check his shoes and feet to see whether they loooked suspiciously heavy. He wasn’t the only tea leaf though. We had another boy who would collect counters and counting cubes in his tray. He’d have a secret stash of everything and would be willing to share his loot with his peers. One day, he showed a goody two shoes though and she threw him under the bus. An adult covering the class, discovered he had a tray full of sticks and stones from the playground and asked whether I thought he would use them as weapons in school. I said I highly doubted that he’d planned that far ahead…

We teachers spend a fortune on items that make our classrooms our own. We stand in poundshops and bargain shops looking at the longevity of certain items and testing the weight of other items, just in case somebody throws a fit and launches the item across the room. You never know when it could be the day that his lordship, or somebody else, blows their top and aims the pencil pot at another child. Or when a tea leaf could take a fancy to a piece of shiny stationery…

I used to fill my classroom with lots of lovely things that I had bought myself and intended to take away with me, whenever I happened to move classrooms or schools. The array of lovely things has dropped considerably, just recently, because I think it might entice some light fingers in the class. Any nice things I have for my classroom, are kept on my desk and in plain sight of myself (and the goody two shoes) when teaching or hidden in a high cupboard…just in case.

Night Nurse Nightmare (episode 2) 

 

I’ve started sneezing and suffering with a runny nose, so I took some Night Nurse medicine before bed last night. (Only 3 or 4 hours ago in fact!) 

In my dream…I arrived at my house, after a long, tiresome day at school and a quick dash to Tescos supermarket for a quick tea. A colleague from work was working at Tesco customer service/checkout and we were discussing the recent American awards ceremony. Who had won and who we thought should have won – like you do, apparently.  The winners were being photographed in the weekly offers aisle so I took a quick sneaky peak before I went to my car and I didn’t know who any of them were! 

I walked outside to discover that I didn’t have a car to drive home in…Only a go kart which I had to use hand signals for turning with. Then the weather started to spit rain slightly, so I hopped on and headed home. 

On the way home, some youths are running away from a crime and have jumped over a tall wall, where there is usually trees. It’s ok though the police have overtaken me in my little go-kart and are hotnon their tails! I find my sister on the way home because apparently, she, Mum and dad had moved into a terraced house, nearby. 

So my sister is now with me and she is upset about something that happened in the lunchroom at work. I say “I have a frozen ham and pineapple pizza in my car, if you want to come over for tea?” – Because in dreamland, frozen pizza (cooked obviously) makes all work problems better. From what I can gather about the phonecall I over heard, on my way out of the back door, somebody had cooked some smelly food in the microwave and blamed her for the smell…? She’s on her phone telling mum, or one of her friends. 

I had rushed home on a go kart, but the pizza happened be in the boot of my car? Which makes total sense right? So I sneak  into my house, quickly and quietly, leaving the door unlocked so my sister can get inside, in a hurry if she needs to. I then have to sneak out to my car via the back door, when she arrives, and have to be incredibly quite about it, I shout over to her, “stay in here, away from the lions!” because a pride of lions have decided to live outside my house. 

 
An old man had been chasing them around to get them to move on but he was being circled by a few lions now, and it didn’t look promising for his poor, unfortunate soul. So I sneak around him, but get chased by a lion to my car. 

As I unlock my car and dive into it, a lion pounces and scratches down the driver side window and the metal door. I’m frantically trying to push my key into the ignition when it clasps its paw around the handle and opens the door. The same door that both of my eldest nieces cannot open without some help, yet a lioness can! Unbelievable. I slam the door shut, towards me, and hold it to me as tightly as I can. 
Then I woke myself up, telling myself it’s just a dream, aloud. 

Thank goodness. 

How do our brains concoct such weird and strange dreams? What do they mean? Why do they only happen when I’ve taken Night Nurse medicine? So many questions but I’m too tired to research answers now…back to sleep, hopefully without any lions in it. 

PPA antics

This academic year, I’ve recently discovered how productive I can be during a PPA day! Why? Because I’m no longer distracted by somebody! 🙊

Two years ago, I started working with one of the best colleagues I’ve ever had. I knew working with her was going to be fun, when she introduced herself on our induction day, but what I I didn’t realise was that it would be so blooming hard to focus with her around.

Together, we both have the attention span of a typical child in either of our classes, which on PPA days, would be absolutely useless. Now we no longer work together and I have my PPA days with more focussed colleagues. To say PPA days are no longer fun, would be an understatement, although my new colleagues do bring cakes and goodies to eat! I get to lunchtime and I’m not only starving, but slightly bored, mostly frazzled. I haven’t had my intermittent rounds of guess the song or giggles over our childhood anecdotes. 

Guess the song would be a game we’d play, to “rest” our brains for a moment, where she would wear her headphones and start humming (or ahh-ing) to a song on her playlist. I’d then have to try and guess the song she was trying not to sing the words of. It became our PPA tradition and I miss it greatly. For a few weeks, towards the end of our time of working together, she was off sick and I realised the potential I had to be productive, until lunchtime. 

Lunch is my limit on a PPA day, if it doesn’t get done/finished by lunch, it probably won’t get done/finished that afternoon! 😔 At lunch, we used to dash off to Costa Coffee or McDonald’s for a refuel of energy and unashamed giggles. 

Even though we still meet up regularly, I do miss our PPA madness. Chance made us colleagues, but our craziness made us friends. Hopefully, one day, soon, I’ll be working with her again and we can resume the madness that will most definitely ensue. Until then, our afterschool tea and cake get togethers will just have to suffice. 

10 Reasons why I might have a soft spot for Tigger…

 

He hasn’t been with us for very long, but he’s already stepped into some very big shoes. (And won my heart in the process.) He isn’t as demanding as his lordship ever was, but at least I can smile when he’s misbehaving. Sometimes I even have to have a little chuckle with my back turned, because you don’t expect him to be so cheeky in a lovable way. Dare I say it, even when he dabs!

10. “Miss, I’ve written summat!” “Would that be the date by any chance?” “Erm, no not yet…” 😕

9. The multiple times that he checks in to ask whether he’s having a good day so far, but not really asking…”I’m ‘aving a good day so far ent ah?” 😁

8. The way he will contradict himself when he’s in trouble. “We were play fighting, yeah. Then it turned into real fighting. But we weren’t actually fighting though yeah!” 🙈 Then, he’ll happily accept any consequence that comes his way. Unlike some other children who will call other adults liars for catching them and following through with school procedures. 

7. When Nan smothers him with kisses in the morning, he will squash his face up in disgust but then fall back for one more quick peck, before he saunters into the classroom like a boss. Didn’t you know it’s totally cool to kiss your Nan goodbye at the school drop off?! 😗

6. The way he will sing so enthusiastically in singing assemblies, like he’s auditioning for the X Factor but if he catches you watching him, he stops and lowers his head in shame, then lifts it again and carries on belting his little heart out. 🎤 😯

5. When he’s so desperate to give an answer in class, he will lift his entire body off the floor, until he is practically floating. Hovering  like a meditating Buddha, so I ask him and his mind goes blank and he cracks a smile. 😆

4. When you work with him, 1:1, he has a cracking sense of humour. “I got (learned) a new joke last night…” “do you want to share the joke?” “I would…but I can’t remember it!” I have a feeling that some of his new jokes, might be inappropriate to tell your teacher anyway…😕

3. He will genuinely compliment other children without a second thought. A part of me has realised, that maybe, he wants to be as good as them and thinks he never could be…oh if only you put as much effort into learning as you did into being top dog. 👍🏼

2. He loves to have a responsibility to do and aims to please. He likes to be helpful in a non-nuisance way. Give him a job to do and he will fulfil it like his life depended on it, unless you ask him to do some writing or maths work by himself…😩

And finally…

1. The way he will lift his water bottle out of the basket and take a few sips before he lifts it up, as though he’s about to flip it, then look my way and say “you thought I were gunna flip it dint ya miss…I got ya that time!” Then he smiles his cheeky smile and carries on with his day…🙄

In all seriousness, he has his moments when the dabbing is frustratingly annoying, but I don’t go home feeling drained and exasperated by him. At the end of the day, he is truly trying to have better days and control his anger. You can really see he is trying. Trying not to get on my nerves. I think his lordship just used to do it on purpose, possibly to see how close he could push me to the edge…before I leapt off it with my eyes tightly shut.

Hallelujah! 

That doomed moment when you pre-empt that your class are going to write a load of drivel and 💩 even before they have left the carpet. 

You’ve modelled writing descriptive phrases countless times and wonder why you’re even bothering to stand at the front of the class, pen poised in your hand, floating mid air as you choose a child to verbalise a descriptive sentence opener. “It could be a clause or just a descriptive noun phrase,” you explain. A few hands fly into the air and you try your best to choose a helpful starter.

You choose the child who closely resembles yourself in more ways than you care to acknowledge, she flies into a rambling description starting with “As the Pacaya volcano erupts,” 

Startled, like a deer caught in headlights, you stutter a thank you and resist the urge to squeal. Smiling, you scribe the sentence opener on the board. “Who knows what I need to write next?” – you ask, hoping that they’ll recognise the clause being used and remember the need for a comma. A chorus naming the punctuation mark sings in the air and before you’ve even had a chance to ask for another volunteer to help provide ideas, Meerkat is blurring out his next idea to lead on from Mini-Me’s starter. “Glowing, bubbling lava dribbles down the side of the volcano.” he announces. 

‘Who are these children?’ You think to yourself. ‘Where have they been these last 18 months?’ You can’t contain the giggle of delight that escapes you as you frantically try and scribble meerkat’s ideas onto the board. 


You dole out the praise like benefits from the government and wonder whether this could be a great lesson instead of a 💩 one? 

Maybe a little incentive will the spark they all need to be able to start their writing like this and try to keep it up, all the way through today’s writing…? 

The stamp that tells a student the headteacher would love to see their work gets their attention and before you know it the competition is set. They all want the stamp, but you insist that only one child can receive the stamp each week! They scramble to their tables and begin writing. You think to yourself ‘What have I done?’

By the end of the lesson, you dread marking the books and reading the awful attempts they have made. You can’t bring yourself to even look at them. However you are happily shocked and surprised to find that some of them have actually listened to you!? Their writing makes sense and has beautiful descriptions. Oh, if only it had correct use of capital letters too?! 😩 That wasn’t really the focus of the lesson and it’s possible that with the excitement and hurry to write beautiful, detailed descriptions, capital letters were the last thing they were thinking of. They were thinking of that coveted stamp!

I feel like there should be a mic drop emoji right now! 👍🏼 Here is a few examples of the descriptive writing, I read after this lesson…(obviously spelled correctly with perfect punctuation!)

Example: 🌋 1

As the Pacaya volcano erupts, the steaming, bubbling, hot lava comes out of the volcano. You can feel the ground shaking as the gigantic volcano erupts. You can hear the bubbling, steaming lava getting closer and closer to you, as it comes out of the volcano and onto the green, lovely grass. As the volcano erupts, you can see the grey, black ash cloud coming out of the top of the Pacaya volcano.

Example: 🌋 2

As the volcano erupts, you can hear the bubbly, orange, volcanic, hot ash flowing out of the volcano. When the volcano erupts, you can see the bubbly, orange lava dripping down the side. You can see the black ash making people poorly. You can also see the cold, grey volcano shooting out red, orange, bubbly lava. You can just smell the volcanic ash. It is shooting itself out of the lava. As the pressure is released, the lava shoots out of the crater, continuously dripping down the edge of the volcano. 

Example: 🌋 3

As Pacaya volcano erupts, you can see the coal, black ash blowing and flicking out of the volcano. You can smell the danger in the air. You can hear the bubbling lava coming towards you and you can feel the hot, burning lava flowing through the town. You can taste the fear running through you. The blistering sparks flick out of the crater of the volcano. As the oozing lava flows down the side, you may need to run. Be careful. Do not step on the beast coming to get you. As the pressure pushes and pushes, BOOM! 💥 the beast roars out of the crater on top. 

The Trump effect

So there I was reading through a reading comprehension about the history of teddy bears with seven boys in my class.


We discovered that a former American president was called Teddy Roosevelt, by his closest friends and family, to which Tigger asked “is the new American president really called Mr Trump? – like a fart?” 

I giggled inside for a split second before replying. “Yes, yes he is.” All seven boys burst into hysterics and couldn’t believe the news. You have no idea how difficult it was to recompose myself and readjust the group focus onto the comprehension task. Throughout the rest of the reading, there were intermittent snickers and giggles. My perfected teacher look put the giggles to rest though. We managed to get through the rest of the planned discussion questions and look at modelled full sentence answers which they will hopefully be using tomorrow.

Needless to say when I repeated the same text and questions with the group of girls, in the afternoon, there were no giggles or hysterics. Just sensible decoding and comprehending in reading. 

If I’m ever asked, I’m wholeheartedly going to deny that Mr Donald Trump has ever brightened up my Tuesday morning whilst I’m leading guided reading with a group of boys. 

The big O.

Ofsted. 

(Which big O did you think I was talking about?)

Like a black hole, swooping into a school and sucking all of the energy and enthusiasm out of teachers. Ofsted arrive and suddenly, you’re preparing yourself for the biggest performance of your lifetime. You make sure everything is perfect and you have a back up plan for the back up plans of every possible situation. It’s the only two days in which you preplan your outfit the night before and make sure you have matching shoes ready. You don’t eat or sleep very much. You survive on caffeine and sugar for 2 days. I’m not a huge fan of Ofsted and don’t believe that their judgements have much of a foundation to stand on. They are an unnecessary added stress on an already stressful job.

Being a teacher, a part of you is innately programmed to dispise outside people who walk into your school, solely to judge you on the job that you’ve done day in, day out for so long without their judgement previously. They look into every nook and cranny, make a judgment based on what they see for those 2 days, then leave without a trace. Sometimes, they’ve already made their decision within the first five minutes. It feels equivalent to somebody judging you on converting oxygen to carbon dioxide. How would you feel about somebody judging you on how well you respire? Depending on the sort of inspectors that arrive, depends on how your experience of Ofsted pans out. 

My first experience of Ofsted was in my NQT year. We had a HMI inspection that turned into a Section 5 for the second day. SLT didn’t tell us though so I was none the wiser and carried on floating around like a ghost out of its body. Truly, I don’t remember much about the inspection, except that my Grandad was dying at around the same time. I stuck around school for the results of the inspection that Thursday evening, went for a quick celebratory drink and then headed straight to Grandad’s house, where the whole family was sitting around him. My family went home for dinner but were headed back to Grandad’s in the middle of the night for a few more hours. I spent that Friday feeling like a real zombie in school. I hadn’t slept very much in the past 3-4 days whilst we prepared and endured Ofsted. Grandad died on the Saturday immediately after. 

My second round of Ofsted was less painful. Nobody died as a result of it. Everyone around me was flapping around like headless chickens whilst I dished out muffins for morale. In my mind, I just kept telling myself that it wasn’t the end of the world, when in fact I was just reassuring myself that nobody was going to die this time. Ofsted came and went and nobody died, at least not to my knowledge. My lesson observation went well and my feedback was positive, although rather rushed due to the inspector having poor time keeping skills. Ofsted left us and we had survived. How I had survived, I have no idea though.

The day that we got the call from Ofsted, his lordship had a meltdown over apples. Monday was apple day in the fruit bowl. We usually had one or two apples left over on the Tuesday. That day was Tuesday and we had oranges instead. Two children chose the last remaining apples and then there was only oranges available. This did not satisfy his lordship though. He didn’t want an orange, he wanted an apple. He threw his coat on the floor and began screaming in the classroom. I sent the children out to play and perched onto a table exasperated. I discussed the possibility of looking in other class fruit bowls to find an apple but couldn’t guarantee an apple. If that was going to be the case, he’d have to settle on what was available and be happy with that. Starving children in Africa would be grateful for an orange and here he was, crying that I couldn’t magically turn this orange into an apple for him. We couldn’t find an apple so he started throwing pencils and pushing chairs over. Eventually, he settled on a packet of raisins that the TA kept in the cupboard for emergencies. I explained he would have a detention for throwing stationery and pushing the chairs over. That very lunchtime, we were told that Ofsted would arrive tomorrow. I made a mental note to buy apples on my way home, just in case he didn’t want a pear, a banana, an orange or a tomato for snack. I put them by the front door so I wouldn’t forget them in the morning. 

Everybody laughed when they saw it on Facebook, the night before. I knew it was just a little something that I could do, to ensure that both he and I had an apple that day. Our meagre efforts to keep Ofsted at bay. Playtime was safe from a meltdown. I could relax and concentrate on actually teaching. The thing I would actually be inspected on. I don’t think Ofsted realise the lengths that we go to, just to make our days run smoother. Especially whilst we are honoured with their glorious presence.