Tag Archive: Children


So, it was Sunday and I was in the cemetery. Not how I spend every Sunday but I ended up talking to a lovely lady. During conversation, she asked where I worked and when I told her she replied with ‘A teacher? Oh I couldn’t do your job. You all work so hard, hats off to you.’

It’s at that point that I realised this was the first time a stranger had reacted like this to my career choice. I usually get some sarcastic quip about holidays (honestly, come on, give me something original) or ‘your lot are always complaining, aren’t you?’. It felt lovely to be complimented. Then, as I was recovering from the shock of the incident, the same thing happened again tonight at the gym. This time it was another lovely lady who ‘couldn’t do [my] job. It must be very tough.’ (And…she was a nurse, so I reciprocated the sentiment!). So, twice in one week I’d had very rare positive comments about my career. I had to write about it.

Truth is, us teachers have a bad rep. Even my own mother thinks my job is easy. On passing my PGCE she said ‘And now you’re a part-timer. Finish at 3pm and for most of the year you’re on holiday.’ Great. Thanks, mum. I’ve got other family members who refuse to believe that I don’t walk into work at 9am and put my feet up at home by 3.15pm. I’ve joined a profession that is rapidly losing its respect. (Disclaimer: Thankfully I do have family members who know exactly what my job entails. I’m one of three teachers in my family.)

But why? We’re working harder than ever to provide an education for the next generation but for some reason what we do is seen as easy. A job anyone can do. Not only are we putting every effort into educating and caring for children (which is why we all went into the job in the first place) but we’re having to deal with deadlines, paperwork, red-tape and ever-changing schemes and systems. So, forgive me if I’m a bit insulted when people insinuate I don’t deserve my holidays.

Whilst I was training, the main point the trainees brought back to the lecture hall was how firm a grip parents have over classroom management. The craziest of actions are carried out all through fear of offending a parent. I’ve heard plenty of complaints of well-experienced teachers being forced to apologise to a parent for moves that were only undertaken with the pupils’ best interests in mind. I’ve heard many a rant about parents swearing and threatening teachers for ridiculous reasons. Thankfully, I haven’t experienced any of that this year and my bunch of parents have been very kind and supportive, but I know I wouldn’t have heard horror stories like these if I’d have entered the profession twenty years ago.

Then you’ve got the children. I thank the teaching Gods every day that I don’t really have to tackle this problem at Primary level as our behaviour strategies are always very effective, but hearing from colleagues in secondary schools is enough to keep me tucked safely in the foundation phase. It can be very hard for teachers to gain respect from their teenage pupils.

The fact is people just don’t regard teachers with the same respect they used to do. So what is it? What is causing people to think a teachers life is an easy one? I don’t have the answer, but as a profession we need support, from everyone, to ensure our work is the best it can be, because nothing is more important than educating the future generation.

And next time you meet a teacher, please don’t mention the holidays.

 

It’s been a testing week at school with several big events culminating in the space of just a few days. Yes, it’s been exhausting and everybody is feeling the stretch, but I’ve started a new week armed with some interesting new knowledge.

For example, last week I learned that I am coping better with pressure. My diary was full and I jumped from job to job, day to day, with ease. In the past, the Monday morning of an action-packed week would have seen me flapping round the staff room scrutinising the briefing. But this week, I tackled each challenge calmly. So, I’m definitely getting there.

I also learned that I can speak Welsh. Surprise!  Hoorah! After an oral assessment which seemed to come completely out of the blue and with minimal preparation time, I managed to babble my way through each part of the test and, smugly, was pretty proud of my results.

Thirdly, I learned that the next few weeks are going to be tough on the heartstrings. I’m a sensitive sod and the reality that I only have 14 school days left with my class is starting to sink in. I know I’m going to struggle in the last week but I’m starting to realise that this is the nature of the job. I’m sure it gets easier. Seeing the excitement on their faces as they spent the afternoon with their new teacher stirred mixed emotions. I was excited for them, whilst faced thoughts of just how much I’ll miss them. But I also began to understand what other teachers have said – it’s a vicious cycle. At the moment you might be ‘the best teacher ever’ to them, but next year their new teacher will steal your crown and you’ve got another bunch to win round *sniff*.

Lesson four – you can get through anything with good work mates who know how to laugh.

And finally, over the weekend, I learned to take more notice of one of my favourite quotes:

‘People will forget what you said, and forget what you’ve done, but they will never forget how you made them feel.’ Maya Angelou

I’m not trying to be enigmatic and mysterious! Nothing dreadful has happened, but after a few unrelated conversations I realised just how true this is. It’s bloody hard to forget cruelty and we must always remember kindness.

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There are two inspirations for this week’s post. The first is a festive memory, so let me take you back to Christmas Day 2016. Picture the scene:

Christmas dinner has been eaten. We’re all crashed out in the living room, Grandad flicking through the channels with the remote control. He stops at a cartoon meerkat and warthog. It’s Disney’s The Lion King. We’re all enjoying watching Timon and Pumba through the fuzzy full-of-food-ness when my Nanna pipes up. ‘What on earth have we got this on for? Load of rubbish…’. Me and my brother are obviously horrified. It’s The Lion King! Although our efforts are in vain, we try to convert her. We explain that it’s a classic that we watched as children and she sighs ‘Well, you’re not children now. I prefer things for adults. So should you.’ (My Grandad took a lot less convincing and he was soon gripped by Simba’s saga.)

Alright, she might have a miniscule point but my argument is – children’s films can be enjoyed by anyone. Some of the classics might seem fluffy and sickly on the outside but they are actually works of art. Someone’s livelihood has gone into creating this piece of film. The superficial piece of fluff my Nanna saw is actually the end product of many people’s hard work, so to class it as unworthy of adult attention isn’t very fair.

Many children’s films carry very grown up themes and dark moments, especially those that have taken inspiration from traditional tales. Look at Hercules, for example, Meg sacrifices her soul to the underworld. In Robin Hood, the villagers are being taxed into poverty. In Pinocchio the orphan boys are promised paradise and turneImage result for pinocchio gif donkeyd into donkeys! Some of these tales can be pretty grim (Pun fully intended. I make no apologies). And anybody who doesn’t cry during the first ten minutes of Up is simply inhuman. In The Princess and the Frog, the Ray the firefly dies! That’s right, Disney heartlessly kill off a character and audience members have to just get over it, whatever age they are. I was twenty when I was forced to watch the characters of Toy Story 3 accept their death in the incinerator and the tears still dripped from under my 3D glasses. Of course, before that, we had The Lion King, where Simba is led to believe he has killed his own father and lives with that guilt for years before learning the truth. Dark stuff for children to handle but they do so all the same. It might give us a few nightmares when we’re younger but it armours us for real life. The world isn’t sweets and bubblegum.

It’s a fact that as adults we get bogged down by all the life-stuff like careers and relationships and paying bills, we forget to let our imaginations stretch. Sometimes, opening your mind to a fantasy film is the perfect form of escapism. Sometimes after a day of work, when I’m flicking through my on-demand movies, I don’t want a gritty thriller that’s going to make me think. I want something that’s going to be visually appealing, some catchy tunes and perhaps a bit of magic on the side. That’s when I’ll unashamedly head for the family movies section.

Anyway, now that I’ve shared my Nanna’s disgraceful lack of movie taste, the second inspiration for this post comes from my favourite Disney film *drumroll* Beauty & the Beast. As I child I was desperate to be Lumiere. I love everything about the cartoon from the characters to the music so I was so excited to see the live action version this week (my review – perfect. My favourite character was the wardrobe. I’m only disappointed the wardrobes in my bedroom aren’t as fabulous.) Watching the new version transported me back to my childhood but I could also appreciate it from another point of view. I noticed the new variations on the score, beautiful visuals, easter eggs and subplots – stuff I might not have spotted as a child. Incidentally, this new version included Disney’s first ever ‘gay moment’ and first ever interracial kiss. So, in the world of film, it’s groundbreaking. Not bad for just a kids’ movie.

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Alright some of the old Disney stuff can hardly be seen as feminist (Cinderella and Ariel both changing in order to get a man? oi vey!) but a lot of these films can give good lessons to both children and adults. If you look at some of the more recent films, realistic relationships and moral dilemmas are being explored more and more. Big Hero 6 has the main character dealing with death twice. Up explores moving on after the death of a loved on. Frozen has Anna and Elsa realise they don’t need to marry princes, and instead the focus is on their sibling-love for each other. Things still aren’t perfect but the movie world is making small steps towards sending healthier messages to our children.

So I suppose I’m saying don’t judge a book by its cover….OR a film by its poster. Films for children were made by adults and it’s important we acknowledge the end product because some of them are works of art. Don’t be put off by their label. Release your inner-child, let your imagine run wild and be free!

Oh, and never diss The Lion King in front of me.

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Whenever I tell people I’m an NQT they always say ‘Wow that must be so rewarding’.

Of course, they’re right, it’s wonderful to see children learning and growing, but it’s also rewarding for another reason:  It can be a right good laugh.

I think it’s important to laugh in any workplace. You have to be able to see the light in any situation otherwise you’ll just go stark raving bonkers. Whether it’s in a grubby old petrol station populated by the rudest of the rude or in a classroom of energetic five year olds with firecracker imaginations, you have to be able to have a giggle. Thankfully, in all of my previous jobs and training I’ve ended up with some hilarious people. And some absolute nutters.

Both of my teaching placements were home to some real characters, in the classroom and the staffroom, and I heard stories that I could never ever repeat. This is where I learned that having fun is paramount in our job. It’s high pressure but as long as you are having fun along the way and able to relax around your peers then you can get anything done. I don’t just mean the adults – we know that children learn best when they’re enjoying themselves and the children benefit from a positive learning atmosphere where their teachers all get on. One of my placements was a great example of that. The teachers, whilst always professional, openly joked and played tricks on each other in front of the children who loved it! The teachers were modelling an honest, fun friendship and I think it was great for the children to see that.

I was equally lucky with my supply schools. I don’t think I went to one school where there was a frosty staffroom atmosphere. Although the level of jokes and banter was different, it was always there. I learned a lot from one school in particular, where I was the only male teacher, most of which I just could not repeat in a blog. But it was lots of fun and I always looked forward to another weekly visit full of laughter (and abuse).

In my current school, all of the staff get on. We go on staff outings and are constantly laughing with each other. It’s the best place to work and, even during the toughest times, we can always find a moment to cheer each other up and have a cheeky chuckle.

The funniest comments, though, come from the children. They are bonkers. Sometimes they can come out with the perfect observation to send you into a hysterical meltdown, or mispronounce just the right word to get you chuckling. We’re only five weeks in and one of my children says to me regularly ‘Mr H….you love to laugh!’. He’s right and I do count myself very lucky that there is so much scope for fun in my job. (Though it can be detrimental, especially when you get a fit of giggles mid-way through reading a story and have to abruptly finish it with ‘and that’s the end’ as your eyes start leaking and your voice turns suddenly soprano. Never done that.)

So, if you’re suffering from the Monday Miseries, I challenge you to go back to work tomorrow and find the fun. Look for it. Laugh at everything. Belly-laugh with your boss, be silly with your secretary, cackle with your colleagues and bring on the LOLs. Who says you can’t dress up as a Dalek or have after-school computer chair races across the hall? (Disclaimer: I have never participated in such unprofessional behaviour. Honest.)

To perk up your Monday, here are a few classic moments that, over the years, provoked sudden fits of giggles. (If you don’t find them funny then….maybe you had to be there!)

1) The moment you realise you make the sounds of the rainforest to get the children’s attention when they’re being too chatty. ‘Eeeerrrmm’, ‘OH!’, ‘tut-HUH!’ *long gasp*

2) ‘Mr *****, I drew this picture for you to take home to your grandkids.’ (I’m 26).

3) Explaining an activity and realising a child is staring intently at my teeth. ‘Are you a vampire?’.

‘No…’.

‘Then….why do you have fangs?’

4) ‘Sir, are you a lifeguard?’

‘No. I’m a teacher.’

‘Oh, OK. You look like a lifeguard.’

6) ‘Who can tell me what pirates like to eat?’

‘I know. Tagliatelle.’

7) Being unable to teach odds and evens because there is a child called Ethan in your class and you keep getting utterly confused. ‘Is it an odd or an Ethan?’ ‘What do you think, Even?’

8) That one poor child in the class who says ‘shhh’ instead of ‘sss’. I challenge anyone not to laugh when he tells you he sat on father christmas’ knee.

Note: I’ve vetted these seven and deemed them suitable to disclose. As for the rest, well, my lips are sealed.

Fair is Unfair

Picture it – the summer holidays (year and school undisclosed). I’d envisioned a blissful two weeks of games, songs, sunshine and fun. What I got was two weeks of moody children all playing by the same motto – ‘It’s not fair’.

OK, perhaps I’m not being fair there. Let’s just back track a bit. I realise that not all children are like this and I was just very unlucky to have ended up with two or three moaning myrtles in my summer club group (on the whole, they were a very pleasant bunch) but this lot were so sensitive to things to being ‘unfair’ they had me grasping at my hair in frustration. See, we appear to be obsessed with making things ‘fair’ and the children are picking up on it.

Every game, and this is no exaggeration, we played at summer club was scrutinised and torn apart if there was any hint that it might not be fair. When I was little, it didn’t matter whether the rules of the game were water tight or whether we all had a turn at winning because just taking part in the game was part of the fun. That seems to be something that’s fizzled out.

Case Study One – On one particular day, there were 11 children. We were playing a game that involved splitting the group into two teams. It doesn’t take a maths wiz to work out that, apart from asking a child not to participate (which I wasn’t going to do), we had to have one team of 5 children and one team of six. Cue ‘But that’s not fair!’, ‘They have more than us!’, ‘You can’t do that!’. Swallowing any sarcastic remarks about splitting children in half and plastering a pleasant, if slightly forced, grin on my face I gently reminded the children that it was just a game, lives were not at stake and that it didn’t really matter. Then came the bartering – ‘What if we get a 10 second head start?’, suggested one child from the team with the least members. ‘No, that’s not fair’, cried the opposing team. ‘We should have an adult on our team to make it fair!’ screeched another child. ‘No! Not an adult! That’s not fair!’ came the responding cry of horror. ‘Oh, I’m not playing! This is rubbish!’ cried the frustrated 26 year old club leader (I’m joking – it was one of the children, honest.)

My point is, do we now live in a world where the obsession with fair chances has led to our children expecting it? Please don’t get me wrong, I’m not talking about equal opportunities and differentiated work etc. as that is obviously very important but surely it’s healthy for children to experience some levels of unfairness? E.g. during play. The fact is, we don’t live in a fair world. It would be lovely if we did, but we don’t. These children couldn’t handle the fact that we were one player down – something that nobody could help – and it ended up spoiling their game (which ended disastrously when children from both teams began unashamedly cheating).

Case Study Two – On the hottest day of the year, we had organised a water fight. Children wore old clothes and were invited to bring water pistols. Only one child brought a super soaker. The other children were given miniature pistols which I had bought for them. Cue ‘That’s not fair! His water pistol is bigger than ours!’ ‘We should all take a turn using his water pistol’. ‘I’m not playing if I have to use this stupid water pistol because it’s not fair!’

Resisting the urge to soak every single one of them, I admitted defeat. The water fight lasted less than five minutes and was called to a halt when the two children who had fired the most shots began to cry because they didn’t like being squirted back.

How boring would that have been if we would have had to ensure each player had a turn with the water pistol, fairly timing each user and monitoring their number of squirts? That is what was expected on this day. I left disheartened, miserable at the fun the children had denied themselves and with wet socks after a child chose to pour all the water meant for refilling the water pistols over my feet.

I know this was a rare experience but it was also a learning curve for me. I feel that pandering to this obsession with fairness in play encourages an unsporting attitude and, let’s face it, spoils the fun. In some games, there has to be unfairness. Sometimes, that’s what spurs you on and encourages you to win. You might be the smallest basketball player but that doesn’t mean you can’t slam the most dunks (copyright- RebelliousG. Someone make it into a badge.) It’s worrying that this cotton-wool attitude can knock a child’s determination and ambition on the head. These children weren’t willing to throw themselves into the game and push themselves to win because they wanted it handed to them. If I had a pound for every time a child said ‘It’s not fair’ in summer club then I’d be on a beach with a mojito by now. I’m not saying we should make games deliberately unfair, but children need to be encouraged to embrace the factors we can’t do anything about. To make the best out of a bad situation. To acknowledge that, sometimes, life isn’t fair but we can’t let it spoil our fun. Because if they can’t handle uneven teams in a game of hide & seek, then the sad fact is, they’re going to have a huge shock as they get older.

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‘And don’t be one of these teachers who lets boys dress as girls!’

Advice given to me a few months ago after I discovered I’d be taking on Year One. It might not surprise you to hear that this comment had come from a person of a certain generation. A generation where boys were expected be the epitome of strength and masculinity and certainly did not wear dresses.

From very early on I’d decided I wanted a performance area in my classroom. Drama is very important to me and I wanted to encourage performance and self-expression within my classroom. I started to collect bits of costumes and masks and puppets that the children could use, and it was whilst sorting through a pile of materials one day, that I was given this worldly piece of advice. I didn’t challenge this person, mainly because I care a lot about them, but also because I wasn’t in the mood for flying into a full on rant about diversity – I was floating happily on the news of my new job and I wasn’t going to let a stupid comment burst my bubble. That said, it took a lot to ignore it.

Well, I didn’t ignored it.  Instead, I let it fester for a bit and then I decided to turn it into something positive.

Now, I’m not saying we should encourage every boy to wear a dress, but neither should we make them think wearing ‘female clothes’ is wrong, if that’s what they choose to do. Clothes are clothes. Pink is just a colour. People are people. What bugs me is that this person would have happily told a dress-wearing-boy that what he was doing was wrong. He would have made him feel abnormal and ridiculed when really that boy isn’t doing anything wrong at all. He’s not hurting anyone. He’s not being offensive. He’s just wearing material. Material that could also be cut into a t-shirt and trousers. He’s still a boy, a person, with feelings and aspirations and insecurities, just like the rest of us. We’re all material, just cut differently.

In this person’s youth, girls wore skirts and boys wore trousers. I understand that this person was raised in a different time and it must be hard to acknowledge the change, I’m sure when I’m into my eighties they’ll be things I’ll struggle to understand, but, in my opinion, I’d rather live in an era where people can wear, and do, what they like. Nowadays, it’s perfectly normal for girls to wear trousers but if a boy wore a skirt he’d be laughed at. What is it about femininity that we just can’t handle? Regardless, if a little boy sees a pink cardigan or a flowery skirt, he’s not seeing something that ‘only a girl should wear’. He’s just seeing another costume from the fancy dress box.

It’s the same with toys. Boys don’t think that dolls are for girls until we enforce that opinion on them. Until we intervene, they just see another toy they could play with and take care of. I’ve witnessed genuine concern for a male three year old who was playing with dolls. He was happy whilst he played and cared for the baby but there was mixed horror and concern that this child shouldn’t be playing with “girls’ toys”. Why? It’s not going to damage him. In fact, having his toy snatched from him and seeing mad, panicking adults is probably more damaging.

Incidentally, I won’t be stopping a boy reading a book targeted at girls either. Or vice versa. I’m an avid reader, and I’m passionate about instilling a love for reading in children. I was in a school once were the library was split in two. You guessed it, ‘Books for Girls’ and ‘Books for Boys’. It made me feel pretty queasy. When I was younger, I probably would have wanted to read the pink book with the picture of a witch on the cover, but I would have been too shy to because it was clearly marketed at girls. Reading it wouldn’t have changed me in anyway, but the children and teachers in my school would have thought otherwise. (In reality, I would have read a few pages, realised it was a load of cheap crap and put it down. If only I’d have had the confidence to be seen reading a girl’s book.) In my classroom, I try and aim for gender neutral books but, if I girl wants to read a book about football or a boy wants to read about princesses, I won’t be stopping them. Just seeing them reach for a book is enough to make me happy.

Anyway, after thinking a lot about this comment over time, it only made me more determined give these children a place to be who they want to be. I want children to know that it’s OK to be whoever they want. I won’t enforce any kind of behaviour or opinions on them, but neither will I discourage their own interests or ideas. If they want to dress up in the mermaid outfit, that’s fine. If they want to play with the dolls, that’s fine. If they want to play football, that’s fine. If they want to play princesses or astronauts or builders or ballerinas then that is absolutely fine with me. Because they’re children. They have no preconceptions about what’s ‘right’ for a boy and what a girl ‘should’ do – that is all rubbish that we bombard them with as they grow up. (In my first week in this class, I had to assure a girl that boys could like butterflies too after she laughed at a boy in the class for saying how much he liked the decorative butterflies in our reading garden. She was totally confused. So, your insect preference now defines your gender. Do you like butterflies? You must be girl. Who has told her this rubbish? And why?!) For now, I want them to be able to explore their own identities, and, more importantly, play, learn and have fun in a safe, relaxed environment where they won’t be judged.

I won’t be a teacher who lets boys dress as girls. I’ll be a teacher who lets boys, and girls, dress however they want.

Image result for TeachingIt only seems like ten minutes since I wrote my last blog, on the eve of my first day as Year One teacher. I’ve been asked loads of times this week how my first week has been and I’ve answered firstly with ‘Amazing! I love it!’ and secondly with ‘It’s been so busy!’. And it’s true. I’ve been kept occupied for every second of the day and before I knew it I was being forced to stop thinking about school and have a glass of wine on Friday night. (That’s right. Forced.)

Anyway, rather than babble on about how wonderful this week has been (I really have been unbearable, I think), here’s 5 lessons I have learned in my first week in year one.

Number One – Never underestimate the power of the sticker box.

I have a very special sticker box which is decorated with comic strip style letters (‘boom!’, ‘wham!’, ‘pow!’). It was one of the first things the children spotted on Monday morning and I only have to reach for it during a moment of chattery madness and suddenly on the carpet before me are 30 silent statues, all sitting straight backed, arms crossed, fingers on lips (Isn’t it funny how they pick that up? It’s not something I’ve taught them…) Anyway, I’m hopeful I can harness the sticker box’s power and use it against adults.

Number Two – Toy Story is real.

It’s not unusual for me to be totes emosh but this week I had an influx of teary-eye-wobbly-voice-hormones, brought on at one stage by the sight of a group of children playing with my childhood toys. Toys and stuffed animals that have been locked up in boxes in my dad’s garage and mum’s loft for sixteen years. Seeing them get a new lease of life and actually get played with was magical. *sniff*

Number Three – Children will find magic anywhere.

It’s incredible how their imaginations work. One child has been in awe of an old plastic tortoise that I’d found at my mum’s house. His eyes lit up when I showed it to him after he told me his favourite animal was a tortoise. He’s named it (Taddy the Tortoise) and has enjoyed playing with the tortoise throughout the week. We’ve also been getting letters from The Jolly Postman (*ahem* *waves*) who has been setting post-office-related challenges for Year One. They’ve been getting so excited each time a new letter is pulled from our letter box, it’s hard not to smile.

Number Four – Being constantly animated can be exhausting.

I have not stopped doing, what I have labelled, Infants Voice. It’s a cross between Disney-hero and Morning-TV-presenter. I’ve noticed other teachers in the infants do it too, so I’m not alone in the madness (until I do it amongst family. Then it’s embarrassing.) It finally got to me on Friday when I realised myself and Super-TA were being totally over-dramatic about something very small (I can’t remember what – someone had left a lid off a pen or something) and the giggles began (hidden from children behind a Winnie the Pooh book, which didn’t help matters).

Number Five – You cannot, CANNOT do everything in one week. But that’s OK.

I had so many plans and, ridiculously, envisioned that by the first Friday my classroom would be all ready and everything would be sorted. WRONG. Although it’s looking pretty fine, there’s still a long list of things to get done and, those with years of experience behind them have told me to take my time. It seems I’ve spent a lot of time making lists, that have got longer and longer and then lost (and repeat). I think, really, that the fact everything will never be perfect and finished is a good thing. There will always be something to do, something to fix, something to tick off the to-do list – so my job will never get stagnant. I don’t cope well with stagnant so all this just confirms I’m in the right place.

Smaller lessons –

  • Don’t let the children collect their fruit and then put their coats on. Flying fruity cloakroom chaos will occur.
  • When looking for a speaker’s toy to pass around during circle time, don’t choose one that plays the Pokémon theme tune every time it’s touched.
  • If you’re hanging material over a surface with just one strip of cellotape, you’re a fool.
  • It is imperative that any cake in the staffroom is consumed immediately. (Not really a lesson, more of a Golden Rule. It doesn’t hurt to be reminded of this one. Very serious.)
  • Children remember everything. EVERYTHING.

 

A Diary of Day One

Sunday

The flat is silent. As it has been all day. I’m curled up on the sofa with a camomile tea and enjoying every moment of peace. My diary is on the table and it’s already pretty full of events, deadlines and meetings. So, today has been all about enjoying doing nothing. I don’t think there are many days like this to come because tonight is the eve of my return to work.

I’m all prepared – well, as prepared as I can be – because tomorrow is a big day. It’s my first day with my own class. After a year on supply, I’m relieved to be finally settling into my own environment and making my own decisions. But it’s a scary thought. I’ll miss travelling from school to school, working in different environments and experiencing all the staff room fun that I have in the last year, but I trained to have my own class. So tomorrow is a bit of big deal.

Strangely, I didn’t really get that ‘new job’ feeling until this weekend. I’m going to be working in a school that I have had lots of contact with over the last three years, in fact, I had my first school job, as a TA, here in 2013. So it’s always felt like I was just going home, back to my safe environment. It’s only been this weekend that I’ve realised things might be quite different.

I’m in control, which is a terrifying thought! On supply, I’ve followed the teacher’s notes or asked the TA for help if needed but tomorrow it’ll be down to me. (Thankfully I have an awesome TA who has been amazing already and we haven’t even started properly yet). My biggest worry is that I’ll forget to do something – Super-TA assures me that I will but it won’t be a big deal – but there’s just so much to do. I’ve heard teachers describe the job as being like trying to spin hundreds of plates and, looking through my diary, I can already hear smashing tableware. And what if we get to July and Blwyddyn Un haven’t learned anything?! Imagine the shame.

So, the challenge for this ambitious perfectionist is to remind himself that there is no such thing as a perfect teacher, and that he is still in the early stages of his career.

Tomorrow is just Day One.

Monday

I thought I’d be saying ‘It’s the end of a very long day’ but actually it’s the end of a very quick day! The (few) gears in my head haven’t stopped whirring since 7am this morning and the day has propelled along at top speed….but I’ve loved it. I love being busy and occupied and today I was certainly that, but in a good way. I started off frantically altering my classroom and provision areas, making use of my last few minutes of peace to improve anything. Then, the doors were opened and the children sheepishly drifted in. I was surprised at just how tentative they were. I’d covered this class several times on supply and they are a chatty bunch but today they were very calm and settled. I suppose it’s easy for us grown-ups to forget how daunting that first day in a new class is. We spent a lot of the morning explaining all the new routines and giving the children the chance to explore all the new areas. They were so excited to see the Reading Garden (complete with LED leaves – ‘Oh wow! That’s amazing!’). It was also lovely to see them playing enthusiastically with some toys from my own childhood – I felt a bit like Andy in Toy Story 3 at one point. Things took a bit of a chaotic turn at break time as children tried to juggle fruit with coats but lessons were learned and tomorrow break time will be a slicker operation (with a lot less orange peel on the floor).

So, it was an action packed day, but by 3 o’clock I’d realised just how happy I was. I’m far more comfortable in my own class, even though it might take a bit of time for me to find my rhythm and settle into the foundation phase. I’m really looking forward to teaching (and learning with) these children. They’re a great bunch and I can’t wait to get to know them. I’ve spent the evening researching and planning activities that I’m so excited to do (Note: That has been the word of the day – ‘Oh, I’m so excited to be here in year one…’ ‘Oh, children we’ve got lots of exciting things for you to do..’ ‘Are you excited to be in a new class?’ ‘How exciting!’– I would not blame the children for thinking I was an over-energetic madman who was obsessed with finding things exciting.)

So, a busy day but exciting times ahead. Now though, I’m very excited to get into bed, ready to tackle Day Two.

It’s one of my favourite times of year. The sun is shining, the sunglasses are on and school is at its most relaxed. These last few days are the memory makers. It’s when we reflect on the past year and look forward to the next. For me, this next year is going to be very important, and preparations within in my new classroom are beginning (how exciting!). For the children, they are preparing to say goodbye to some of their friends for the summer, whilst year 6 prepare for a final farewell to the school. Staff members are finally beginning to wind down, envisioning the six weeks of bliss ahead and appreciating all the hard work that has happened in the last year. Some staff members are spending their last few days at school before they move on to other adventures in the future. It’s an emotional time, but one of my favourites.

I’m very lucky, you see, because I have ended up working with the best people. You might think that your colleagues are the best, but I’m sorry, they’re not, because mine are.  You’re mistaken.

I remember the moment it clicked. I’d worked in a couple of places and always got on with my colleagues but this is the first job where I actually felt like I fitted in. I was sat in the staffroom, second or third week in, when somebody brought in this massive cake and another person suggested a staff trip to see Wicked. I knew from that moment that I’d come to the right place.

Anyway anyway anyway, gushing aside, the people I work with make this time of year special. We have someone who will be retiring on Wednesday. She’s going to be sorely missed and its lovely to see the rest of the staff (and the children) making sure she understands that. From gifts, to specially written songs and odes – this week is all about celebrating achievement. The achievements of those who are saying goodbye and those who are staying.

I’m not just talking about the adults. The children are fantastic – thoughtful, generous, hilarious – we are constantly thankful for the wonderful young people we teach every day. It’s lovely to watch them relaxing with their friends and just enjoying being children (d’ya remember that?) They can be capable of the most incredible acts of kindness and this is a peak time to witness that. Watching the year 6’s realise that they’ll have moved on in just a few days is touching, but exciting when you think of the adventures they have to come.

So anyway, just a short one this week, but my message is – embrace the end of term tears! It might get a bit emosh – whether you’re sad to say goodbye, overwhelmed by acts of thoughtfulness or just bloody relieved the term is over – take stock of what you’re thankful for and enjoy it!

 

‘The doctor has told me that one of the most effective cures for high blood pressure is to have grandchildren,’ My Dad told me last summer, being as subtle as a slap in the face.

This is one of many hints dropped by my friends, family, pupils and even strangers in the last two years. It seems some people think that once I hit 24, I became ripe for fatherhood and my sole purpose was to find a girl to create some mini-G’s with (like one isn’t enough.)

Well, here’s a great big humdinger of a surprise for everyone – I don’t want children.

I know. Horror of horrors.

It’s not that I don’t like children – come on, I’m in the wrong job if I didn’t – it’s just that….they’re not for me. I have plenty of children already in my life – Godchildren, cousins, friends’ children, pupils – who I love, enjoy being around and have good relationships with, but I just don’t think I’m ready for that full time position and I can’t see myself being ready any time soon. I’m quite happy being the Godparent or the Uncle or the teacher. I’m quite happy to turn up, play a few games, read a few stories, be a bit daft, perhaps share some (rare) pearls of wisdom and then shuffle off home. In short, I’m happy to be Rafiki.

Parenting is a big job and I’m not throwing any shade on that (have I used that term correctly? I’m not sure what it means but I’m doing my best to keep up to speed with the street-lingo now that I’ve reached the ancient milestone of 26.) I’ve seen friends and family struggle with the negatives and rejoice in the positives of being a mum or dad and I know that they’ve all done a great job at raising their kids. I don’t want to put any doubt in your minds that I think parenting is a very tough thing to do, particularly nowadays where there is just so much to protect your child from and social media has put your every move under scrutiny. I admire anyone who raises a child. But it’s just not for me.

I’m a child of divorce (and I’m reluctant to play the divorce card – this isn’t the sole reason behind my choice, but it is naturally going to affect it) and, in this particular case, this child got to see at an early age just how hateful humans can be. I wouldn’t want to risk putting another child through that. Urgh. No thanks.

I think the most prominent reason I don’t want to be a parent is because….well….I don’t feel like I’ve lived MY life yet. I know that might sound selfish but how can I oversee another life when there’s still so many things that I want to do? I’m 26 and haunted by crippling anxiety that I’m not in the place I want to be.  That place changes regularly. At the moment, I’m a mess of selfish contradictions and it wouldn’t be fair to drag another person into all that. There’s so much more I want to do. I want to write more stories, I want to visit more countries, I want to meet new people. We only get a short time on this rock so, as amazing and rewarding having a child might be, I’d like to tick a few more things off the bucket list before I even contemplate settling down. And also I don’t want having a child to define who I am. I don’t want to be known as ‘Fallulah’s Dad’ or ‘Father of Darth’ (I should also not be allowed to name children). I want to establish the person I am before I introduce someone else to the photograph.

Now, never say never. I’m quite open to the idea that in a few years’ time I might be in different circumstances and change my mind, but at the moment I have firmly decided that I don’t want to be a dad. I’m quite at peace with the thought of being that mad old Welsh bloke living in a villa somewhere hot, who sits on the beach reading all day, drinking mojitos and smiling about all the great things he’s seen and done. Imagine that. My Dad is just going to have to take up Yoga or something because I’m afraid I can’t help him with his blood pressure. So, next time you bump into me, ask me how I’m doing. Ask me how my job is. Ask me about my exciting plans for the next twelve months. Ask me if I’d like a mojito. But please, don’t ask me when I’m going to have children!