Tag Archive: Year One


Last weekend I finished my first ever set of reports. It was a scary process, reviewing each child’s progress and writing my little summary at the bottom. It gave me a chance to think about each child, how they’ve grown, their little quirks and characters, and how they might continue to progress next year. Dangerous territory for a Sensitive Sidney like me.

My biggest fear in September was that we’d reach this point of the year and the children will have learnt nothing! Thankfully, that isn’t the case, and each one has progressed in their own way. They’re not alone, as I’ve picked up a few pointers for my own personal development too. I always knew that organisation was a key to this role, but I underestimated just how organised I needed to be. We’re talking way beyond the Monica-Gellar-Organised that I operate with. I’ve certainly upped my game this year and still feel like I’ve got a way to go.

Despite all the courses and meetings and observations and paperwork, my biggest learning curve has come from the children. It’s fascinating to see how their brains work and, as well as lots of laughter, we’ve had a lot of ‘wow’ moments too. I’ve learned so much about how a child thinks (and I’m sure this is far from the end of my learning) as well as how I operate. They’ve taught me that there’s no point being stressed or grumpy or miserable because it all works out in the end. On the (rare) days that I’ve stomped into work under a thunder cloud, they’ve helped me bring the sunshine back by 9.15am. When I’ve been flapping round amongst the paperwork, they’ve calmed me down. And on the days where I’ve felt like I couldn’t carry on, they’ve sung a song, told a joke, pulled a face, or come out with a cracking one-liner that has made me remember why I became a teacher. They always make me feel proud.

What has surprised me the most is just how much I’ve loved being in the foundation phase. I was tentative at first, being so used to working in KS2, but this is definitely my jam. I love the scope for fun (as well as learning) and watching the children grow and achieve has been a privilege. In September they were fresh into the system, coming in from Reception where things are a bit less controlled, but they settled in quickly and now they’re heading into Year Two with an exciting enthusiasm for learning and being creative.  We’ve had tears, hysterical laughter, wails of despair, cheers of joy, a missing aubergine, a magical postman, giant toilet paper, a wandering tortoise, terrible jokes, the odd tantrum, silly faces, serious faces, grumpy faces,…

…And at the end of it all, I’ve realised I really don’t want them to go.

 

 

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Image result for fancy dress crayola children

‘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.