So I've been quiet recently. Really quiet. It's been a difficult few months between the rollercoaster events of last summer, the decision to take a break from unit Guiding and many other things. I fully intended to blog more this new year, but every year brings fresh challenges and 2014's is in the shape of a new job.
I'm now the proud teacher of a Year 3 class. For those in the know, Year 3 is for children aged 7-8 and is the third year (obviously) of compulsory education here in the UK. It's a bit of a culture shock for me, being secondary trained. I have had primary experience before, but mainly with years 4-6, not year 3.
Not only have I already had to deal with planning for so many different subjects, get to know twenty four new people, but I've had to deal with an exclusion, several internal exclusions, interventions, provision maps and all sorts of weird and wonderful things that I've not had to sort before. I've written a scheme of work for gymnastics (yes, me!), set up a languages club that has got TWENTY TWO participants... and that's only from the lower school! It's an eye-opener.
My class is brilliant. I'd say that I've got a couple of characters, but they all are... in their own way. I have the little girl who never speaks (except to crack the most amazing sarcastic joke once a week!), the boy who strangles girls in the playground, the girl whose prized possession is a rock her uncle gave her as a gift... she's been told it's a dinosaur egg! I've got a boy who never speaks, smiles and often refuses to come into the classroom who came up to me this morning, sat down and asked me if he could do show and tell, and I've got a little boy who greets me every day with a hug, holds my hand and tells me that I belong to class one and they all love me.
Each and every child in my class is different, and I love getting to know them little by little. But I also love the little reflections of myself that I see in them and their behaviour. Not because they've picked it up from me (they've not had me long enough for that) but because their reactions challenge me and my own.
Last week, I had one child really unsettled on the carpet. This particular child sits with his back to the door and is constantly glancing behind him at the door. Knowing my own discomfort at sitting with my back to a door, I moved him where he could see it, and now he sits there with absolutely no problem.
This morning, we did an activity where each person had a sheet of paper and it was passed round the circle so everyone could write something nice about them (they had to write something positive about themselves too!). Once people got their own paper back, we discussed how it made them feel to read the comments. Many of them said that they were happy or proud, some even said "relieved". One told us that he felt loved. But two girls said they were embarrassed and one boy said he was uncomfortable. We explored those feelings a little later, but it made me think about my paper too. I was quick to be dismissive and say that they only wrote because they had to... but that's not what the exercise was about!
Yesterday, I had an observation. It didn't go brilliantly, mainly due to the behaviour in my lower ability group. They were excited and engaged, but a little too excited and engaged (they wouldn't listen to me once they got going!). We did spend a lesson today going over behaviour and presentation, and there was a big improvement. Understandably, I was really upset by this yesterday. Whilst I was sobbing at lunch, my TA came over, gave me a hug and told me to stop being so hard on myself and that there were great things about the lesson. Of course, I wouldn't accept it. Actually, I wouldn't even accept the praise from the head, who insisted that there was no way that observation was going to meet the criteria, really...
But the thing that made it funny was the reaction of a little girl in my class. She's a superstar and one of our gifted and talented children. But if she gets anything wrong (or not exactly perfect!), she bursts into tears. I've chatted to her about high expectations and believing in herself and all these other things... Yesterday, she looked at me and solemnly said, "Miss H, you're as bad as I am. You set yourself expectations that you can never live up to. No-one can." Out of the mouths of babes...!
I love working at this school. It's supportive, fun, challenging. The staff are all welcoming and wonderful. The head is constantly providing advice, reading material, backing me up on various decisions. I have colleagues who make me cups of tea, check I'm eating, text me in the evening and at weekends to say thanks for a great day or just to say they're thinking of me after a rough one. It's nurturing and wonderful.
And whilst noting the nurturing environment and challenging myself, the changes I'm seeing in myself are incredible too. Yes, I was terrified yesterday, but I never had a panic attack. I'm alone in the office with the (male) head on a daily basis - tonight we were the only two left in the building. I get hugs and cuddles and hand-holding constantly, whether it's from my colleagues or from my children. I still don't like it if someone gets me from behind (my TA learnt this the hard way!) but I'm taking the physical contact without panicking or even flinching.
Now we just have to get that work-life balance stuff sorted!