Who run the world?

When I was younger, I was a fell runner. Looking back, I loved the freedom it gave me and there was a time that I was training relatively properly and ‘racing’* most weekends.

One weekend, I was competing in a relay race and one of the boys’ PE teachers happened to be out for a run and saw me. He gave me a shout of encouragement and ran on.

Every year my school did two weeks of cross country. As we were getting changed there was a knock at the door. One of my PE teachers answered it then said it was for me. The PE teacher that had spotted me out running was taking some of the faster boys up to the pinnacle, would I like to come? I went.

When I got to the top, the PE teacher shook my hand and said that I was the first girl that had ever run up to the pinnacle while he’d been a teacher.

As I was going home from school that day, people I didn’t know were shouting well done to me. Opening top deck bus windows to shout it.

I think that was the first time that I’d ever realised that being a ‘girl’ might have an impact on the way I live. I was so proud that I was asked but the reaction stayed with me.

We took the girls to Housesteads this holiday. We’ve been a few times now and I think it’s a magical place.

L: Where’s the girl Roman soldier stuff?

Me: If you were a woman you weren’t allowed to fight in the Roman Army.

L: Ugh

Me; You could be a Celt,everyone fought in battles if you were a Celt.

L: Can I still have a sword?

Me: Yes

L: It wouldn’t be much fun being a Roman woman would it?

And so proceeded an in-depth conversation about which side of the battle she’d rather have been on.

I’m so conscious that I’m raising two girls. I feel the need to make them aware of their rights and the choices that they have. Growing up, until the day when I ran up to the pinnacle, I wasn’t really aware that things could be different for boys and girls. L is definitely aware of the ‘unfairness’ of the past and she thinks about what would be fair now. I don’t know if she’ll run the world, but I think she knows she can if she wants.

*’Racing’ meant competing against the same people and mostly coming in the same position every weekend. If any of my trophies said ‘first girl’, it was because there were no other girls competing that day.

On another note, I think it might be time to ‘bid the blog adieu’. I really enjoyed writing it and it really helped. It made me think about the best bits, it helped me move forward and it helped me connect with lovely people. Maybe it’ll get reinvented one day as a ‘wellbeing’ blog (but as I’ve been writing this eyeing up a packet of giant chocolate buttons, I doubt it), maybe I’ll write more about teaching and annoy more people when I talk about just how hard it is in today’s climate, maybe it will go into cryogenic storage and be found in 300 years. Who knows. But thank you for reading it.

Help

I’ve often said to people that we need help. But then when it came to it, I didn’t really know what help we needed. I think when you say you need help, people assume that you mean direct therapy help for your child. And I probably meant that too at one point. But I’m realising that that isn’t what we need. The phrase ‘relationships heal relational trauma’ is something that I’ve heard a lot recently. But when your relationship is at the edge of a precipice, being in a place to help healing is hard.

And that’s where the help comes in. Our children perhaps don’t need direct therapy (they might choose to seek this for themselves at some point) but our families need to be at a point where we can be in the best place to help our children.

If we know that relationships are key, the first thing we need help with is having time with our children. Maybe a year off work isn’t enough, our children might need longer. Maybe our children need both parents (if they’re in a two parent family) to be off work for a longer period of time. Maybe, if there’s more than one child in the family, the parents need time to spend with each of them individually.

Maybe a sensory room could be booked and slots given out. Maybe a hydropool could be booked and slots given out. Maybe riding sessions could be booked. Maybe art sessions could be organised. Maybe messy play sensory sessions could be organised.

Maybe OT sessions could be organised. Maybe sleep support could be arranged. Maybe training could be arranged. Maybe a house could be offered as a break away. A house that is set up to be calming and safe and in a place that creates memories.*

Maybe support groups could be set up. Maybe family get togethers could be organised. Maybe our children could meet other children that have had experiences that they can relate to.

This of course means a financial investment. But surely our children are worth it? Surely the powers that be could see that our children and our families are worth investing in. That they are worth supporting and helping. That a relatively small amount of support could make the world of difference.

*Our family are lucky enough to have stayed in a place like this. They still talk about it now. But this is a place set up by wonderful people as a charity, not somewhere that is supported by a local authority.

 

5 years…

This week marks five years since we became a family of four. Sometimes it feels that I’ve learnt a lot, sometimes it feels that I will never learn enough.

I’ve learnt that there’s no limit to the times you sing your child to sleep and smile as you quietly get out of the bed.

I’ve learnt that a real smile is still the best sight and a real laugh is still the best sound.

This year I’ve learnt that balancing the needs of a class of 33 and the needs of my family is hard.

I’ve learnt that sickness bugs are always better shared.

I’ve learnt that L’s current favourite word ‘cacophony’ is the perfect word for her.

I’ve learnt that B’s face when she rides a small drop off is awesome to see.

I’ve learnt sometimes the world just can’t be small enough.

This year I’ve learnt that having a puppy is utterly exhausting but utterly wonderful.

I’ve definitely learnt that outside is good.

I’ve learnt that seeing L’s face when she reads a book from start to finish is an absolute picture.

I’ve learnt that doors are not as sturdy as they seem.

I’ve learnt that getting it right for one invariably means not getting it right for the other.

I’ve learnt that eight teas on rotation is enough.

I’ve learnt that a bond is not always helpful.

I’ve learnt that sometimes self care is not enough.  Sometimes I need others to care.

I’m learning that relationships are the key.

I’ve learnt the feeling of when your heart could actually burst with pride.

I’ve learnt what it’s like to watch your children swim a width. And then a length.

I’ve learnt that a good OT can be a game changer.

I’ve learnt that a very quiet word of praise goes an awful long way.

I’m learning when to talk and when to just be quiet.

I’ve still not learnt to enjoy the early mornings.

I’ve still got a lot to learn.

 

A day in the life…

9 – 10.45am: Greet 33 children at the door. Say something to each of them. Listen to what they have to say. Check a certain 3 children have what they need. Check who looks like they’re doing okay and who might need a bit of help.

Complete the register in French or Spanish. Fill in the register on the computer. Get the children to fill in the travel tracker. Collect in money/reply slips/letters. Check homework diaries to see if any parents have written a note.

Notice that one of the 3 certain children hasn’t done any of those things. Help them to complete it.

Hear a reading group. Monitor the other children as you hear a reading group. Try to remember who is completing an Accelerated Test and who is out at the library choosing a new book.

Begin to teach an exciting and engaging Literacy lesson. Notice that one of the children has gone to play with the Lego. Check that they’re okay. Select a few Lego pieces that he can play with at his desk. Return to exciting and engaging Literacy lesson. Notice that the child with a hearing impairment has taken off his hearing aid. Have a discreet word with him. Set children off to complete independent tasks. Help the child with the visual impairment get logged on and onto the writing programme he uses. Check that the four children with ASD have understood what to do. Complete a picture map with one of them to help him get started. Check that the child with executive functioning problems has understood what to do. Check that the children working at first level are okay. Child with diabetes comes to say they feel low, help them do a check and administer lucozade. Collect in jotters. Ask children to tidy up. Look around the classroom, ask children to tidy up again. Escort children out to play.

10.45-11 – Come back to the classroom to find a child not wanting to go out. Speak to them about why. Children come running in, ‘Someone’s fallen down the steps.’ Administer first aid. Check that child has now gone out.

11 – 12.20 Greet 33 children at the door, sort out problems that have arisen at playtime.

Begin to teach an exciting and engaging maths lesson. 5 children don’t have a whiteboard pen that works, locate whiteboard pens that do work. Teach introduction, give out work differentiated a 5 levels. Check that the 4 children with ASD are okay. Check that the child with executive functioning problems has understood. Remind the child with a visual impairment to use their slanted board. Realise that one of the children is at the Lego again. Get them started, agree that after 10 questions they can have a Lego break. Go round each group to check that they are all understanding. Check understanding of the class in the plenary.

12.20-1.15 – Take class down to lunch. Send one of the children back up for his bag to check that there’s nothing else in there for his lunch. Get out the other things for his lunch. Check that the girl who is not eating much is eating her lunch, remember to email her mum. Help several children cut up baked potatoes. Mark some maths jotters. Eat lunch.

1.15 – 3 – Greet 33 children at the door. Sort out any problems that have arisen over lunchtime.

Begin to teach engaging and exciting topic lesson. Phone call to say that a child needs to go as they have an appointment. Check that they have everything. Start to teach exciting and engaging topic lesson again. Look at the shipping routes for all the ships carrying plastic waste from the UK. Have a interesting discussion about why the UK is allowed to do this. Map out ways that we could do something about it as a class. (‘Tweet the government’, ‘Have a protest’, ‘Put more posters up to say use a tupperware instead of a bag’ to name but a few.) Set children off to work labelling a world map to show all the countries the UK sends plastic to. Check that all children are okay. Sit with one child to label two countries. Give him the Lego box to take to a pod for a bit. Sit with another child for a bit. Ask him how his brother’s cancer treatment is going. Listen to him be a bit angry about the lack of attention he’s getting from home. Realise that another child is not doing okay, ask them if they want to use one of their movement cards. When they say no ask them if they would like to play with the Lego instead. Check everyone is doing okay. Tidy up. Read a story to the class. Enjoy the silence as they all listen captivated. Remember that two children are still outside playing with Lego, send someone to get them in. Wish all the children a lovely evening, say good afternoon. Pick up 17 pencils and 3 whiteboard pens.

I teach in a way that hopefully allows all the children in my class to feel safe, happy and for them to be able to learn. But it takes it out of you. Regulating 33 human beings all day is not easy. Regulating 33 human beings who are still at the ‘not complete’ phase of brain development is harder still. There are days when I get it wrong. I always apologise when this happens but it does happen. Keeping an eye on 33 children and looking out for tiny signs of dysregulation while at the same time trying to teach is hard.

When I was giving certificates out on my last day with my class this week, I was getting emotional. Being with your class all the time for a year means you invest in them, you care about them. You wake up in the night worrying about them. You wonder what it is that’s stopping them from making progress. You fight for support for them. But caring so much about 33 children has an impact how I am at home. I’m often so emotionally exhausted when I get home that I’ve not got the reserves I need for my own family.

When I see posts about primary teachers being trained in spotting signs of poor mental health I often shout at my husband ‘We can already spot them. It’s what we do about it, what can we do to help that child, where can we go to get them help. That’s the bit that we need.’ I feel at the moment that we are not valuing education in this country, we are not investing in it and consequently, we are not investing in the future. I also feel that teachers themselves are not the cause of this. We’re spending our own money on resources for our classes, we’re worrying about what we can do to help. This is a much bigger issue and it does not start in the classroom.

Moving on up

Me: How are you feeling about moving up afternoon?

Child 1: I’ve done it 6 times before.

Me: You have yes, but that’s not what I asked. I asked how you were feeling about it.

Child 1: Mostly okay but…never mind.

Me: It’s okay, what was it?

Child 1: I was wondering if I could take the lego with me.

Me: I’ve already told Miss C that you need the lego for some calm time.

Child 1: Okay. Thank you

 

Me: How are you feeling about moving up afternoon?

Child 2: Um, okay?

Me: I’ve mentioned to Miss C that you need to draw out your writing before you do it. And that it can take you a bit of time to get going.

Child 2: small smile

 

Child 3: Why are you crying Mrs L?

Me: Because S (child with a visual impairment) just did the high jump and he had such a look of pride on his face when he finished.

Child 3: That’s nice Mrs L. Are you okay?

 

Child 3 (again): What’s wrong now Mrs L?

Me: It’s just that these two have both written amazing pieces of writing and I’m so proud of them.

Child 3: Okay, that’s nice. Do you need a hug Mrs L?

 

Me: I can tell that you’re worrying about something, can you tell me what it is?

Child 1: Hmmm, I thought it might be the different playground at lunchtime but I don’t think it’s that.

Me: Okay. I’m wondering how you’re feeling about going out to do PE on the field?

Child 1: (as he runs off) Well, I don’t really like PE because it’s essentially organised sports and I think we both know how I feel about them.

At this time of year I’m somewhat worried to be on Twitter because I know that there will be lots of parents worrying that school are not doing the right thing for their children in regards to moving up to their next class. (I know this because I ranted a bit about it this week too.)

But this week made me think. None of the children that I’ve supported throughout the week will have gone home and told someone at home that I tried to help them. (Or that I shed tears of joy and pride about them.) Their behaviour at home might have been slightly easier because of it but no one at home will have known that these conversations took place. So maybe there are lots of conversations like these going on all over the country, every day. It’s just that our children aren’t able to tell us about them. Because, while I know there are some teachers who don’t/can’t/won’t get it, there are an awful lot who do. Or at least do try. And I’ll be honest, we’re not always going to get it right. But most of us will always try.

Fixing

I’m on an Attachment Based Parenting course at the moment. (After nearly five years of mostly trying to do attachment based parenting but not to worry.) This week we were talking about ways to connect with our children. Everyone in the group shared a story about things that they’ve done with the children they’re caring for. And I burst into tears.

As they were talking about their foster children coming to ask for hugs, or talking through what they thought might be a suitable consequence or talking through things that were worrying them, all I could think was, ‘We’re nowhere near this point.’

I realised that so much of how I feel about the relationship that B and I have, is caught up in the need I have to help her. I constantly feel that I’m not doing anything to support her because I have no idea what’s wrong.

Every wondering or asking or talking to the wall, results in being screamed at or shutting down or an act of aggression. And nowadays I can have a pretty good attempt at working it out but I’m so worried that B has been with us for five years and still isn’t at a point where she can ask for help.

And I know that empathy lies in not ‘fixing’ things. It lies in just being with someone in what they’re feeling. But if you not really sure what it is they’re feeling, can you be in it with them?

The phrase that has been used continuously on the course is ‘Relational trauma is healed through relationships.’ It feels that we’re still in the building a relationship phase because having a relationship is so terrifying that at any sign of us developing one, she can’t manage this and fights against it. The natural instinct in me to ‘fix’ whatever is hurting her is bashing straight into her need for pushing me away. The very thing of me being who I am, the role that I represent in her life, means that it’s just all too much.

Listening to the foster carers talking about the relationships that they have built up with the children in their care made me want to run away and hide. The overwhelming urge to shout ‘I’m failing her’ was just so huge. My head does understand that I try hard everyday to not fail her and that I mostly try everyday to do everything I can for her. But at the end of the day, she’s still absolutely terrified, and I’m not managing to help her. I’m not fixing anything.

And the other huge thing is, is that I’m helping L. She tells me when she’s worried and what she’s worrying about. She comes to find me in the night and tells me I make it all better. She hugs me and tells me she loves me and lets me love her. And B sees all that. She sees me doing for L what I should be doing for her.

Despite my natural instinct, I know I can’t ‘fix’ things. But I just wish I could help her, just a little bit.

 

One of those days…

Today has been one of those days. Not one of THOSE days, we’ve been having those days so much that they’re now just days here. But one of those days.

Today we have been on an adventure. The sun shone, the wind blew a hoolie from the north and we needed both suncream and jackets.

We saw lighthouses and porpoises. We had a picnic and an ice cream. We saw a castle and a harbour. We played in a park overlooking the sea.

We ran and climbed and jumped and explored. We smiled and laughed and made ‘ooh’ noises.

We looked at a sparkling sea and ran up and down many steps.

We had fun.

And when we got to nearly being back, B said, ‘Yay, we’re nearly home.’