Wellbeing #teacher5aday

The lovely Chris Chivers has reminded me that I haven’t blogged for this yet so I’d better hurry up ! The new year is nearly upon us!

I have blogged before on well-being and was honoured to have it picked up by Teacher Toolkit in his August round-up! Interestingly my HT has just asked me to co ordinate staff well-being and I plan to introduce this concept at our first staff meeting; you can’t function in a school like ours without it!
It will be interesting to see how staff react to it…..we are a close – knit team ….but without breaching confidentiality I can only say we have taken a bit of a battering over the last few months and there is a lot of work to be done ( I will say this is NOT about management; suffice to say the HT and myself have been put under a lot of stress which we’ve tried to deflect from colleagues! )

So….on to my personal challenge!

#connect……. My job is to connect with a whole spectrum of people…children, parents, colleagues, schools, CAMHS,  CSC, other professionals……the list goes on and on! This is not always easy given the nature of our school but what keeps me going is having empathy and understanding  for a variety of individuals who sometimes struggle to make the right choices…….the parent who wants the best but can’t live up to expectations, the Head teacher crying over a child in her school, the overstretched and harassed social worker besieged on all sides, the child who really, really wants to be good….these are the things that can eat you up bit by bit leaving a puff of smoke where your soul once was!!! At first it hurt me dreadfully but you need to focus on the job in hand and keep the child at the heart of everything you do or say.
What I am less good at is staying in touch with friends and seeing more of my family; at this time in my life work has the upper hand but I know I need to keep a balance. On the second of January I am meeting some old work friends so that is a start!

#exercise….. This is tricky! Once upon a time I was a super gym freak who lived on a cross- trainer and in a pool! These days I seem so tired and I don’t have the same energy levels. I know I should cut down on sugary treats and drink less alcohol but I love reading, tweeting and blogging….sedentary habits to say the least! However at school I am up and down our very long corridors and at home up and down two flights of stairs so I’m not completely vegged out! I would like to join a dance class so I need to get off my a**e and do something about it!!

#notice….. Not sure about this one…..I can be self – absorbed at home so I do need to be more proactive and not always retreat to my virtual world! Hubby said just now he gets more reaction from talking to our foster-cat Eli……oops!!!!

#learn…… This is nice and easy from a professional point of view…..I am learning all the time….I champion mental health issues in children and contribute to a national working party….I am also making myself into an expert in SEND and regularly advise mainstream colleagues. I am also a CAF champion and train others. At home I am learning all the time on Twitter and have taken resources into school that I have found……I also learn from fellow tweeps and am looking forward to attending NRocks 2015 in June…..my first teachmeet! This is fab for well- being as I will get to meet my lovely tweepals face to face! I have met some….Cherryl has visited my PRU which was exciting…..and I was lucky to be invited to OFSTED to see and speak to Mike Cladingbowl in the company of Cherryl and Mary and Chrismcd and Debra and Stephen and @thoughtweavers…..the power of Twitter!

#volunteer…… I’m lucky in my job that I get the opportunity from time to time to freely volunteer my services to support mainstream colleagues in a different way ie training in specific areas , giving help and advice to NQTs. But….That’s a bit sneaky as it still falls under my work remit! I’d like to say I volunteered in a soup kitchen or at a cat rescue home but I don’t sadly! It would be nice to get outdoors so perhaps I need to look around for something completely different. However as well as being a manager (governor) at the PRU I have now become a governor at a local special school after a plea from the HT for a critical friend in terms of education! I took delivery of the welcome pack the other day and just hope I can do the role justice!!!

I would just like to finish by saying thanks to @MartynReah for his sterling work curating #teacher5aday and #sharingiscaring and giving us the chance to focus on the positive side of teaching! This is such an important and rewarding job so well done sir!!

It just remains to wish you all a happy and healthy 2015! See some of you oop north in June! Yay!!


Nurture 1415

This is my first blog on my new hudl tablet! Yay! Hope this is a good omen for 2015!
I have just read some fabulous blogs on this theme from Chris and Sue and Jonny and Cheryl and more……and it struck me what a diverse and marvellous group of people grace twitter with elegance, humour, and individuality! Not only that but a love of children in all their guises shines through in a myriad of blogs and tweets….these are educators and human beings who care and then share! None of us are perfect but being passionate about  educating children, even those on the fringes, is a worthy calling and we should be proud of that!

This time last year I was not on twitter. Months before I had created a handle and an avatar but that was all. I tweeted once I think. At this time I didn’t realise its power. I didn’t know it would open up a whole new world to me with enough cpd to last a lifetime! I didn’t know about  the super colleagues and now friends who were out there to be connected to. So what changed? It was a friend who got me tweeting at around May time; lovely May with its blossom and dancing and gaily coloured streamers tied to the Maypole linked to the happiness of children! My son was born many summers ago in the merry month of May and it seems fitting that I should discover Twitter at this time ; it was a time of personal growth and finding my voice in the company of some special tweeps. Rory was one of those and he encouraged me to write a blog for his #whoIamandwhatIdo collection; this was scary and took me ages but I was fairly happy with it and Rory said some very kind things ! I call him my twitmentor and credit him with my burgeoning passion for blogging. From a child I have enjoyed writing and losing myself in books but never felt like a real writer…..now I can indulge my amateur side in speaking about the things I care about!

So what are my highs and lows from 2014? I’m going to stick to my professional life for this. Obviously tweeting and blogging have been amongst the high spots this year. Cherryl has really encouraged me and she came to visit my PRU in the summer which was great; it is lovely to actually meet fellow tweeps! In August I blagged a visit to see Michael Cladingbowl from OFSTED in the company of Mary, Cherryl, Debra Kidd and ChrisMcD and others and it was brilliant! I got to ask questions I had collated from PRU tweeps and felt that Mike really listened to us! He admitted he had little experience of PRUs but agreed that inspectors need to know about behaviour if they were coming to us…I had heard horror stories on this front and told him!

My blogging has really taken off and I try to give a flavour of what it’s like to work with excluded children who are on the fringes of society. Unfortunately, too many people including, sadly, teachers believe that these kids are ‘ naughty’ or, worse, ‘feral’ and swallow the tabloid definition of ‘little thugs’ wholesale! This has caused me to fall foul of the ‘traditionalists’ who are all for the ‘good children’ etc etc. Aren’t we all? I had a ‘good’ son who plaintively asked me why the teacher shouted at the whole class when someone misbehaved! I don’t pretend there are easy answers but we can’t stop trying!
I have had to endure the championing of dodgy blogs by child haters who think it’s fine to refer to young kids as ‘toerags’ (anonymous blogger later changed this!) ….Academies Weekly no less allowed this blog\ rant to be put forward as a must read ! …..fie on you! It’s not nice to be blocked but I felt I had to speak out. I am sorry though that in the process I upset a perfectly nice lady who felt she had to nail her colours to a different mast!
What some fail to see is underlying SEN and severe mental health issues in some very young children that manifest themselves in behaviour. Some children have emotional problems linked to their home lives and these can surface in violence and aggression and the destruction of property; they often struggle to cope in large groups….they need a small nurturing setting and intensive adult support. Are we really wanting to write off children as young as 4??? Whose fault is it that they are as they are?

I do feel that we are working together in our PRU to make a difference in and out of house. Our HT is brilliant with the kids and supportive of the intervention work we do. The intervention leader and I do a lot of training in schools and hold half termly SEND meetings for local schools. We hold weekly SENCO surgeries. We have great staff who support children in mainstream and we have developed good links with other agencies to support schools and parents.

So what of 2015? OFSTED is looming….I just hope we get inspectors who can appreciate what we are about! I am concerned about the number of perm exes coming through; we are a 32 place primary unit serving 160 schools! It also takes away our ability to offer respite places which has been highly successful! I am committed to work with schools in preventing exclusion.

As a result of being on twitter I saw the opportunity of being on a national working party for mental health; being accepted on this has been one of my proudest moments and I am hoping to roll out training for schools on being a mentally healthy school. I am also going to look at introducing more therapeutic approaches within the PRU funding allowing!.

Talking of twitter I am looking forward to attending my first teachmeet in Leeds in June #Northernrocks really excited to see tweepals Cherryl, DiLeed, Rachel plus Tim and Rory and other lovely friends! Cannot waiiiiitttttt. !! !! excited !!!!

So much work to do and so little time! Many teachers my age have  retired from the fray but I don’t feel ready for this AT ALL! Someone needs to love the lost and reclaim the forgotten. When I think about all our little success stories who have gone on to bigger and better things I could weep with joy! It’s not easy to recover from being in a PRU and some do sink, sadly, not waving but drowning. When I read derogatory things said about our kids I could weep with rage, one school has perm exed two children from the same class! They are 8 years age for God’s sake and the one already with us is fine….he needs nurture not rejection!! Last year a school perm exed a Y6 boy who had been there from reception THREE WEEKS before the end of the year! He had undiagnosed autism and loved keeping chickens! He is doing well in Y7 as his needs are being met by the local academy ( yes there are some bloody good ones!) Don’t bleat to me that it’s all the poor little kids’ fault! This lies on both sides!

In conclusion I would like to say…..if you want to know how the other half live, please follow my blog…..I actually think we are moving to three quarters in terms of families experiencing severe difficulties….another strand of my job is finding support for them …..children’s social care is in crisis but help is so needed! Contrary to popular belief our PRU is full of hard working families whose children need medical and other help that they struggle to access! The most heartbreaking over the years are those in children’s homes…..they are often living with the ultimate rejection! Literacy and Numeracy are not a priority, amazingly!
2015 is an election year so it could be anybody’s game! I will carry on fighting the good fight for schools with difficult catchments and for families and above all for our future…..our lovely kids!


The Angel who Got her Wings

The title of this post is that of our Nativity play at school but in my eyes reflects the achievements of all of our children who, metaphorically and literally, earned their wings today.

The Nativity play in school traditionally tugs on the heartstrings of parents and teachers alike. For us it is especially poignant because in their mainstream settings our kids are the ones who are on one to one outside class or sent home or sheep number 3 sitting closely guarded by a TA on the outer reaches of a bench near a door ready to be whisked away at a moment’s notice! I often refer to our kids as being on the fringes of society and at this time of year it becomes even more apparent….but not , thankfully, for our little gang!

Practising for a Nativity play is fraught with difficulty for our kids….They struggle to sit….They struggle to listen….and concentrate…and remember their lines. They are not used to being the centre of attention; the concept of being a star or even a bit part is totally alien to them! Some, despite our best efforts, refuse to engage and some actively disrupt proceedings as a way of expressing their distress and disconnectedness from the season of goodwill; they often manifest unhappiness with their world at this time. And who can blame them? Christmas in dysfunctional families and for those in care is often a time of strife and bitterness, wrenching memories and small sadnesses. Yet for others it can signify hope and renewal and a chance to reinvent themselves.

So what of our kids this year? First off I want to say how proud we are of all of them! They rose to the occasion magnificently! Our Little Angel was amazing! This little one came to us in distress but has grown into a confident girl who sings and dances like a dream and is definitely a potential X factor contestant!! Listening to her singing her little solo in a pure and beautiful voice brought tears to our eyes!

Then there were our little animals! One young boy was not expecting his mum to come due to the distance and lack of transport. Fortunately I was at a meeting in the morning and able to arrange a family worker to bring her….It was magical…..He was so happy to see his mum and couldn’t stop smiling..you just can’t bottle it!!

One boy took over a main part at short notice but didn’t expect his dad to come; I rang him and he turned up with the lad’s sister aswell; cue smiles and happiness!

A young boy didn’t want to take part but loved doing jobs – he was meeter and greeter for visiting families!

Another young man was supposed to be at his mainstream school today but wanted to be with us to support us. He ended up volunteering to be Mary because the little girl was poorly! Mr Bravery has represented us on our local Pupil Parliament and conducted himself immaculately. …no change there then!

I could go on….angels who can often be little devils….but not today! Shepherds and lamb who have been lost but are now found! Kings who are a credit to the East…of the county….and little Joseph who sat still for the first time !! Also some fab narrators without whom the story couldn’t have been told! And the singing….The singing was super !

I could burst with pride at how our children performed and all who saw them added their lovely positive comments. Our management committee reps (governors to you) were delighted and the children were so proud they had done well!

So what can we learn from this? ‘All children have their strengths’ is a key conclusion for me! In a nurturing and small environment all children can achieve their potential; the dynamics surrounding this need to be discussed in more detail.

The parents and carers who came to our concert today were blown away by the performances of their kids and the potential they all showed. Is it too much to ask that we look at this in a wider sense and examine more closely our mainstream provision? No child deserves to be written off but it can happen for a variety of reasons.
At the end of our play the Little Angel brought the gift of love to Baby Jesus and that is His magical legacy to us all.

Happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year!


A Parallel Universe

Tonight Thomas Starkey spoke about feeling like …’ an empty atom in an empty vein’….the dark thoughts which can invade our hours between sleeping and waking and leave us with half formed impressions of helplessness and vacuity…..I am normally one of life’s ‘glass half- full’ optimists but this week I feel like I am existing in a parallel universe where the darkness is rising steadily and inexorably.

Last week I blogged some random impressions of events from the preceding few days and wondered what we are doing to our children. This week I am feeling this even more strongly and not in a good way.

Firstly lots of political things going on at the moment, locally as well as nationally; I don’t want to be too specific  so I will stick to generics which I am sure will be replicated up and down the country. At county level there are major concerns about the number of perm exes from schools…and don’t we know it! We are nearly full!
At SEND level there are problems with Educational Psychologist referrals; we are a large county and the conversions to EHC plans are clogging up the system!
So how is this affecting us? Well, the powers that be at County level are trying to reverse the trend of exclusion and are working to this end with mainstream…..but in the process are not acknowledging the good work we do already, and are putting us under pressure to achieve the impossible. The fact is we are funded in the main for perm exes so the system is wrong not us!!! We do take respite places but the plain truth is schools don’t want these children back! We are short stay provision not a special school !!
In order to move on children to specialist provision we need EHC plans…but we can’t get EPs due to pressure of conversions….It has been suggested we buy in independent people…We don’t get funded!…meanwhile pressure is put on us to take kids on placement on an ad hoc basis…..#parallel universe

Other concerns include ….still more perm exes in the offing and back door deals being done! Swapping dual role for perm ex. Anxious parent saying she is scared for her bright child who is struggling and excluded; I was crying at the end of our conversation…
He had been through so much. By Friday I was swearing audibly in the privacy of my office and feeling I was in a #parallel universe

I have also supported a struggling NQT this week with behaviour. This depressed me because it brought back old feelings of inadequacy in my career when I too have struggled and felt unsupported. A colleague asked if this was now in our remit and I feel it so damn well is; fortunately my lovely HT agrees!! At this point ’empty atom’ thoughts creep in…being a new teacher now is a bloody big ask! I will do my utmost to help this teacher! #sharingiscaring

On a positive note am going with colleague to do some behaviour training at a village school which has taken all our advice on board and finding this is making a difference. If we can only get our message across to others in the same positive way then I might feel we are living in the real world rather than a #parallel universe