Teacher 5 a day

My teacher 5 a day commitments have been a little patchy! I’ve managed to run twice a week but I’m struggling to get beyond that- cold nights, working late and the desire to spend a bit more time with the toddler have pushed exercise aside in the week!

One change I have made is to restrict the amount of time I’m willing to spend on work at the weekend . I’ve been setting a very strict 2 hours time limit and then that’s it, computer off! I’m n falling behind and I seem to get a lot done in a concentrate d amount of time! I think starting work at 7.30 helps too as I get at least an hour a day to get on with things!

It’s so easy to just do a little bit more but I’m pushing myself to stop when it’s done and not always aim for perfect!

Cherries and willows- dealing with a death of a student

One of the most difficult parts of being a teacher has been coping with the death of one of my students. This can happen to any teacher but as teachers of children with profound and complex needs it’s something we may face more often than others.

In my seven years of teaching two of my students have passed away, one was partly expected but still terrible, the other was an awful surprise. One the first occasions I was informed over the weekend and was able to process the news in privacy which allowed me to support the staff and students more effectively, on the second occasion I arrived in work after a holiday to be told that the student had passed away over the holidays and the decision had been made not to tell me in part in attempt not to ‘ruin’ my holiday and partly because I was struggling with a difficult pregnancy at the time. Personally I much preferred finding out before arriving at school and I feel I was a far more effective in supporting the students and staff.

Small things can make a huge difference when a student passes away- the school contacted the parents of the students to offer our condolences and to ask if they would like myself and LSA to contact them and school enabled us too leave school and visit them to offer our condolences in person- an incredibly hard but important thing to do. Secondly the school contacted the parents of other students and sought advice about the best way to tell the class what had happened. Finally the school arranged for people to be available to talk to for both staff and students not just the day we came back but over the next few weeks.

Telling the class was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done- how do you explain to children with complex needs that a classmate isn’t coming back? I’m not sure whether they understood but we told them simply, over the next week we packed away the students things and together we selected photos and work to create a memory book to share together and with parents. It felt important to us that the students things didn’t just disappear and that their friends had time to explore the space they had left in our class.

Finally the school allowed myself and their LSA to attend both funerals and we planted two beautiful trees in our garden one pink flowering cherry and one willow to commemorate two lives that ended too soon. We often sat beneath them sharing stories, activities and relaxing together. Whilst many of the staff and students have moved on the trees remain and I’m sure they are still giving shade and enjoyment to many.

Finally I learnt the importance of looking after myself- trying to support others can only work if you support yourself, having lost two students within a year and struggling with a difficult and uncertain pregnancy I ended up going on maternity leave early- at the time I felt eaten up with guilt but now I look back I see that I was simply unable to cope with everything and give the level of care and attention my students needed and deserved.

Teacher support network- support for teachers

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Nurture 14/15

This year has been one of highs and lows- the lowest was the news that my wonderful nurture classes developed over the last 3 years were to close and I was to ‘ve moved back to mainstream classes in September. The reason? Our new academy sponsors didn’t feel they ‘fitted the vision for the school’.

If I had to choose a word for 2014 it would be ‘struggle’ I struggled to fight for our nurture provision, struggled to hold peace in interminable meetings with academy ‘experts’ and struggled with the decision to leave the school, community and colleagues I loved for pastures new.

My next word would be ‘change’ from mainstream to special, from part to full time, from 13 in a class to 5, from balancing motherhood and teaching to going off balance as I’ve tried to establish my new class. Change is hard and its hit me hard this year!

My third would be growth- I’ve grown as a person, as a teacher and as a mother. I completed the 0-5k challenge and discovered a great way to destress, I gained (and turned down) a place on a doctorate course, I finished my senco qualification and I’ve gone from parenting a cute little one year old to my very own bouncing, shouting by bundle of two-year old joy. Tantrums ahoy!

My final word would be passion. Moving jobs has reignited my passion for what I do and I feel like a square peg in a square hole.

I’m hoping 2015 is going to be a year of settling- settling into our new house (just got to find it!) Settling into the new job and settling into full time working and parenting a child who knows what he wants and can finally communicate it (well sometimes!) I’m hoping to reach out more as well- attending some conferences, spending time with friends and Mr B and being more active here on on Twitter. I’m fiablky finding my feet and looking forward to a great new year!

Here’s to 2015 and a it has to offer!

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Working with LSA’s

Learning to work with a large LSA team has been one of the challenges of moving from mainstream to special school. In my last setting I worked with two or at most three LSA’s in a class of 12. Most of the time these staff were supporting individuals or taking small groups whilst I ‘led’ most of the learning.

In my currently class I have 6 students and 6 LSA’s and as each student has an individual timetable and program of study whilst I may plan all the session I can deliver or observe only a very small amount of these sessions. Learning to manage a team is something I am developing- I’m not  a  natural manager but fortunately my team has been supportive and keen and so my infant management skills haven’t been tested too far!

I thought I’d share my top five tips on working with and LSA team as gleaned from my first term!

1- Pitch in– my personal moto is: Never ask and LSA to do something I wouldn’t be prepared to do. Now this doesn’t mean that I do everything but it does mean that I make sure I don’t duck out from difficult or challenging tasks. I’ve worked with challenging students, finished my tracheotomy training (despite the fact it scared the heck out of me!) and cleaned the messy play area more than once!

2- Say thankyou- make sure you say it and say it often! I thank the staff in my class as often as I can and always make it specific, the LSA’s I work with are what make the progress of the students possible, they work very hard for not enough money and the very least I can do is say thanks!

3- Share what you do– I don’t just thank the staff in private I take it public too, I take every opportunity to praise the team to other teachers to SLT and to parents.

4- Be honest– Admit when you’re wrong, don’t promise what you can’t deliver and admit your mistakes. I’ve screwed up but being honest has meant that staff trust what I say and rather then judge they’ve always taken the opportunity to support me.

5- Show your passion- I’m passionate about what I do, I enjoy what I do and I want to share that with the staff. Yes there are challenges, yes there are not so great moments but I minimise my whining and instead focus on sharing what I love and why I love it. Staying positive can make the difference between a day being hectic but ultimately rewarding and just awful.

And never, ever forget to laugh- at yourself if nothing else!