Planning

There are a 3 main types of planning in my classroom:

1- continous provision
I’m lucky to have been given free reign to develop our early years/ early primary class, one of the first things I did was spend a chunk of cash setting up our CP room. We have 4/5 areas that we review and update each half term- exploration, sensory, maths, block play and small world. Each has a planning sheet stuck up with information on how to use the area with each student to help their learning and building towards their long and medium term goals.

2- topic webs
We have a topic per half term – each student has a topic web which includes medium term and long term goals and then lists the things they are doing in each area- communication and language, literacy, numeracy, knowledge and understanding of the world, creative, personal social and emotional, sensory and physical. This planning makes sure that students don’t repeat the same activities year after year and that students get both a vertical and horizontal curriculum.

3- session plans
Each student has a set of session plans. Even in group or paired sessions each student has their own targets. These plans include long term, medium term and short term targets and are filled in by LSA’s who then let me know as targets are reached.

Together the three sets of planning ensure that students make progress and get breadth of study in all areas of learning. It may seem like a lot but a small class and medium term targets that run 6 monthly help to keep workload managable

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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.

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Cruse

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!

Teacher 5 a day

I’ve seen a lot of Twitter talk about #teacher5aday and after a bit of “research” it looks like a fantastic idea to develop wellbeing, share ideas and look after ourselves and our colleagues and this can only have a positive impact on our students. Mustafa Kemal Attaturk said :

“A good teacher is like a candle it consumes to light the way for others”

I’ve only been teaching for 7 years and I’ve already seen too many colleagues burn themselves out for others.

Teacher5aday is focusing on 5 areas:
Connect, be active, keep learning, take notice and give and encouraging teachers to track their progress through blogs or in Twitter.

I’m going to try to work on an area at a time adding new bits as I go in attempt not to become overwhelmed. Starting with:
Be active:
My aim is to improve my running and make the time to go out at least three times each week to run off the stresses and strains of the day plus I always get the best ideas out running!

Making a talking, braille feely book

I recently made a touchy feely, talking, braille book for a student.

I decided on a nativity theme- each page had a single recorded word matched with a single braille word and then a tecture to match. The pages included

‘hay’ a ziplock bag of hay gaffa taped in

‘Tinsel’ and ‘Christmas tree’- small pieces of tinsel and piece of pine tree taped in using double sided tape

‘Present’- a bow stuck on

‘Christmas’- a sandwich bag filled with ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon sticks and star anise with a few very small holes in it to let out the scent.

https://encrypted-tbn3.gstatic.com/shopping?q=tbn:ANd9GcTTwGyS86oEEOg8j2-h-44cp9ZUbTg9WP5DNOGZQVg6tbFbLHQ0&usqp=CAEWe used one of these a5 recordable albums as it has a button to press on each page. On the rear of each page I recorded a snatch of christmas music

This is the braille label maker we use- it works really well as long as you press hard enough to make a proper indentation.

The student we made the book for isn’t currently using braille but we’ve started to introduce it in the same way that other students are introduced to environmental print and alongside music, the spoken word and the tactile pages our touch feely-braille-talking book has been a big hit!

First month!

Well my first month working in a Special school is over and it’s been a frantic, difficult and absolutely wonderful transition! I now feel like I’ve been there forever- I can work the printer, I know where the coffee is hidden and I have a large stack of ‘to do’s’ on my desk!

I have a small class of just 5 students with a team of 5 LSA’s. Three of my students have ASC plus sensory needs and two have multi-sensory impairments. All of them Early Years or KS1 age and they are all complex little people who need completely individual programmes of study, timetables and teaching methods! So far we’ve managed 6 community trips (4 to soft play, one to a pumpkin farm and one to go horse riding!) celebrated Eid and have managed to have 3 sessions a day where most of us make it into the same room at the same time!

What have I learnt

So far I’ve learnt that:

  • I’ve got to be flexible! From week to week, day to day and even hour to hour I need to be ready to change and adapt constantly!
  • I’ve got to let go! With 5 children off in 5 different locations doing 5 different things I need to trust my LSA team to deliver what I’ve planned, and they have!
  • Ask and ye shall receive! I’ve asked more questions this month that I have ever asked in my life before! From asking for resources (all approved lots of exciting things arriving soon!) to asking for advice to just asking where things are kept- don’t struggle just ask!
  • Sleep is essential. I’ve never been so tired I’m running around site all day (often literally running I’m glad i completed couch to 5k before I started work!) add on swimming, PE, trips out and the need to lift and guide children and I’m into bed and off to sleep by 9 most nights!
  • I’ve found my niche! I love it, even when it’s raining and the class are climbing the walls, even when I’m exhausted and just need 5 minutes with a coffee, even when I got covered in angel delight (from the sensory tray via a sudden and rather sticky cuddle) and then had to go to a rather high powered meeting with strawberry angel delight in my hair I love it and I genuinely feel like I’m ‘home’

September

Blackberry picking by August Laux
Blackberry picking by August Laux

September is so close I can smell it- heading out to drink a morning coffee in the garden I’m sure I could feel the leaves beginning to turn. We’ve been shoe shopping, new diaries have arrived and I’ve updated my wardrobe ready for the new school year! Traditionally resolutions are made in January but like many teachers my personal year runs September to September- so I’m making mine now!

  1. I will use my diary! I will write things down, make my lists in one place and try not to over book this year!
  2. I will keep on top of things at home- clothes washed, lunches made and Little B’s bag packed the night before.
  3. I will record this year- my first in my new job. Here and in my paper journal I want to keep a record of the things I’ve tried, failed and at and enjoyed!
  4. Keep healthy! Warding off the winter bugs will be easier if I keep running, keep taking the vitamins and put down the phone before bed.
  5. And finally- I will make time to network, read other blogs and get inspired!

 

August brings the sheaves of corn,
Then the harvest home is borne.

Warm September brings the fruit,
Sportsmen then begin to shoot.

From ‘January brings the snow’

 

 

Special needs teacher bloghop

bloghopspecial

I know it’s only the begining of the summer holidays for us, but over in the USA teachers everywhere are sorting out their school bags, stocking up on new pencils and swearing that this is the year they will be organised. I’ve decided to join in with an online bloghop as it seemed like a good way to find some relevant blogs to steal, I mean ‘share’ ideas with!

 

Name: Mrs B

Job title: Teacher

Grade/Year group: Early years and KS1 mixed (4-7)

Number of years taught: This will be my 8th year in teaching. Time flies when you’re buried under a pile of marking…

My top tips for fellow teachers would be:

  • routine for the class and for yourself. Routine helps children feel safe and comfortable and routine helps me stay on top of work and have a semblance of a normal life! Get your routines going from day 1.
  • Have an emergency bag stashed at work- my contains pens and blutack, some very nice coffee sachets and chocolate for bad days, pain killers for noisy days, throat sweets for hoars days and spare clothes (including underwear) for messy days!
  • connect to other teachers, through blogs, pinterest and of course face to face in your school and in other local schools.