The Secret Club of Show Week

There is nothing quite like school production week at school. Being an Am Dram enthusiast myself, I can empathise with the enthusiasm that this week brings. To fathom that there is a life outside of the show is unimaginable.  Only you and your fellow performers can really understand what you are going through and you do end up becoming your own little secret club. Year groups mix, friendship groups merge and memories are made that last a lifetime.

By far the most enjoyable element for me, being part of the production team, has been watching pupils shine who would not normally do so.  One particular student who I will call J has brought tears to my eyes this past week. He is the sort of boy who I believe has his own personal table and chair at Friday after school SLT detention as he is there so often. If you utter his name in the staff room it elicits the most negative reaction.  Yet, this week he has shone brighter than anyone else. This show meant so much to him, I can honestly say I have never seen him work so hard on anything before.  He learned the dance routines to perfection, was one of the first to put his script down and never missed a rehearsal. During show week he really did himself justice and was truly outstanding.  Watching the faces and the reactions of teachers who teach him realising that this (quite often frustrating) boy had talent was priceless.  For once, J was the achiever not the struggler.

As a classroom teacher we become so busy that it easy to forget about the person behind the grades. We are constantly tracking their progress in our chosen subject yet how often do we take the time to see the person behind the grade. Our registers have their FFT D score, their data, and their KS2 results yet there never seems to be a column about who they are. I truly believe that it is our responsibility to protect our students from being just a number and bring out who they really are. School life and the memories which students leave with are made exactly from events such as school productions and we need to keep these alive and kicking.

I know for a fact that making a difference is why we go into the teaching profession. It goes without saying that enabling students to leave with qualifications is our ‘bread and butter’ but the jam and marmalade is what makes a student feel special and understood.  It’s what allows students to become individuals, to understand who they truly are and ignite their true potential. It is for this reason that it saddens me so much how the Arts are being undermined so much within a national context.  People like J need an outlet like a show week to realise they are good at things.

The dichotomy of being a teacher and a parent: Part 1

My husband and I are both at the worry stage in the school year.  You may think that this is due to us both being teachers and our own commitments to the term we have coined the ‘working’ term, however it actually stems from our eldest son.

Our eldest child is an August baby and is currently in Year 2. SATS year! At such an early age these tests are going to predict what his 3 levels of progress will be by year 6. It will  therefore predict (assuming he meets his targets) what set he is going to be in when he starts high school, what his end of KS3 result will be even as far as what FFTD will predict he will get at GCSE and potentially A level. He’s 6. In many European countries this would have been his first actual year at school and for some he wouldn’t have even started. Yet he is about to be assessed and predictions made about the rest of his school life.

Being ‘those’ parents we requested a meeting with his classroom teacher to see where he was at and what particular areas he needed to improve on. We are lucky that his classroom teacher is sympathetic to our manic nature and was able to give us a break down of data that we required to put our mind at rest.

Yet in the same week I was the ‘teacher’ for my schools Year 7 parents evening. The shoe was now on the other foot.   I dutifully entered the school hall with all the data which they may ask of me, where are they working at? What should they be achieving by the end of the year key stage? etc.  Although questions were asked by some on data the vast majority were most interested in the wellbeing and happiness of their child. Were they liked? Did they enjoy the lesson? Are they well behaved? Did they fit in? Granted, this week I have Year 11 parents evening and I know that the questions I will be asked will certainly be much more data driven but it made me realise how parents want a well-rounded child. A child who shows compassion, cares and knows right from wrong.

On the drive home it dawned on me. Both my husband and myself have become so much part of the machine that we have both placed data and achievement above those really important questions.  Had we asked our own child’s class teacher those all important nurturing questions?  Our eldest son is an amazing little boy (naturally we are biased) but we often forget how loving he is, how well he looks after his younger brothers and funny he can be, if at times not always intentionally.  We need to remember this, and stop focusing on those little numbers which he will get at the end of the year.

Taking on from @MartynReah   #teacher5aday I would like to focus mine on #child5aday. We need to spend more time and look at our own children and realise what amazing characters they are. We need to #Connect with them and spend the time to get to know them, #Volunteer our time to do what they want to do rather than what we feel they should do. #Nurture their personality #Learn about what drives them and what their ambitions are and finally #Learn to de-stress and enjoy our children for the wonderful people they are becoming. The data in some respects is out of our hands but getting to know who our own children are and developing emotionally intelligent human beings isn’t.

My open letter to Twitter

Dear Twitter,

As a breed, I have found that teachers on the whole are good whingers.  I for one am one, my husband is and so is my best friend of over 20 years.  Put us in a room together and we can moan with the best of them. We can lament about the ever piling admin, we can scrutinise decisions made by the government and we can happily get on our soap box about hours spent working.   Yet between us we have over 30 years of teaching experience. At any point during those years we could have stopped, changed career, but why haven’t we?

I remember very vividly starting my first term as an NQT. Christmas seemed a wondrous, far away holiday. When the last day of term finally arrived, I like many other NQT’s felt a sense of achievement.  We had survived.  We had accomplished a term when at times the late night prepping, the constant battle with ‘that’ class and the never ending piles of marking never seemed to finish. Walking into the staff room that very last day I found on the table one tin of ‘quality street’ opened with a card from the then Head saying ‘ To all the staff, Merry Christmas, thank you for all your hard work, help yourself’.   That was it.  Whilst my non-teaching graduate friends were being introduced to the world of Christmas bonuses, lavish Christmas do’s and exuberant hampers to take home, I sat an ate my solitary ‘strawberry delight’.

That is when it hit me; teaching is like no other profession.  If I had yearned for lavish displays of gratitude this was not the profession to be in.   However, I stayed, I had got the bug. Teaching was like nothing else I had experienced, it was truly a ‘marmite’ profession. I never realised how one simple hour with one class could bring such an emotional rollercoaster of emotions. The thrill of the ride was and still is addictive.  Ten years on, I now realise we have become so adept at moaning   because we are so passionate about what we do.  We are intrusted with surely the biggest reward; shaping the future of the next generation. The rewards of teaching are endless however the daily grind sometimes fogs what is truly the best job in the world.

Yet, by starting twitter, I have found there to be almost a ‘secret club of positivity’.  A place where teachers have produced an online community where being proud of your profession, sharing ideas and being proactive in new educational research is sought after and praised.  We are all proud as teachers of what we do, but Twitter has given us a place to sing about it.

So, thank you Twitter, for giving me a space to be proud of what I do and allowing me the place to share, discover and research.

Yours in anticipation of the future,

The Juggling Educator.