Grab a Balloon- Let’s Explore Together!

upF1
Photo by Disney/Pixar

 

I was watching the film ‘Up’ with my Mum and children the other day (actual offspring; I don’t take my Mum to school with me.) It was the part where Russell and Mr Fredrickson have landed after the storm and realised that they are on the wrong side of Paradise Falls. Keeping the house with them, tied up and weighing them down they trudge slowly towards their destination. The old man has his eyes firmly set on where they are headed, and at times is distracted by where he has been, or the weight of the house he is carrying or the crushing weight of his grief for his beloved wife. Russell’s interjections and observations go largely unnoticed, or brushed to one side as a distraction from the ultimate aim- which was to get to paradise falls. My Mum thought it was interesting that the old man was focussed on the future and the past, while Russell (the child) was wholly and entirely in the moment.

It got me thinking… as adults it is inevitable that we get burdened and bogged down in our own lives to some extent. We don’t have the luxury that children have to be ever present and living from moment to moment, do we? Perhaps it could be too easy to become Mr Fredrikson in the classroom some days ploughing on with our own cause and not open to the path or direction the child would prefer to be on. What does this say about us as teachers? The following poem explores the conflict between the direction of the child and the teacher that can sometimes occur in a data driven classroom:

“I’m being a leaf, I can float in the sky,

Look at me dance, watch me fly”.

“That’s nice dear but please take heed,

You must sit down, it’s time to read.

You haven’t achieved what the plan is for you,

I must intervene and dictate what you do.

There are phonemes and graphemes with action and sound;

Segment them and blend them and prove what you’ve found.

Your data is sketchy,  you know that it’s true;

And this all reflects what I knew about you.”

©By Teaching Tiny Minds

It is our responsibility to make sure that we don’t lose sight of the little companions by our sides, the explorers in the classroom with us. After all, it is their adventure that we are on. We are merely the guides. They have a voice too and where possible we must try to incorporate moments in the day or week where they can take the lead and direct their own learning. You may be amazed what comes of it.

I had a child last week who was really struggling with arrays. I had demonstrated it, we had rehearsed it, we had discussed and explored them, but for some reason it just wasn’t clicking and I could see that she wasn’t secure in what she needed to do or how the array was helpful to solving multiplication problems. In the afternoon I gave her some time to direct her own learning. She decided to learn in the role play corner, which is currently a Bakery on Pudding Lane. Can you guess what our Topic is? About ten minutes later she asked me if I would like to buy a chocolate muffin (as she presented me an empty baking tray.) ‘Of course!’ I exclaimed. ‘My favourite! How did you guess?’ She asked me how many I would like and so I asked her how many she was selling. Then her face fell as she looked at the tray and I could see she didn’t know what to do. I encouraged her to look at the tray and remember what we were talking about in Maths that morning. Her face split into such a wide smile I nearly chuckled ‘It’s an array!!’ So I asked her again how many cupcakes she had. She looked at the tray, counted 3 and 4, then said 3 x 4 is 12!’ All morning I had been pushing her towards the outcome that I wanted for her, but it wasn’t until I let her go, that she came to the learning by herself.

FullSizeRender_small_edited-1

It can be easy as teachers for our minds to become full of the things that we need to achieve in the day; the resources that need preparing; that meeting after school; the conversation had on the playground with a parent at the start of the day and that’s before we even get into the classroom and start filling our brains with lesson objectives, differentiation, collecting evidence, marking and oh don’t forget to send the homework out!! However, the children aren’t bagageless either, okay it may not be the size of a house, it may be the size of a Wilderness Explorers backpack, but it burdens them all the same… My new baby brother woke me up last night, I’m tired. I wish I had eaten all my breakfast like Mummy said I should, I’m hungry. I miss Mummy. Hmmmm Isabella has a nicer headband than me. I wish I had a pink headband. If I had that headband I’d look like a popstar. When is break? I’m sad that my hamster died! (two years ago!)  Ohhh this chair is wobbly. Is that a rainbow? Both sets of baggage, both ours and theirs interfere with the process of learning.

It can be hard when we are under pressure to deliver results not to see the little distractions and deviations as a little frustrating at times. However, stay in the moment, be mindful of what is happening in the moment. If the child is hungry, cold, tired, bored then they can not learn. If we are mindful then we are more likely to be aware of the needs of our children. These can then be fixed and the lesson can continue. Or their needs might preclude the lesson taking place at that time.

Practising mindfulness, that ability to stay in the moment isn’t just important for us but it is also an important life skills for our pupils to learn. MindBodygreen.com have some excellent ideas on how to bring Mindfulness to children. If you are looking to help the children calm down and be present then I love the idea of Breathing Buddies (little toys that you place on your stomach to watch as you breathe deeply) and Squish and Relax (the process of tightening and relaxing sequences of muscles in the body to promote relaxation.) The following clip, as suggested by Emily Drabble in How to Teach…Mindfulness, is a great way to introduce the concept of staying present with your class.

Kung Fu Panda and The Peach Tree- The Meaning of Minfulness

For effective learning to take place it is essential that we all learn to put our baggage down, and mindfulness is certainly one way to support that. So let go of the House, grab a balloon, let’s go and explore together!

up_20

 

Advertisements

Learning to Love again- Part 2

image1
Photo by TheHopefulTeacher

I feel like the world has completely shifted since I wrote my first post. This time last week I was a knackered, apathetic teacher dreading the start of another term. This term is short, and it leads up to the dreaded Assessment Term- May was looming large on the horizon. Questions were buzzing round my brain, Maths equations for weeks ahead divided by pupils, divided by objectives, multiplied by lessons lead to numbers I’m pretty sure were never going to add up… and so it went on in a nauseating tea cup ride of Assessment, Expectations, Evidence, Moderation, Ofsted…. STOP!!

I began to search, without knowing what it was I was searching for. Another way, another career, another life. I came across a movement in America called #LoveTeaching. Suddenly I realised the problem: I had fallen out of love with teaching!!

Now don’t get me wrong, you might be sitting there thinking, well sure, it happens! Well, it shouldn’t! I teach in the most amazing school. I have been there since I was an NQT and watched it turn from a cosy and loving, albeit a slightly disoragnised and chaotic establishment into a hive of creative, supportive, nurturing and organised individuals working tirelessly to do the best for our wonderful children; exploring and sparkling together! In this environment no-one should be falling out of love with teaching!

Perhaps a career in teaching is like a Long marriage, there is the honeymoon period; the fresh doey eyed enthusiasm of the NQT. Full of Hope, new ideas and energy. Over time this mellows into a confident familairity of the more experienced teacher, now as I see this analogy through I am struck by the fact that perhaps what I was actually experiencing was the Seven year itch!! The change of curriculum and assessment have acted like a house move or bereavement, upsetting the equilibrium and forcing me to reassess. Perhaps I’ll go out and flirt with other schools, see what else it out there, what am I missing? Decide to pack it in all together and look at a different profession. No. If you want a long happy marriage then don’t look elsewhere. Look carefully at what you have got. Appreciate it, cherish it, find the joy in it. Change something, try something new, but do it together.

So thats what I have done. I changed my focus, I reassessed, I looked within. What was really important. What could I live with and not live without? I can live with the chopping and changing, the ridiculous expecations and pressures put on us and the children, as long as when I leave them at the end of the day they can say ‘Today has been a good day!’ When they look back on thier time with me in the years to come I want them to remember all the fun and interesting things that we learned, explored and discovered. I want them to remember me as crazy, happy, kind, patient, inspiring… but please not Boring!!!

I wish there was a tick list for Independence Skills, Resilience, Empathy, Kindness, Tolerance, Perseverance, Creativty, Problem Solving and Communication…. beacuse these are the skills that the children in my class are going to be leaving with.

For those of you struggling and feeling alone, be reassured. You are not. I have been staggered by the support I have recieved from other like minded professionals as I embarked upon this journey. We are not alone. There are others trying hard to remain positive, keep smiling and soldier on. So try not to dwell, get the paper work done, stop moaning in the staff room and make someone laugh. grab a cup of tea, give someone a hug and keep things in perspective. What is important to you? What can you live with? #OptimisticEd

Learning to Love Again

one
Photo by Brian A Jackson/ Getty Images

I have been teaching in one capacity or another for the past ten years. It was not something I grew up with a passion for. It is not something that I felt called to do. I fell into teaching. I didn’t mean to be a teacher. I didn’t actually particularly want to be a teacher to begin with. But like with any great love sometimes it chooses you, you don’t choose it.

I fell in love with teaching. I loved the fact that each day was different. That I learned as much each day as I taught. I got to use all of my skills and talents to inspire, motivate and instruct. I got to have fun. I could create, design, invent and all the time broadening horizons and bursting wide opportunities for my students.

I loved the fact that each day I woke up happy to work. I looked forward to going in and seeing those little faces and I could sleep at night knowing I was making a difference. I know that sounds cheesy, but teachers certainly don’t love the job for the pay or the thanks!

This year has been the first year that I have begun to drag myself out of bed. I’m angry about my work. I have come home feeling deflated, confused and anxious. The New Curriculum has meant I have had to push children even further than before to reach evermore seemingly unobtainable objectives. The goal posts have moved and moved again. My teaching has become increasingly test driven, test orientated, and the creative and balanced curriculum I once thrived upon has been squeezed and squished into the corners of the term. I wake up in the middle of the night thinking about other ways to get SPAG objectives into lessons. I wake up worrying that I am crushing spirits and creating robots.

I have moaned. I have complained. I considered quitting- on several occasion. But what else could I do? What else would I want to do? What I want to do is feel like I’m inspiring my pupils. Building their confidence and watching their talents grow. Helping them discover the amazing qualities that make them unique. I want to reflect upon each day and think that I have done my best, been the best teacher that I can be. I want to Love it again!!!

It’s the end of half term and I have read article after article of teacher rants, Union complaints, group chat tirades about the assessment system this year and the lunacy of the New Curriculum. I could join the debate, I could fuel the debate or I can accept that ultimately I have little power to change the process, change the tests, change the curriculum. However, I can change my attitude. I can refocus on the children, not the tests. I can look to squeeze creativity, wonder and fun into each day and focus on our successes and our dramas. The children’s stories.

Too many teachers, great teachers, are completely fed up. We need to look again. I hope with this blog I will learn to Love the job I never wanted to do, but never want to leave.