The Diary of an SEN Kid!

I’m SEN – The Diary of a Low Achiever!

The following blog is a fictitious account and bears no resemblance to any person(s) living or dead. The idea for this blog came from the experiences and interactions I have had over the past 27 years working with both children and adults with Special Educational Needs Disabilities (SEND). I have worked in a variety of settings including: schools, youths groups, deaf clubs and prison (in a teaching capacity may I add)

I’m SEN

I’m SEN
I write with Pencil
Not in pen
There again
Nor do them
I wonder if they’re SEN?

A Day in the Life of a Special Needs Kid

Hi My name is … well it doesn’t really matter what my name is does it? I’m simply known as the Special Needs Kid, or Level 3, Under Achiever; Slow Mover, Reluctant this… Reluctant that, I even overheard someone calling me a bottom feeder once! Sad, I know!

My dad is (or was last time I saw him) a haulage contractor. He didn’t do very well at school and he told me he was taught by nuns who used to hit him with a ruler because he wrote with his left hand. It’s fair to say that neither of us really like school.

I’m in Mrs Holsgroves’s class 4F, all the groups in school have names – our class are all animals (the groups I mean not the children) I’m surrounded by pandas, giraffes, zebras, koalas and gazelles! I’m in the – wait for it – The Tigers. We’re the group that struggle and need more ‘help’ – Miss thinks that if she calls our group after the strongest and bravest animal, that’ll fool all the others kids into believing that there’s nothing wrong with us.

My group consists of Ryan B, Joe, Ebi (he’s Polish) Sophia, Ahmed (he’s known as SEN and EAL (whatever that means) – I saw it once on a list that Mrs Holsgrove had in her SEN folder, finally there’s me, Joseph Jeremiah Knight everyone calls me JJ. All of us Tigers live on the same housing estate Lime Grove. Apart from Ryan B, we are all living with a single parent.

Mrs Holsgrove gives us different coloured paper to everyone else, Gary Cooke says it’s ’cause we’re thick we have to have ‘Special’ paper. Mrs Zainab our Teaching Assistant says it’s because it’s ‘Dyslexia Friendly’ whatever that means! We get called lots of names when the teacher can’t hear. I’m not thick I just can’t work out my spellings very quickly that’s all.

Last Christmas during our school play I was tidying the class with Catherine Pike, she’s dead clever – top group – Panda.

Mr. Lees the Y6 teacher came in and asked Catherine to look for a cloak that was needed for the school play, she looked everywhere but she couldn’t find it. He then asked me – I was really happy but before I could do anything she looked at Sir whilst pointing at me and she said:
“If I cant find it, he wont!”
Great I thought – now I’m even in the bottom group for looking and finding things !

I’m not in the play this year as I was getting fed up – I love acting and singing but because I find it difficult to read the words as fast as the others I don’t get the parts I like. Two years ago I was ‘Seaweed!’ in Under the Sea. The only bit I get to say is:
“Welcome everyone to our school assembly!”

I’m always taken out of lessons to work with Mrs Zainab and the children from the class below. I don’t like it very much as I get embarrassed because the kids from the class below laugh at me. I miss out on all the good stuff that my class are doing and I miss out big chunks of the learning because I’m out of class when the teacher gives the introduction and I find it hard to catch up. Plus Gary Cooke trips me up and calls me ‘Thicko’ when I stand up to go the ‘Rainbow Room’ with Mrs Zainab. I hate spellings, phonics, handwriting lesson they bore me.

I wish I was up the yard with my dad stripping down a Volvo. I can’t spell but I can weld. Perhaps one day they’ll have a SATs Paper on Metal Fabrication! I could talk about heating steel or burning, cutting and bending angle iron. I could tell them that they could use Propane Gas to burn metal but using an Acetylene torch is much easier.

I wonder if they know that to get great results from welding you should use a mig welder with Argon Gas and a constant wire feed. I wonder if next year they’ll have a comprehension paper on ‘Welding Aluminium?’ I’d be able to tell them to make sure that the surface of the metal is spotlessly clean before you start, as any dust particles could cause impurities in the weld.

Anyway I better stop moaning as Mrs Zainab has just walked in and I’m off for my fifteen minutes of Toe by Toe – guess where? Yeah – The Rainbow Room!

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

In the best schools children like JJ thrive! The School celebrate the uniqueness of each child and sees them for what they can do rather than what they can’t”

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WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

WHEN TEACHERS LOSE THEIR MOJO!

“What’s the difference between a rut and a grave?”
Answer: The depth of the soil,
This phrase was rather eloquently coined by the American Novelist – Ellen Glasgow in the early 1900s; although it’s over a century old the sentiment is still as fresh as the day it was first written.

Those of you who are teachers will know that the job can sometimes be a series of extreme highs and lows.

The highs occur when the light flickers within the eyes of a child and they say:
“Oh I understand now!”
That ‘Bing’ moment when the imaginary light bulb appears above their head. An additional high point can be when you bump into a former student/pupil and they inform you that their chosen career path was all down to a comment or a bit of advice that you gave them when they were younger. (As you can imagine this can also work the opposite way round and become one of your low points.)

The lows are, all too, familiar to many teachers that I speak to:
An ever increasing workload.
High and sometimes unrealistic expectations of parents.
Demands from the Head Teacher and Senior Management Team.
The ever changing nature of education due to change in government.
Unsupportive colleagues.
‘The Class from Hell!’
Ofsted.

So the question is: How can we stay out of the rut, or better still how do you get out of the rut once you have fallen in? Here are a few Thought Weaver suggestions that may help.

1. Talk to colleagues.
Many of the old sayings that our grandparents came out with still ring true today:
‘A problem shared is a problem halved.’
Perhaps if we share the problem a second time that would take care of the remaining half; therefore the problem would be dissipated. It’s always good to get the opinion of another professional whether it be in your own school or another.

2. Try some summer reading.
Some of you may think that books about education are high brow and too academic. There are many out there which are exactly that. However, if you choose wisely you’ll be in for a treat. Here are a few suggestions, they are great for a read or something you can just dip into:

GUY CLAXTON: What’s the Point of School?
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Whats-Point-School-Rediscovering-Education/dp/1851686037/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221064489&sr=1-2
This book will help practitioners to reflect on what they feel the purpose of school really is!

IAN GIBERT: Essential Motivation in the Classroom.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Essential-Motivation-Classroom-Ian-Gilbert/dp/041526619X
A book of brilliant and inspirational ideas to promote intrinsic motivation in the classroom.

IAN GILBERT: Why do I need a teacher when I’ve got Google?
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Why-Need-Teacher-When-Google/dp/0415468337
A forward thinking book, considering the changing role of the teacher within 21st Century education

SIR JOHN JONES: The Magic Weaving Business:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Magic-Weaving-Business-Learning/dp/0956376002
Inspirational stories that help capture the essence of why we do what we do!

3. Get on Youtube and be inspired; here are few of the gems we have found!

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Changing paradigms.

SIR KEN ROBINSON: Do schools kill creativity?

NICK VUJICIC: I Love Living Life. I Am Happy.

MATT HARDING: Where the hell is Matt?

BOBBY McFERRIN: A demonstration of the power of the pentatonic

DAVID HOLMES: The Rapping Flight Attendant – Try to love your job this much!

4. Get on Twitter!
We assume that by reading this blog you are already aware of Twitter. However, if you received this link from another source, and as of yet you haven’t got a Twitter account, we strongly suggest you set one up. From our perspective it will be the best continual professional development tool you’ll ever use! It’s easily accessible 24/7, user friendly, highly informative, humorous and more importantly its FREE!

The Thought Weavers.

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Personification Poems – about fences?

POEMS ABOUT FENCES?

Following on from our previous blog – Poetry for the Totally Terrified – we’d like to share with you a great ‘practical’ idea to help you, to help the children, become more engaged within poetry. We have tried this idea with children from 7 to 17 and it works! It is also a great fun activity.

The first thing happens within the classroom. Tell the children that we (you as well) are going to write a Personification poem; ask them to read the first six letters of personification and they will soon realise that it spells ‘PERSON.’ Explain that we are going to make ‘seemingly’ inanimate objects come to life; like the toys do within the Toy Story movies.

Ask for a few suggestions of what we could use within our poem: The usual answers are pens, books, tables etc. Usually the items that they see before them. Tell them that today’s topic will be FENCES! The look of bewilderment and total confusion upon the faces of children is to be expected.

Next, take the children into the playground/yard and ask them to go and talk to the fences. You will get the usual: “But sir, fences don’t talk.” Or “This is a silly idea!” perhaps you may get “I’m calling parents because you’re loosing the plot!” Please be assured all these are natural responses.

Then explain that if they manage to hear the fences talk they will get house points, merits, extra playtime/recess etc. It is astonishing how relaxed the fences become and they begin to wax lyrically about their life and what it is like to stand there all day, watching and listening to the world going by.

In our school playground we have three very distinct fences one large, dark green, security fence that goes around the periphery of the school. Secondly a small multicoloured fence that surrounds our early years play area and finally an old wooden fence that that been there since the school first opened forty years ago.

I start with asking the children:

What do the fences hear?
What do they see?
When are they at their happiest? Loneliest?
Do they have any friends? Who are their friends?
Does your fence have a particular accent?
What are they scared of?

It’s amazing what starts to come out once the first child has spoken. ALL of the ideas below are genuine responses from different classes that we have taught over the years.

“My fence says that it hears all our secrets when we are talking to our friends!”
“She loves it when children tickle her tummy with sticks on they way to school.”
“She is scared of the fireworks on Bonfire night!”
“My fence says that the grass tickles her feet in the summer.”
“Mine says that she gets really lonely during the holidays when we’re not here.”
“My fence says that the morning rain is refreshing.”

Next it was decided that each fence had a very distinct personality and accent.
The large security fence spoke with a big, deep voice like a bouncer or a security guard and with arms outstretched says “Come on move back please, there’s nothing to see here.”

Where as the small multicoloured fence was a rather precocious show off. “Look at me and all my pretty colours I am by far the loveliest fence that anyone could ever meet!”

Finally, the old wooden fence was the wise old aunt or uncle that had seen it and heard it all. Always with a kind word and never once was disrespectful towards the other fences, realising that each one has its own place and purpose in life.

This is a great activity for a number of reasons:
A great speaking and listening activity; with the fear of getting it wrong is eradicated.
Gives the children the opportunity to show empathy.
It makes poetry real and accessible
It provides a great stimuli for writing.

Have a go – you and the children will love it and we’d really like to read some of the children’s poems when they have written them.

Cheers Lee & David
The Thought Weavers

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Preparing for Ofsted!

Last year I gave a presentation at the education show entitled ‘Preparing for Ofsted.’ I sifted through lots of Ofsted reports, founds patterns of ‘behaviours’ and looked for things inspectors seemed to be consistently asking for and produced a slide show based on my findings.

In February 2013, Ofsted paid my school a visit. As a result I’ve recently updated the slide show and below is the new updated version. I hope it will help you when your visit is due!

Preparing for Ofsted! 2013

<div style=”width:425px” id=”__ss_12069324″> <strong style=”display:block;margin:12px 0 4px”><a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson/preparing-for-ofsted-nec-2012&#8243; title=”Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012″ target=”_blank”>Preparing for ofsted! nec 2012</a></strong> <div style=”padding:5px 0 12px”> View more <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/thecroaker/death-by-powerpoint&#8221; target=”_blank”>PowerPoint</a> from <a href=”http://www.slideshare.net/paceanderson&#8221; target=”_blank”>paceanderson</a> </div> </div>

Lee of the ‘Thought Weavers.’

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What Kind Of Restaurant Is Your Classroom?

Myself and David (AKA the Thought Weavers) love to play around with analogies, sometimes they help us get a point across and at other times people look back at us with glazed eyes. However, we really feel this one works and will hopefully help you think about your practice.

So here goes.

We think classrooms are like (or perhaps even should be like) a good restaurant. However, this is not always the case, sometimes they are more ‘fast food’ than ‘gourmet’

Let me explain some of the classic features of a ‘fast-food’ model of the classroom:

  • Pupils walk in with no-one to greet them
  • Adults talk really quickly; they’re impatient and want answers quickly.
  • The menu is always the same.
  • A diet of uninspiring food learning is supplied daily. (it does however hit all of the APP outcomes)
  • Pupils will never remember their favourite or lesson when they’re older
  • Standards are high because the criteria for judging them is so narrow. The ‘fast-food’ restaurant makes and healthy profit and the classroom produces high ‘standards’
  • The tables and chairs never move.
  • All posters and displays are professionally made by adults.
  • Differentiation is made by the words ‘small,’ ‘regular’ or ‘large,’ or in classroom speak; ‘poor,’ ‘average’ or ‘bright.’ (Although occasionally ‘G&T is on the menu)
  • Sometimes special menus/promotions are created, in schools these are known as ‘theme days,’ this is the only time when the menu is slightly more interesting.
  • Feedback is standardised and irrelevant. In the classroom this might be ‘Good Work’ or ‘Well Done’
  • No tips are given; the children will never go the extra mile.
  • Customers can never change the menu and ask for something a little different; in the classroom children get what they’re given.
  • There is no overt way of expressing pleasure or disappointment at the service provided.

On the other hand, a gourmet restaurant (or perhaps country pub!) model for the classroom might read as follows:

  • A friendly smile when you walk in.
  • Small talk at the table with staff.
  • The menu changes regularly and there are lots of daily specials
  • The meals (learning) are well deigned by experts who truly know what they are doing.
  • Great memories are created by the quality of service and friendly atmosphere.
  • Relationships with all adults and children are positive.
  • ‘Difficult’ customers are treated with dignity and respect
  • Standards are exceptionally high, because of the attention to detail at every step of the process.
  • If something special is required or someone wants to deviate from the menu it is celebrated and explored
  • Differentiation is the choice of the customer/pupils; there is a wide variety of activities/meals set out in a variety of ways.
  • Feedback is personalised and unscripted, it feels natural but authoritative.
  • Plenty of tips! Children bring in masses of things from home because they’ve been inspired in school.
  • Pupils can personalise the menus, giving feedback to the lead adult about their performance.
  • Pupils are encouraged to think about their decisions; they have time to evaluate the menu before making a decision

And so on…

Let’s make it clear. Classrooms are not restaurants and certainly shouldn’t be run as a business; pupils are not our customers, they are learners and we should be proud to facilitate their progress.

But, we feel the comparisons can be made. We believe that too often, the standards agenda pushes schools into a ‘fast-food’ model of education. Children deserve better! Whilst a ‘Gourmet’ classroom means hard work, it does mean that the children are the most important people and they will remember their experiences.

So how do you make your classroom ‘Gourmet?’

The Thought Weavers

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How does the Government support education? mmmmm…

Michael Gove often talks about leaving the running of schools to the professionals. We agree!

Below are headlines from the BBC website over the last few months. We suggest what Gove actually says and what he actually does are two different things!

‘Schools minister cracks down on league table incentives’

‘Ofsted plans to scrap ‘satisfactory’ label for schools’

‘Poor teachers face tougher system under shake-up’

‘New Ofsted chief takes aim at incapable teachers’

‘Third of schools in Wales not good enough, says Estyn’

‘Labour ‘would have cut school building scheme’

‘Ofsted head to tackle coasting and incompetent teachers’

‘Schools in England will face no-notice inspections’

‘Ofsted inspections to scrutinise teaching quality’

‘Michael Gove queries schools’ Ofsted ratings’

‘Education Bill outlines shake-up for England’s schools’

 

The great thing is that teachers are breathtakingly resilient! We are the eternal optimists! We get on with our jobs despite the headlines above! This is what makes teachers great!

The Thought Weavers

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Curriculum change!

The Thought Weavers at the BETT show.

Curriculum change is a hot topic in education at the moment and we had the privilege of taking part in a panel discussion at the ‘Educational Leaders’ conference as part of the BETT show. The topic for discussion was curriculum change. Prior to the discussion we were also lucky enough to hear the views of Tim Oates, the chair of the expert panel on curriculum review. This post represents our reflection on the curriculum review based on our prior understanding and our thoughts following the BETT show.

Before we offer our thoughts we have tried to make the following assumptions in an attempt to make our views as sensible and ‘objective’ as possible.

  • The review panel have the best interests of children when considering the new curriculum.
  • The new curriculum will be an attempt to give more freedom to schools (This is stated in the DfE website and in the interim report)

Prior to the show we both read the expert panel review report. We were heartened that it does mention extra freedom, learning to learn approaches and having a ‘school curriculum’ that is not prescribed by the new curriculum.

However, when we got into the ‘nitty gritty’ of the report, such as curriculum design, subjects and the organisation of key stages it soon became clear that this curriculum would have much more prescription than the current document. The irony of a 70 page report to inform us that we will have extra freedom was also not lost on us.

When we heard Tim Oates speak, this reaffirmed our worries. He quite openly told us the new curriculum will be thicker with more detailed learning outcomes. He also reaffirmed that assessment would be tightly linked to the curriculum to assessment, whilst this seems to make common sense, we think it reinforces the ‘teaching to the test approache’. He also mentioned that pupils should not be able to move on until one ‘block of content’ was secure; does this mean children will be held back as in the USA?

From the report and hearing Tim Oates speak we came to the following conclusions:

  • There is an assumption that pupils learn in a linear way, with one block of content being learned so that they can move onto the next block of content. Just how does that really work? For some pupils fractions are much easier than timetables, for other it’s the opposite, for some children using commas is much more developed than using full stops. How will they decide the order for these ‘blocks of content?’ Wouldn’t it be wonderful if children learned in systematic way? – But they don’t!
  • Another assumption is that other countries systems of curriculum design are better than ours. To begin with this assumption is based on narrow tests (e.g PISA) to evaluate maths, literacy and science; so where the does the ‘broad and balanced’ argument fit in? We feel they are just ‘cherry picking’ parts of other countries curriculum to support their own arguments. Tim Oates also stated that whilst we should look at other countries curriculum design we should not try to copy them. This is confusing.
  • Our other concern is the manner in which Tim Oates delivered his speech. In education, when children have one chance, passion is vital. We didn’t get a sense of passion from him, most questions were answered using reference to academic research. We have the feeling that the expert review panel are themselves frustrated under the intense pressure from government to produce a curriculum based on the ideals of Michael Gove.

When we took to the stage to sit with our panel, Tim Oates took his place in the audience. We discussed curriculum change and took questions from the floor. With regret Tim Oates was not able to stay for the whole panel discussion.

The key points raised by ourselves and the panel were:

  • With a narrow assessment system, no matter how schools are encouraged to have more freedom over the curriculum, children’s learning will always be channelled to towards getting the grades.
  • Ofsted’s remit is too wide. They seem to have the power to do what they like. Most of the panel agreed that it is Ofsted that set school policy, not the government.
  • Children’s learning should not be standardised
  • The curriculum review seems to have little direction.
  • The new curriculum will be more prescriptive than the current one.
  • A perhaps cynical point of view was that the curriculum review was an attempt to push schools into academy status.

The expert panel into curriculum change have been given a very difficult job. There remit is to design a core and foundation curriculum that will suit every student in England. The very idea of this, in our view is impossible.

Final thoughts…

With around 20,000 schools in England and many wonderful, creative and focussed professions, the following questions popped into our heads…

Why do we need a curriculum written for us?

Can’t we be tasked with creating our own curriculum, our own success criteria, our own pedagogical approach based on the needs of children we know very well within a community of which we are part?

Does the head of science need to be told what essential knowledge should be taught?

Would a new curriculum create a whole new wave of commercial products to support it?

Who really are the experts in education?

Can we really have personalised learning with a standardised curriculum?

To finish on a positive – no matter what the outcome of the curriculum review, nothing is more powerful that teachers doing what they do best; helping children to learn. The online collaboration through twitter and facebook etc will always be a more powerful force than any formal written document. When teachers collaborate and debate, children will always benefit.

Lee and David.

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Adapting to Curriculum Change. (BETT conference notes)

Perspective 1.

The ‘soft skills’ of learning…

The biggest change as a result of curriculum change should be the mindset of school when delivering the knowledge and facts contained within a proposed new curriculum.

We are always reminded that built into its design is the ‘extra freedom’ it will allow. This is what schools should hook onto. In it’s previous (still current) guise the national curriculum was seen as the end. The entire day had to be built around it (this was never the intention) – school should move away from this model and more focus should be given to the ‘Hidden curriculum’ – which ironically, if schools interpret curriculum change appropriately will not be so hidden.

When I speak of the hidden curriculum, I mean the aspects of learning that builds resilience, that promotes curiosity, encourages learners to be independent and helps all of us develop our role within society – recent years have seen a surge in this type of focus (PLTS / BLP); these have great potential, they are however hampered by the current assessment framework – the idea that if its not measurable its not worth teaching.

With relation to Academies and Free Schools, who will have greater freedom over their curriculum, my hope is that these organisations won’t simply use the ‘Safety net’ of the national curriculum as a basis for their pupils education and be innovative and brave; designing their very own! In reality however, because the summative assessment framework will be based on the national curriculum, I believe it likely that most schools use the new framework.

On the one hand autonomy is promoted whilst on the other it is hampered!

 

Perspective 2- Leadership

If the new curriculum does allow schools more freedom to plan their own approach and schools are willing to take the risk (as I believe they should)  this has implications for leadership.

The role of the curriculum leader would be one of real expertise, they would be leading a curriculum that reflects the local, national and international issues of the day and the decisions made must be based on evidence available rather than simply subscribing to a scheme. The freedom to also deliver a curriculum in a way the school chooses, adds to this autonomy.

Curriculum leaders in school therefore need to be social commentators, interested in the latest research and confident enough to say that the approach the school is taking is the right one. The school would become an ‘intellectual community.’

The word ‘expert’ is not used enough in schools. Teachers are (and should consider themselves) experts in their field, in the same way a doctor is an expert in medicine and solicitor is an expert in law. Curriculum leaders would be expected to be leading experts, to be clear about their methodology, to read/promote/apply/challenge up to date pedagogical research, be brave enough to say some things are not appropriate for their schools and to have a clear rationale for everything they lead.

This would represent change because currently the all encompassing National Curriculum is a safety net – as long as there is ‘coverage’ then there is no issue. If, as seems likely, the new curriculum will explicitly say that it should not be all encompassing, then the only ‘safety net’ is the secure knowledge and understanding of the leadership team, the expertise of all staff and a clear vision of where the school is going – an expert community.

This would have implication for school inspections, as each school will have a mildly different curriculum, one they will have to justify and communicate clearly to a range of inspectors; this represents even greater accountability. Inspectors will have to make judgments on an unfamiliar curriculum and give reasons for it; very difficult! The evaluation schedule would need to be different.

What I believe will happen is that under the new curriculum, the very best schools will prosper, the expertise of the staff will shine through and ultimately the pupils will benefit greatly; many schools are ‘ahead of the game’ and curriculum design expertise is part of their fabric. In other schools, where a rigid curriculum ( or bought in ‘creative curriculums’) has been employed for many years, curriculum change will be a huge challenge; without confident leaders, who have a deep understanding of curriculum design and learning processes, the results could be catastrophic.

The one thing that will hold back innovative and relevant curriculum design is the assessment framework. True freedom would not only be curriculum design, but also to decide the criteria for success.

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School Uniforms: Should we have them?

The ‘Thought Weaver Thought’ Blog

Welcome to our new style of blog. We hope it will inspire you to comment, complains, shout, smile or just to think.

This week’s blog relates to school uniform. The ‘Thought Weavers’ have different views on whether pupils should be forced to wear them. David feels school uniform helps pupils to feel part of a unique organisation; their school. He also feels they ensure that children from socially disadvantaged backgrounds do not worry about having the latest designer clothes.

Lee, on the other hand, feels that school uniforms cloud the message we try so hard to give children; that we are all unique and this should be celebrated. However, he does believe schools should, like most organisations, have a ‘dress code’ as this would be more in keeping with the world they’ll be entering after school.

So, our question to you is this…

Should schools enforce a strict school uniform policy?

 

 

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Here Comes the Summer! Achieving a good work/life balance!

HERE COMES THE SUMMER! – THE SECRETS OF WORK/LIFE BALANCE.

Well time is almost upon us. The time when I drive home from work with the car windows rolled down and the effervescent tones of Feargal Sharkey blasting out a classic from July 1979 “Here Comes the Summer!” I know most people opt for Alice Cooper and ‘School’s Out!’ but due to the fact I left School in ’79’ I’m an Undertones man all the way!

(Check out the YouTube clip at the bottom of the page)

Yes, my friends it’s the School Holidays! The Big Holidays! The Six Weeks Holiday! The holidays that all your non-teaching friends really hate! The one holiday they all despise you having! (I know that our friends in Australia and NZ feel this feeling later in the year.)

Little do your friends know, or even care, that by the time the holiday arrives you are physically, mentally and spiritually on your knees; especially for the first two weeks anyway. You and I know the pattern:
Two weeks to recover and become human again.
Two weeks going on holiday (if you’re lucky and can afford it)
Two weeks to prepare physically and mentally for the next term!
Yeah we really have a great time during our SIX weeks off – don’t we?

The purpose of this week’s blog is not really to really inspire or encourage but mainly to share how the Thought Weavers spend their ‘Big Holidays. Hopefully some of you will share your holiday experiences with us. Also we could explore some of the ways that we seek and find that elusive Holy Grail AKA ‘Work life Balance.’

The first thing to try and remember is that we are on holiday and school MUST come second place. As my wife once said “David it’s great being everything to everybody else’s children but remember you have two of your own!” Partners know instinctively how to make you feel special – don’t they?

So here goes with our ‘Thought Weaver Tips’ for the holiday season.

PLANNING YOUR BREAK
Now some of you may scoff at planning your time off but hear me out! Most of us are slaves to the clock/time table for 10 months of the year. For example I know exactly what I’ll be doing on the third Tuesday in June 2012 at precisely 1.30pm; my class and I will be having PE, Friday afternoon its Guitars, Monday morning Maths and the list goes on!

As teachers/lead learners we have come to accept that this is our lives (sadly) and therefore during the holiday period many of us like to go off-piste so to speak! However, the new found freedom that we all experience can cause some of us to become lethargic; we can waste precious hours on basically doing nothing. So often I hear my colleagues say, “I’ve been off for three weeks and I haven’t done a thing!” This may cause us to become a little resentful. Our suggestion is to have a basic outline of things that you wish to achieve whilst your off work, this can be as simple as fetching the newspaper, go shopping, visit the pub (visit lots of pubs) at least we’re doing something positive!

FAMILY & FRIENDS
Holiday time is a great time to catch up with family and friends that we haven’t seen for a term or two. We could meet up and have a coffee, a beer (lots of beers), BBQ etc.

Last year Lee, my son Leo, and I caught the train to Manchesterand visited the Lowry Centre. (The home of the Salfordbased painter L.S. Lowry) http://www.thelowry.com/ls-lowry/

Leo loved everything about the trip: the train journey, the big city, the gallery and twelve months later he still talks about it.

Therefore log on to obtain information about your local museums, galleries and places of interest. There will be loads of FREE activities planned for the summer; once again you’ll be super dad/mum and earn Brownie points by the barrow-full.

READING
You MUST have a holiday reading list (It’s the LAW). Whether you opt for sentimental tosh (sadly I love these), or books on special interests; why not try the latest offerings on educational research (Sadly once again a favourite of Lee and I). You may want to read the newspaper or ‘Hello’ magazine it’s up to you. But try and read as it keeps the old cogs of the brain going!

WRITING
Over the years there have been a wealth of people who tell me they have ‘a book’ lurking inside them – a book they long to write. The holidays are a perfect time to start. I have friends who have spoken about writing a book for nearly twenty years but still they struggle to put pen to paper – don’t talk about it – do it! Here’s a question for you: When do you become old?

“A man is not old until his regrets replace his dreams” John Barrymore

So don’t dilly/dally and your let your dreams become regrets when you are older – get a pack of cheap pencils, a note book, a good coffee shop and the world’s your oyster.

RE-ENACTMENTS: You must have seen the many re-enactment societies that operate the length and breadth of the country? Check out their website: National Association of Re-enactment Societies: http://www.nares.org.uk/

 

Lee and I are involved within our very own re-enactment society: it involves Rigger boots; trackie bottoms and an old football/rugby shirt and hey presto – we’re builders! Once we break up from school; we have a whole agenda of slab laying; fence erecting, shelf building – our project this August is decking out Lee’s back garden – the point we’re trying to make is that all this work is nothing to do with school/learning; basically it’s a chance to charge up the mental batteries and visit the most exquisite ‘bacon buttie’ suppliers in the land. Why not start your own re-enactment society? You could become a chef; landscaper; train spotter (Lee’s one – but it’s our secret); football coach; tour guide; once again anything that chills you out and recharges the batteries.

Well that’s it for another term! The Thought Weavers will be taking a month’s blogging holiday but we will be back at the end of August with our preparations for the new term.

Thanks for all the tweets; blog hits; comments and words of encouragement over the past few months; we really, really appreciate it.

Best wishes and have a great (relaxing) holiday.

Lee and David (The Thought Weavers)

so take it away Fergal…

‘Sorry this is where you have to pretend there’s a seamless link to the video below – you’ll have to manually click the link – our apologies! – So take it away Fergal…’

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUg7OO1gZk0&feature=youtube_gdata_player

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