Pinterest fail


 Yes, it is Easter Monday, and my Mum’s birthday and the holidays. And yes, as usual I am thinking about school! 

To be fair my Mum has gone out while I type this so I don’t feel am ignoring her, and the work I’ve done has been through play with the kids so maybe it doesn’t count.

I had the idea of doing some natural weaving with my class this term. I had done it last time I was in Year 1 about 100 years ago but we used plastic plates to create the looms. This time I wanted to make wooden ones from sticks and found the perfect idea on Pinterest.

As any of you on Pinterest will know there are always brilliant ideas that look easy, you pin them, try them and they look like a four year old has made them! #nailedit!

I spent an hour on my first attempt and as you can see from the picture at the top it is spectacularly rubbish! The string is all loose and the frame is all wonky. FAIL! In my head I have these brilliant, creative, artistic ideas but I can’t bring them to fruition and I thought this would be the same. As we say to the kids, First Attempt In Learning so I decided to try again, using longer sticks and wrapping the string in a slightly different way. Using a bigger frame was a bit easier to keep straight. Unfortunately the string still felt very flaccid. I went outside and started ramming bits and bobs from the garden up and over in weaving fashion and as I added more it all tightened up.

I don’t think I’ll be making 30 frames for my little lovelies to do their own, that would be very very time consuming – but I could make 5 or 6 and create group weavings which I think would be quite effective.

What do you think? My Successful Attempt in Learning

Oh and happy birthday Mum, you get my second attempt – below!




The Power of Sharing


I have been remiss in neglecting this blog for so long. I’ve just spoken to an old friend of the family, out of the blue, and I didn’t know she is in her NQT year. She told me she’d read my blog and was amazed by the fact I have the energy to do the things that I do. My response was that I have to dig very deep sometimes to write about it, but it did make me think that at least I am touching the lives of some new teachers, maybe giving ideas, maybe just helping them see an end in sight. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on anything, but I do love my job and if that comes through in my blog, then that’s enough. If people get ideas (many of which I ‘magpie’ from other fabulous teachers) then why reinvent the wheel? We are in this job together.

I may well have neglected this blog but I have been writing, so here are links to my posts on the wonderful – a fantastic resource for teachers, so please join if you haven’t already.

Do you want to build a snowman?

From eek to geek

Let’s talk pants

Gifts that keep giving

Chaos or Calm?


Performing Poets

As you can see I haven’t been doing nothing, just redirected. But this little blog needs a bit of nurturing, so I must try to remember to post twice in future!

I would love to hear comments on here, how it has helped, inspired or irritated you! I’m quite happy for a bit of challenge too!

Picture credit:

Nurture 14/15

So here we are again. Last year it was 14 and 15. Let’s just see how I got on and go from there…
Lose weight – no, probably the opposite plus painful neck and elbow problems, but I’m on it!
Kids – we had a great year, more to follow.
Enjoy 40th year – hell yeah!
Calm down – uh, not really, well maybe a little!
Holiday – was awesome!
TeachMeet in February was great.
Inspire my class to reach unimaginable heights – well 11th in County not bad, plus brilliant opportunities like speaking at E2BN conference.
Read – yes, have done more reading than ever.
Action research – yup, and it has made effective changes in 4 schools.
Continue to blog – not as much as I’d like, except on the big India trip.
Produce a brilliant curriculum. Wish I could say it is, maybe it is; the planning process I think might be.
Attend SLTCamp 14 – yes and helped organise it! That was a surprise!
Complete leadership course – I did, and made good friends on the way.
Have the best year yet. So many highs. Fantastic birthday; meeting with old friends; returning to India – my second home I think; two of my kids moving in on a much more permanent basis; being asked to be part of ‘Don’t change the Lightbulbs’ – such an honour to be asked and to meet everyone at the book launch, what an amazing job Rachel did there; organising SLTCamp 14 with Dawn Cox and Helena Marsh – what a pair of brilliant ladies; and now whilst writing this I should really be prepping for my first Headship interview which is in January.
5 steps for 2015
1) Get ready for this interview – don’t worry so much, stay calm and be me, if that’s not right for them, then they’re not right for me. I wouldn’t be going if they didn’t think my application was strong enough – que sera sera.

2) Lose weight and get fit – again! Healthy lifestyle – even if it is just me in the family who prescribe to it! Willpower!

3) Be thankful for who I have in my life and tell them so. I know how lucky I am and I moan too much.
4) Carry on with my passion for CPD and trying to encourage others to join my enthusiasm. Another TeachMeet this year, attending TLAB 15 and Rachel has asked me to be on the Lightbulb panel at the Festival of Education in June. Plenty to think about already.

5) We have raised over £750 for the Providence House orphanage since August including money from Eastern Leadership Centre, donations from Campers at SLTCamp 15 and from hugely generous parents at my school at our Nativity raffles. I would like to be able to say that I managed to send £2000 by this time next year. We plan to create an International recipe book through school; all proceeds will go to the Orphanage. If you would like to donate, send me a message and I’ll email you the orphanage bank details, if you would like to buy a book, keep an eye on here and I’ll blog when they’re ready.

Back off bullies

Today I found out a friend of mine left her teaching job yesterday. She has nothing lined up for January and she is sad. And that makes me sad. And angry. Because although it was her choice to leave, it wasn’t really. She had her confidence so utterly smashed with every day for the last 7 or so months dreading going to work because of the new and bullying head.

This is a young woman who had a child whilst still at school, a partner who vanished and left her to cope alone with her family supporting her. She and her young child headed 100 miles to university and she got her degree and her teaching qualification with grit, determination and bloody hard work, returned home to work and only a few years in got a leadership role as a Senco.

And then a new head comes in, judges a lesson as RI and puts her straight into capability!

I’ve experienced bullying heads in my career, sadly all women, and I have vowed that I will never allow myself to treat another human being in this way. If in any leadership/headship interview I don’t come across as hard-nosed enough for them then I don’t want it thanks. Being bullied myself at 7 months pregnant to the point of collapsing in front of the whole school in assembly, I feel from the bottom of my heart for my friend. If you are a vocational teacher the thought of giving it up breaks your heart.

And today, so close to Christmas, my friend’s heart is breaking. I hope Santa has something cracking for her in his sack, because she needs a miracle right about now.


Marking is hot – what about KS1?

Blogs and commentary about marking, feedback and Ofsted expectations are swarming the Twitter threads at the moment. Discourse and argument abound with helpful, insightful and erudite posts like these from Mary Myatt, Heather Leatt,Teacher Toolkit and Michael Tidd.

For me the links to marking in primary settings are few and far between, especially in KS1. Tim Taylor has prodded into the depths of primary marking, as well as providing links to many blogs on the subject. Even he makes comment about the lack of lower primary commentary. Why is this? Are there not enough Key Stage 1 bloggers out there? Or are we spending our time doing other things? Does anyone have ways of using DIRT effectively in KS1? Maybe in EYFS and KS1 most schools have it sorted. Certainly in our EYFS the next steps work brilliantly alongside the learning journey process.
Last year, when teaching Year 6, I did some research into the effect that DIRT had on learning behaviour in Upper Key Stage two, and saw some great changes in attitudes from children in only a few short weeks. I took this back to my school and we have implemented DIRT using symbols for responses as a time-saving technique. Primarily, this is used for Maths and Writing. I am still monitoring the effectiveness of this – especially in the children’s responses.
Now I am in Year 1, first time for many years, things are different. DIRT has to be instant, alongside verbal feedback, with the individual child. Improvement and reflection needs to happen straight away so they have the work in mind. We talk, all the time. We share ideas for improvement as they happen, in whole class teaching so they can take it away when they work independently.
I have created a DIRT format, focusing on key areas that are relevant right now for the children.I want to get this right. I want them to have secure understanding of these foundations and then move on to new ones each half term. There are only a few, but they are manageable. For some, inevitably they will be too easy – those will have challenges to fulfil. For some, they may be on these for a longer period, that’s ok too. I’m not doing this for Ofsted, observations or even the rest of the school. This has to work for my children, my cohort – the dialogue must be between the children, the staff and me, all working together to TALK about how we can get better together, and then talk some more. If Ofsted can’t find it, they will have to ask for it, then they will see marking in action.

Providence Home – our final visit.

Today’s blog post is probably the most emotional I have had to write. We headed to a special orphanage run by the Sisters belonging to the religious congregation ‘The Little Servants of the Divine Providence.’ The home, in Vilangu under the Eranakulam Diocese is run by only 11 nuns, led by the kindly Sister Linda. They cook, wash, clean and care for 117 girls and 1 boy with severe mental and physical disabilities including complete paralysis. We were welcomed in with kindness, shown around the beautifully clean house, complete with its own chapel and meeting with the girls and women who stay there.
We saw many different disabilities, from Down’s syndrome to blindness and severe mental disabilities. The women and girls held our hands as we walked through, wanting to touch us and all those who could were smiling. With such little support and complete reliance on charitable donations, the Sisters rely on some of the girls to help feed those unable to feed themselves. Some lay in beds like cots with rails to protect them, unable to move, unable to speak, or even hear what was happening around them.
We saw one lady crying pointing to a small cut on her finger and Sister Linda stroked her face with love and tenderness to calm her.

The Sisters all came to meet us, gave us coffee and offered us biscuits and fish curry which we declined, mainly due to the fact we didn’t want to eat their rations. We gave them coloured pencils, crayons, colouring books etc. which we now are not sure will be helpful, but hopefully they will at least be able to share them with those able to enjoy them or, if necessary sell them for funds. We were also be able to give them a small donation.

There are now 16 Providence homes in India and 1 in Zambia. All founded from the love and care of a Sister called Sister Mary Litty who had spent time in ‘The Little House of the Divine Providence’ in Turin, Italy founded by Saint Joseph Cottolengo. She was inspired and came back to India determined to set up a similar home. In January 1978, with permission from her Archbishop at the time she started in one small room with one woman who could not walk, speak or attend to her own primary needs. She had practically no food, utensils or even a lamp but soon donations from local people helped her and the Providence homes were begun. There are one 147 sisters and 24 more in training with over 1000 patients being cared for.

Heartbreaking for us was hearing that many of the children came from families who did not want them or could not care for them. We were even told that if a girl dies, sometimes the family do not even want the body returned to them because their neighbours do not know they ever had a child with disabilities. This isn’t a judgement on these families, many of them struggle to survive themselves.

Thankfully, the home does survive thanks to kind donations from people, including our link school, Naipunnya, but we want to be part of that now. We are both determined to share the good work and raise money back at our school and in our local community and send what we can back to the home. They need the equivalent of £400 per month just for medicine, if we can send anything it will be a drop in the ocean, but welcomed nonetheless.

Jackie and I sat quietly in the car on the way back to our hotel, touched by what we had seen and the kindness we had once again been shown. If any one who reads this would like to donate, please send me a message and I will pass on the details of the charity to you.

So our last few hours in India, time for reflection and contemplation on a country of extremes. We sit in our room watching a Hollywood movie while the rain lashes into the bright blue pool outside our door. But the images and memories of this morning and our whole week are in the forefront of our minds.





Onam and final day at school

Another early start to be picked up for school. This time we were hustled into a dark room to put on our saris ready for the day’s Onam festivities. The blouses had been made to fit only this week, mine was red and Jackie’s green. It took two women 20 minutes to dress me with all the pleating and pinning and there was a bit of panic when we hadn’t brought our own bling – but as always someone came to the rescue with perfectly matched coloured necklaces and earrings for us both.
Panic set in when I was told I would need to make a short speech after the children’s performances about the meaning of Onam.
Once the hall was ready we were introduced over the microphone and had to enter as guests of honour sitting right beside one of the main boss Fathers as they call them. Thankfully Mary sat on my right and explained all the songs, dances and skits as well as writing down all the correct names I needed to say.

The children performed magnificently, they danced in unison with the most beautiful costumes. These were children aged between 6-8 and they were astonishingly good. One child was dressed as Mahabali – the king for whom the celebration has been created. He was very sweet and nervous in a very heavy costume but got up in front of everyone nevertheless and made a speech.
Then it was my time. I started with ‘Ona sham sagal’ – ‘happy Onam’ and had cheers – that helped! Thank you to the teacher who taught me that!! I managed to stumble my way through a speech of thanks and understanding that Onam was a festival that ignored boundaries and differences of religion, caste and wealth as well as cultural differences and that it was a time of love and equality, and we felt like we had become part of the family etc. I managed to say thank you in Malayalam at the end – ‘nandhi’ and gratefully sat back down!

We enjoyed a delicious feast served on banana leaves and with us all seated on the floor with the children – again no hierarchy if everyone is on the floor and eating the same food with their hands. Once we had cleaned up we waited for others to finish and met with the drummers who had been playing at parts of the ceremony, had our photos taken again with each one and returned to the hall in time for the house tug of war. The houses represent earth, sky, wind and fire and have the usual four colours so Jackie and I were able to cheer for our corresponding UK house. Unfortunately Jackie’s came third and mine last (though her house won some other competitions).
Finally there were some prizes to be awarded which Jackie and I were asked to present and then we had to say goodbye.

It had been such an emotional day with parents, children and staff constantly checking we were ok, had eaten, were comfortable in our saris and were not hot etc.
We had been so hopelessly spoilt, treated like royalty really and it really was a wrench saying goodbye. All the staff were gathered together and the senior staff spoke about our visit as did the teacher, Tess, who had shown us around earlier in the week which was so generous of her. Both of us said our thanks and I did have to hold back the tears when saying thank you to Mary. She has been the most wonderful host to us and we have had an amazing experience and learnt so much.

After our goodbyes in torrential rain we headed off to watch the snake boat race, really exciting to watch; we also visited a typical Indian family in their delightful riverside home complete with four generations of family and seven cows!
Our last stop today was for my favourite meal, masala dosa which was twice as big as a dinner plate, as thin as paper and as crispy as a wafer stuffed with spicy potatoes and served with coconut chutney, onion chutney and sambar! What a way to end yet another absolutely amazing day in India.