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Wee things….

I started teaching in a school in Glasgow in 2001 and started volunteering with staff and senior pupils on the soup kitchen. Every Wednesday we would make the soup, 300 rolls and take out fruit. We would meet up with a charity who ran the service and would be in George Square from 10-11pm. It was great for staff and learners to work together and to be doing a wee bit to help. During the school holidays I would rope in my dad and friends to help.

It wasn’t a big deal. It was just what we did. I ended up training with the charity to be senior volunteer and run the shift. We did moving and handling, first aid, child protection and suicide awareness. I’ve used every bit of that training.

Fast forward to now, we’re still outside but at 9pm in a different location.

During my time as a volunteer I’ve had a knife pulled on me, worked with suicidal people of all ages, visited service users in their accommodation, arranged for furniture for people in new accommodation, been called all sorts of colourful things, worked with emergency services and so much more. I’ve seen people at their best and at their very worst. I’ve cried with them and I’ve laughed with them. We’ve celebrated small victories and been heartbroken when we’ve lost friends.

I’ve had the odd rant about it but like so many other people, we are just trying our best to help.

We have a great team of volunteers who have been quietly rocking up for over 10 years now on a Sunday night . We rely on each other giving time. Our volunteers range from university professors, students, parents, people from faith groups, grandparents, and people who just want to help-each bringing their time and talent to listen. We have a mental health first aider with us too.

We have an amazing community of family and friends who donate toiletries, clothes and dried goods.

Last night was indeed a first. A couple with a young baby who had been all over the city (and I mean all over) trying to get powdered baby milk.

It was very cold and they were at their wits end. Let’s be honest, you wouldn’t decide to walk all over the city looking for baby milk and rock up at the last food provision in the city if you were not desperate! They told me the fresh air helped their wee one sleep. Indeed but at 920pm at night, he should be sleeping at home.

A few phone calls later and out of hours social work helped us. They arranged for a taxi to pick them up, get them milk and get them home.

The family were on Universal Credit and from what I understand, had not had a payment.

To be the 5th stop on their day and being able to help them was a tiny victory.

It’s hard because the easiest thing would have been to get the milk( and believe me if we had not got the result with social work that is what we would have done) but then that doesn’t help in the grand scheme as it just gets “coped with” and everyone thinks it’s fine. It’s not fine. It’s horrific and if it wasn’t for the generosity of time and resources from people, instances of this couple would be MUCH higher.

Note to self: get a tin of aptamil in the bag along with the durex, toothpaste, shower gel and socks.

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Be prepared.

Well, nae murders. But it’s early days.

Got ready for the holiday……lots of differents ways of getting prepared for the holidays.

People clearly had the same idea as me with invoices coming in on the last few days. Emails flying in and last minute requests and the out of office going on.

Then the Christmas get together…

“How will we get the booze if you’ve put the tree in front of it?”

I prepared. Now, I’m not saying a have a cocktail cabinet, it’s more like a cairry oot cupboard. ( moved the bottles out before putting the tree up)

Dregs of bottles, weird bottles, things with funny names and they all have a story. Just like the annual party.

It’s the time of year when the extended family gets together and does their but to help a charity close to my heart. In return I give them quality chat and interesting drinks. Fair enough swap really.

One friend told me that their contribution to charity was the haul they brought to the party. So I prepared. Cleared the space to store it.

Party itself was a belter. Wee people in the bedroom, big people in the living room ’till the singing started and it was a mass choir. 35 jolly souls singing “Glasgow shark”

I prepared for that by singing scales. That may not be true.

The beauty of being an organist is that everyone loves you at Christmas. So many people saying they love to hear Christmas Carols, helps them prepare. I was able to play at various different services and loved every minute. Even had a rehearsal.

People all preparing for different things. Holiday mean different things to everyone.

I prepared for a rest and a bit of time hang out with the wee lady and to do hee haw.

No, I don’t feel guilty.

No, I have not checked my email.

And again, no, I have not thought about work.

I have eaten my own body weight in cheese. Winter is coming so thought I’d prepare.

Charge on to everyone who is getting on with work.

I’m preparing to go back.

For so it is written.

You were too beautiful for Earth. We were waiting on you, but it wasn’t the right time. So I thought I’d tell you about your mum. I know you’ve heard her voice and you most definitely felt her love. You see, your mum is wonderful.

She has been one of my best friends for over 20 years.

We’ve laughed and cried together for years. We’ve eaten cake, planned hen nights, prayed, wore the frocks, held babies and cried a bit more.

There isn’t much I couldn’t tell your mum.

Your mum works with children who need a wee bit more love than most. I can’t tell you how much she gives to them. How much she worries about them, how much she thinks about making their time in school the best it can be.

But I bet you don’t know that every night she reads your big brother a story. Every morning she makes his lunch and every day she works the logistics like a gymnast to get him from school.

Your mama has great taste in coffee and books. She loves nothing more than an afternoon with friends with coffee and blethers. She loves the style of the 40s and 50s and I remember her beautiful champagne wedding dress and RED shoes.

Your mama has the most incredible sense of social justice and she wants to save the world. Sometime we need to remind her she needs to come first.

You know your mama can’t sing, even though she loves to. You know your mama loves to read, that’s why she knows lots of things.

Most of all, you know your mama loved every part of you.

We were all waiting to meet you, to hold you and bring you in to the wider family.

Know this little one, your mama is amazing. We promise to support her, your dad and your big brother. We promise to NEVER forget you.

And I promise that I will always be your mad auntie in the city.

For so it is written.

Sleep well darling x

Because we’re worth it.

I spend a fair bit of time travelling about to schools, usually on the corpy bus or train, or in the event of my horrendous timekeeping, a taxi.

Often I’ll read or sort emails or sometimes I enjoy the time to think. Sometimes I pretend I’m a dolphin trainer when a total random starts talking to me. Can’t beat the backseat philosophers.

However, over the past few weeks a lot of people have talked to me about teaching.

One taxi driver went off in a rant as the recent demo had made him late for a drop off. Who did teachers think they were? It’s not like they save lives is it? Actually we do I replied. To quote the legend that us Billy Connelly..” and his face was shut”

Another trip on the train talking about teaching and as we got off a passenger stopped to say” my son is a teacher, I think you are all worth it”.

Aw.

Another bout of back seat philosophy was from a teacher on the corpy bus with a group of young people going to a sports event.

He was telling me about the commitment the wee people had and how they come in to school early every day to practise. How one of the wee girls had won her first medal and the impact it had on her. The teacher commented on how he loved to see the joy on their faces as they participated but also their dedication. He forgot about his own dedication. The early starts, the late finishes and the Saturday mornings. All the stuff that goes on outside if the classroom.This is the same teacher who had been writing the name of every child on a mug, filling it with treats and wrapping it up while watching the football on the TV.

I was reminded of another friend who told me the story of a wee one in his class who knocked over his guitar and the neck snapped. She was was inconsolable. He put it back together as he was determined to show her it was ok and that it could be fixed. That’s dedication. The patience in doing it and the dedication to that wee lady.

I’m tempted to track down that taxi driver and tell him those two wee stories. That’s examples of life saving.

Maybe we should all just do the hair flick and exclaim “because we’re worth it” The weans and the teachers.

Postcode lottery.

“You have to remember the level of social deprivation here. Most of our learners are from SIMD” …….STOP.

When did we reclassify schools and identify them solely as where they are in terms of social deprivation?

Why has that become an excuse for statistics? destinations? The number of parents attending parents night? Blah.

Why the poverty of aspiration?

Check your postcode and if it’s not in the Bermuda triangle where everyone has 2.4 parents, a Volvo and a dug, you’re pretty much on your way to job seekers allowance or a ten stretch.

Oh aye, could you also show me your spreadsheet of PEF kids too. Aye, you know you have it….the one where the postcode lottery indicates that there is money attached and I’ll tick off the interventions you’ve been involved in.

What I have loved is talking to the teachers who don’t believe that a postcode should ever influence a young person. The ones who won’t let their children be labelled and who encourage them to grab every opportunity and who work with the families to give them information, ideas, support and love.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, coming from an area of high social deprivation never held me or any of my friends back. In primary school there were classmates who you knew were struggling. They were taken out of class and came back clean. They were given the black sannies for gym and had a dinner ticket. We thought nothing of it.

The PTA fundraised to let everyone go on the school trips and I know fine well the teachers who paid things themselves so their class would not miss out.

The first notion I had of being from a less than favourable area was when we arrived at high school to be called cavemen by a teacher. Then we were asked if we were top or bottom enders of the town.

The social grouping depended on your primary school. Apparently our primary school was the worst. Solely due to physical location.

Postcode.

Well, let me tell you. That postcode brought me friends, role models and quite simply an education in primary school that was full of language, art, music, play, imagination, history, geography and inspiration.

It wasn’t an intervention that moved us, no spreadsheet ….it was the unrelenting determination of a group of primary teachers who didnt give up on us. Ever.

You know, much like the ones we have now. Who just need the space to do it.

Without the label of a postcode.

So, eh, Hiya. It’s me. I grew up in SIMD 1. I still go there a lot. I call it home. However I do have a name.

Good Luck hen, you’ll need it.

“Good luck hen. You’ll need it.”

Still makes me howl with laughter every time I think of one of my trainee teachers saying this to me as I arrived to assess him.

The smile and enthusiasm was infectious.

Enthusiasm and passion will take you a long way but knowing what you are doing with the wee people is what it is all about. I mean, Really knowing

“Take the time to learn your craft and never try to tell others about something you know hee haw about”

It was put to me a tad more eloquently but as a young teacher, my jedi master MG reigned me right in.

As a teacher and a mammy, I have seen the pressure put on teachers to go bigger, better, Twitter,blog, Instagram….going to be honest….it’s not a competition. The pressure put on parents to be healthier, more exotic, glossier and so interesting you need to document the buying of the pak choi at the local organic pop up store is tremendous.

Says the maw who was rushing to drop the wee lady at breakfast club at 7.55 am -She was eating a piece on chocolate spread, I was doing the mammy lick trying to get it off her face, running into the shop to buy her the juice for lunch and lo and behold….a good morning from her head teacher.

CAUGHT.

Doesn’t make me less of a mum, but years tells me a quick piece will not kill her, a mammy lick to the face will not kill her. However, it’s not an Instagram moment. Doesn’t make it any less of a mammy daughter relationship.

In short, Just because teachers are not documenting every activity in their class, documenting their free time being spent at CPD every evening, doesn’t make them less of a teacher. I’ve mentioned before about the realisation that I wasn’t a “young”teacher when I was told “nae offence but we are looking for a younger teacher” was quite stark. Just because I’m indeed the other side of 40 does that make me the wrong one?

There was a wonderful article about a more experienced teacher offering to help an NQT in the TES a while ago that struck home. The NQT didn’t need any help thank you, technology, Pinterest and twinkled up to the eyeballs. Didn’t last.

Passion turned to burn out.

It’s heartbreaking. However are we creating a culture where that’s the norm?

The Jedi master told me I couldn’t be all things to all people. She told me to focus on my craft.

To paraphrase St.Elvis Presley, a little less competition, a little more teaching…..

TGIF.

Whit works?

I had the absolute joy of talking to some teachers in another local authority a few months back. The theme was leadership.

I was surprised to get the invite if I’m honest. It’s not really my bag having never really looked at it in depth and my own style has is purely based on what I’ve experienced and been part of.

I was absolutely in awe of the first speaker who spoke a language of leadership. She was confident, educated and an absolute professional. On a Saturday morning she captivated everyone. I sat there in my jeans looking every inch the burst couch.

After sessions, I had the closing session. Always a tough one. Folk are in the come down of the kit Kat sugar rush and want out to get the messages or to skull a gin and tonic.

As ever, I started off with an apology.

And explained there was no spelling mistake when I said I was interested in WHIT actually works.

Teachers.

I showed a slide with me and all the people I’m privileged to work with on a day to day basis.

It consisted of photos of us at work in various guises from flamenco frocks to plastic bags. There were photos of my languages family and to be honest from those photos you would think I spend my life dressed up with a mug (glass) in my hand. These are the people that are quite simply know what they are about.Weans.

There’s nothing magic about it. It’s sheer hard graft. There are no superpowers. (Unless you count the ability not to go to the toilet for hours on end) it’s community, It’s care, And for me, family.

I talked about leadership in the classroom. Where we,the teachers are the leaders. Where we lead by being the best teachers we can possibly be. So we need to be the best learners. We need to share. We need to support. However, we need to learn the word no.

I had a conversation with an HT friend of mine only yesterday about the culture of expectation and coping too well. It’s ok to ask for help.

Back to the first couch Saturday morning….I showed a video from SDS about the rate of change but the need for skills, ones you don’t get from a computer.

Oh aye. That would be teachers who help with that too.

At the end of the session we had a giggle and a former colleague admitted he’d only come when he saw I was there as he knew he’d get a giggle. Not a lot of sense….but still as relentless belief in the transformative power a teacher can have.

Especially in red shoes or trainers.

Manolo points currently off the scale.