Welcome home…..

This week brought the strangest experience. Visiting a student who was in my old classroom.The room of adventures, plans, tears,music and a place where the magic happened.
When I first moved to the school, I taught in lots of different rooms and when I finally got my own room it was a feeling of coming home. I couldn’t wait to get my stamp all over it. Work from the weans, photos of my pals ( carefully edited T in the park ones of course ) realia, resources and memories.
So many of my stories from my early teaching career are from this room. The magical classes, the enthusiastic students, the bonkers classes, the French breakfasts, my favourite Spanish class ever, the singing, and the laughs.
It’s amazing how you get quite attached to a place.
Being a tiny part of a big of department was a wonderful experience where I really learned how to hone my craft of teaching. Professionally stretched and personally satisfied – I could not have asked for more. Despite being the baby I was treated with equal respect and valued by a diverse staff with a combined experience which made them the envy of many schools. Some of my teaching heroes were the stalwarts of the department. All very diverse characters but the sense of collegiality was amazing. Development plans were issued and staff signed up to tasks, at holiday times classes were collapsed and tea was brought to your desk, when you had a “moment” you were enveloped in support and more tea was provided.
Room 9 saw some of the most beautiful, talented children I have ever had the joy to work with. Huge hearts, patience and curiosity.
It was also the room I listened to students experiencing their first heartbreak, the first forays into adulthood and where I cried as much as they did.
I was lucky to have been granted leave for a year and I remember packing up my room, ,wondering what I was coming back to. When I came back, I shared my room but it was still very much a big part of my teacher identity.
Coming back to it over 10 years later, the wonky bookcase was still there and the white board was still wrecked ( Jif used to work wonders) but it was totally different.
New adventures and new memories for other people.
It was fitting that on this occasion,I watched another star being born. Must be something about the room.

Evaluations…….

No, I don’t need an evaluation. Thanks.
For years we used to fill out evaluations after courses. Hall was cold, pieces were tasteless, nae biscuits.
We didn’t really focus on the learning, it was more about the niceties of a day out to be honest.
Then when someone did say they didn’t like the presenters you were raging as ” they come to sweet fanny Adams and when they do, all they do is moan”
You know the sort.
I don’t give out paper evaluations , I know when the room is cold or lunch is rotten.
Recently I was finishing a session of training when one of the participants bounded up to me to say it was no bother to give me a good evaluation and put in a word for me.
Aye, really.
I don’t know who the word is with right enough.
I’ve become very good at evaluating my own performance. I know exactly when I’m crap, useless and would have been better in my bed. Some weeks are a bit like that. Head cold, terrible hair and a to do list that is longer than yon braid of Rapunzel can leave me at less than my sparkling best. However, as a lovely speedo wearing friend has told me, sometimes good is good enough.
Bref, many of my student teachers are torturing themselves right now and over analysing that one difficult activity or one difficult class that is causing them grief. We do tend to focus on what we did wrong, that one wee thing that was enough to send us into a tail spin. While I’m not suggesting rose-tinted glasses, keeping it in perspective is always an idea.
You don’t need an evaluation form for that..

If you try…..you get what you need

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I know the Rolling Stones said you can’t always get what you want….but indeed today was a day when I got just what I needed. A day of wee parcels of loveliness.
It started with a visit to a school to see a student teacher. Catching up with former colleagues was just lovely as we talked about our love of a back row. To put this into context, when out visiting student teachers, I often find myself up at the back of a class with the teacher, catching up on all things teaching and learning and life in general. The music in the staff base took me back to days of working with one of the teachers where I discovered Gregory Porter amongst others. It was a lovely way to start the day.
The next wee parcel was a crit with one of my student teachers. It was quite simply a joy. A disengaged class of adolescents and she had them working away and ever so gently coached and guided them so that every one of them experienced success.
The next beautifully wrapped parcel was a visit to my old school. I still know a fair few of the kids and they were all happy to stop and chat and ask after the wee lady. It did my heart the power of good to see how they had grown and we’re just as happy and excitable as ever. The student I visited there was equally as impressive and really put a shift in with the learners. I couldn’t help but be chuffed to bits.
Another wee parcel was some time with my daddy. I had to buy a new TV and had a giggle when the woman asked how I was going to carry it – I had brought haunners. Daddy. A coffee and chat about the state of affairs was in order and then staff training.
Another particularly happy parcel was hearing from a friend who had been out of touch for a while. The power of a wee message to say hello is something else and came just at the right time today. I guess sometimes we get so caught up in our own nonsense that we forget that wee things matter. A day of days, quite lovely indeed.

I can’t shake it….

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I have had the message once…..now don’t panic, we are in A & E. I did panic and got there as quickly as I could.
I found myself in A and E last week, and in telling some of my friends, the first reaction was one of hilarity.
There are a few special people in this world who when you say you are in A and E with a broken derrière that don’t laugh and who offer to drive a fair distance to sit with you ( well stand) and the ones who just keep you company via text as you sit there trying not to look like you are auditioning for a lap dancing club.
I have always been a huge fan of the nhs and have nothing but praise for them and even more so after spending 7 hours in A and E watching the adventures.
We had one man who was rather worse for wear. He asked the receptionist to help him use his phone as he couldn’t see the numbers. When he started asking all of us for 40p for a cup of tea, they sneaked him out a cup of tea.
When he fell asleep and woke up claiming that someone had stolen his tea and was working up to kicking off,they made home more. ( incidentally, he had drunk the tea)
I watched as two young girls came through from being examined who started kicking off as the doctor had told her that her ankle was not broken. “What do I pay my taxes for? It is broken and I need a cast” her pal reminded her she was a student and didn’t pay tax.
Out came a new mum with the tiniest baby and a tired looking grandma. An equally tired daddy appeared with milk for the baby and the look of relief…..
A lady appeared in her dressing gown claiming she was dying, and she too was handled with tact and dignity. Turns out, she was just a bit worse for wear. ( it was between 1030pm and 5am.
I saw the triage nurses who were great and was sent back out to the waiting room. More people arriving, people falling, fights, a guy who had stabbed his own hand and I watched as the staff coped beautifully, reassured relatives and kept everyone calm.
I waited patiently and was moved to another waiting room.
2 elderly gentlemen arrived in as their good ladies were in A and E. A night out at the local club had got a bit brisk. They proceeded to dissect the night with the same outrageous take on behaviour as I would with the girls. They then moved on to talk about their pensions, downfalls, lump sums, leaving a will and wasn’t it a disgrace that one of their friends left all the money to the church when he died and not a penny to his family. ” it’ll take more than money to get him a place in heaven”
I would have laughed but at that point even the slightest of movement was a nightmare.
The doctor apologised profusely – he looked shattered. We did the chatting, he did other things to see how bad the damage was (I am never going to speak of again) and was sent on my way to get scanned.
After having X Rays taking in places that quite frankly shouldn’t be allowed, my new lap dancing demeanour was attributed to a bruised coccyx and potential nerve damage.
My night owl pals kept me company the whole time via daft messages and pictures and it was very welcome indeed.
The injury was sustained on the ice rink. No, there was not bevvy involved.
As the very lovely AS said to me, this is hilarious, you work really hard and now you have officially bust your ass.
Got to laugh. ( but it hurts)

Don’t ask me, I’m just here to make up the numbers…

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A few times recently I have had that question posed to me -what would you know anyway? And I don’t mean from teenagers who are flicking their hair at me.
I was recently doing some in service training with a big group of teachers and at the end of it one of them was sitting marking a pile of books, and it transpires this had been going on all through the session.
I’m thick skinned enough not to be offended by this but I was more offended by the fact that a pen was being waved at these books Ron Weasley magic wand style. Thinking I had nothing to lose I asked if they were actually looking at the work, and the reply was staggering. It didn’t matter as they were only infants.
We talked round about language learning and routines that were being employed with the class which I found interesting to say the least. When I started to scratch a bit under the surface as to the why and background to this there was an immediate leap to the defence and I was confronted with “well what would you know anyway?”
Fair point.
However if they had listened to the training,perhaps they may have gleaned that I knew a wee bit,not a lot, but a wee bit language learning.
Working with teachers gives me the chance to talk about theory, give examples of personal experience and promote discussion. I don’t claim to be any kind of expert more a sharer of ideas. So what indeed what would I know?
It happened again this week and I had to laugh. I would never dream of asking someone in a different profession what would they know, as it would be a damn sight more than me.
Yet again, this was fired at me from someone outside of teaching. What would I know?
Nada.
All I have is my experience, stories of well meaning interactions, successes -both personal and professional and whole host of ” what was I thinking” examples.
All learning.
Both for me and my students.
I don’t claim to be an expert, I love what I do and am passionate about all aspects of teacher education and making a difference to learners.
What would I know?
I know my learners. I know my subject. I have an idea of what can work.
And I know that when I listen, I learn.

Just because it’s old…….

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As I have alluded to before, I play the organ.Not a keyboard, not a synth, a proper big multi manual, pedal,hunners of pipes type of organ. Quite useful for weddings.
I love it and was reminded the other day that I would never be out of a job or need to retire.
I have been playing the same model for about 26 years and I am quite attached to it. I have taken care of it as it has been refurbished, reconnected, had new pipes,new keys the lot. It’s been moved, leaked on,had people climb on it but it still sounds beautiful. After many years,I have refined how I play and worked out how to get the most beautiful sound out of it. Other people may be able to get the same sound, but it doesn’t sound similar to how I play. I was hugely chuffed when I was I Spain playing and someone commented that they knew it was me as they could tell by the sound. I like to think it was my technical prowess, (twiddly bits as someone once remarked) alas, it was just a signature tone.
Last week, I was told that someone had refused to play the organ as they felt it was too old and preferred to play the electric piano.
Going to be honest, I was offended. Here is the most lovely organ that literally sings when you get to know it, no synth needed.
Just because something is old, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work, or can’t work.
It reminded me of one of my favourite educational bloggers whom I really enjoy reading and thinking about the points she makes. She recently wrote about how she had changed her mind about particular pedagogy, she took absolute pelters on-line about it.
Looking at what people had previously dismissed as “old hat” or not ” progressive” she had decided that using such methodology was actually no bad thing.
I don’t understand people who are desperate to disparage teaching and learning techniques that are older than 3 days? ( tongue firmly in cheek)
In my relatively short teaching career I have seen significant changes in curriculum, exams and thoughts about learning and trendy pedagogy. One thing that has not changed is the need to make sure weans are nurtured, educated and given the confidence to succeed. It would appear that every so often common sense does a bunk. I’ve seen more debate about approaches to teaching that have caused uproar than I care to remember. I enjoy the debate and am always keen to learn, to try something new but definitely not ready to chuck out the roots of what makes my teaching work for me and more importantly my learners.
Many a good tune is played on an old fiddle as my mammy says.
I can’t help but think if the musician who dismissed the lovely 1963 organ had actually taken the time to look, listen and try something that didn’t need flashing lights or whistles, they might have discovered there was a beautiful tune waiting to be played.
Just saying.

This one’s for you darlin’

She’s my sweet little thing, she’s my pride and joy.

So all you Stevie Ray Vaughn fans will be singing along. I am going to be honest, it was my little lady, my pride and joy who introduced this song to me, I have written before on various occasions about the sacred time in the car with my dad when I was a student comparing tunes and taking about track of the week and he is pretty much responsible for the eclectic but wonderful array of music I listen to.
And it would appear, my daughter too.
We were escaping the city in the famous taxi of Grandad and my little lady starts singing along to this verbatim, slide notes, syncopation a bit of air guitar to boot, (Bonnie Rait style)
I kid you not.
I’ve not written about her too much lately because we have been having too much to be honest.
Towards the end of December we had a bit of a milestone. She’s had really bad stage fright for a long time and was singing in a big concert in December. I don’t mind saying I was on the edge of my seat to see what happened….what happened? Magic happened.
There she was with some of her friends in a chair of about 70 children. Singing with an adult choir and a full orchestra. Say what you like, but in that amount of people you can spot your own a mile away and I swear I could hear her sing.
I had the privilege of having my old infant headmistress and my parents with me who simply told me ” now you know how we felt”
Burst? I thought I was going to float out. This wasn’t just about singing, this was such a growth in confidence for my little lady and I could not have been more proud.
The holidays were a very chilled mix of sitting about in mermaid blankets together, making things, watching nonsense on the TV and save for a few occasions, not being more than about 10 feet apart.
We still found ourselves dancing in shops and talking twice as long to get anywhere as we had to talk to every dog on the way to our destination.
Like me, she was feeling a bit out of sorts about going back to school and she announced that she would like to be home schooled. Aye,if it was about strictly come dancing and mermaid history, or maybe shoe appreciation, then I am your woman.
Thinking about all the things I learned from my folks made me giggle and I was talking to the little lady about the different things I had learned from my parents.
Music ( playing and appreciation) from them both
Art – def mum. (Came home from my year abroad to a mural on my wall – in case I was missing the sunshine and flowers)
Spelling -Dad ( look it up in the dictionary)
Burns -Dad
Literature -Dad-murgatroid and the shinkickers…….his version of lord of the rings
Dancing – Mum ( all that jumping about in the kitchen)
Exercise -Mum…remember when everyone went mental for the Jane Fonda video?
There was plenty of other subjects that were beautifully covered too…..
However,what have I learned from my sweet little thing over the holidays? Hugs cure anything, sitting in your jammies till lunch time is fine, kung fu with your grandad is also acceptable, downloading games on the kindle for grandma is fine too.
And the little lady also reckons you always need new shoes too. Glittery ones. Imagine.