This Hen Got Chickless

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‘You Can’t Always Get What You Want’ chant the choir in the song.

True.

And sometimes you can, and sometimes you do, and I did and sometimes that isn’t perfect either. I am now doing a job I love, splitting my time between running the Teaching School and class teaching, with oversight on SMSC. It is pretty much what I wanted and what I still want.

With the Teaching School, I get to work across different schools and set up new and exciting collaborative learning projects, like the Year 5 Creative Writing Retreat in the New Forest for five local schools (oooh), and the Newham Speechmaking competition (ooh). I get to work with SLEs and headteachers, experts and facilitators, researchers and academics and at different times, kids across the age range from 3 to 18 across Newham and East London.

My time is split 50:50 so this year will be the first I don’t have a class of my own. Last year I was tiptoeing towards this point by class-sharing with a trainee but this academic year, I have no brood to call my own. I will be covering all of Year 5s PPA, meaning I carry on with this year’s kids as I am currently in Year 4. I will have one random slot and one morning a week teaching an intervention group for Maths in Year 3.

Those who know me know that I am fiercely sentimental. My cupboards and drawers are littered with tidbits and bunkum – crap, some would say – that were once deemed salient . Little bits of scrunched up paper on which are written things a kid has said that have made me snicker to such an extent I felt I need to commit it to paper.

Sir I just … I like seeing the sweat on a bald man’s head.

The only fights I like are mouth fights.

How come your legs move so slow but you walk so fast?

I’ve got the catalogued exercise books of kids who are now teenagers whose writing was so good I wanted to keep it for myself. As end of year gifts for the kids, I made DVDs of our year using footage taken on all of our school trips and odd events (Queen’s Jubilee, Olympics, Performing at Royal Albert Hall etc).

I’ve got my class photos on my office wall, and they form a line of 5 photographs representing my first half-decade of being teacher, 150 faces plus mine – rapidly decaying – five times. And then the line of photos stops. And will it carry on?

I have become a Mother Hen with no chicks. I sit proudly atop a nest that contains only the cracked shells of what once was. Lament. Lament. Lament.

It is just so typically me that I climb the greasy pole only to begin pining for the bottom rung (mixed metaphor but you get the gist). It’s not so much that I didn’t think about which wall I was leaning on when I started to climb the ladder, it’s that I imagined I would be able to split my DNA into another me, or a few more even, and just buy loads of ladders and find loads of walls and wave at myself from atop each of them, not questioning which was the authentic me because I would be so busy doing good stuff on top of my ladders, like a little sky community of high aspiration and learning etc where only I lived along with the other mes.

I think I have application addiction. Now that I have applied for the promotions I have no choice but to apply for demotions. Silly man I am.

EYEBROW RAISED JONNY:  Pull yourself out of this you douche. One, you are being indulgent and nobody wants to hear it. Two, you are missing opportunities to actually achieve stuff whilst you stage this odd grief ritual. 

Thanks Eyebrow-Rasied Jonny, trusty friend within me. I need you even though you hurt me.

EYEBROW RAISED JONNY: Move. On.

I have to see this as an opportunity. As a challenge. How can I get the kids learning, engaged and committed to the curious pursuit of knowledge and critical consciousness when I lack the freedoms, authority and positioning of being their class teacher. Well for one thing, I will be making sure that my lesson plans are tight and well-resourced in the extreme, as I can’t rely on the luxury of catching up the  time if my temporal slackness means we don’t get things done. But as well as that, I want to be flexible and responsive; I want to have the gusto and self-assurance to allow the children’s useful contributions to redirect the lessons when appropriate.

I was teaching a lesson at the end of last year with Year 4 talking about media literacy, for an SMSC job interview no less. I was encouraging the children to think about the effect of the news in determining what they do and do not know about, and what they do and do not care about. Why is it, I asked them, that all the media was covering the Calais Jungle in November and December, but now – when the problems have only intensified – it is not receiving anything like the same coverage?

A hand wiggled up out of the crowd. Y____ had a question he wanted to ask on a similar topic.

“Is it a bit like Black Lives Matter?”

“I can see how it could be yes – what do you mean, Y___?”

At which point, Y____ displays such a virtuous connection with, care for and knowledge of the social world, such a powerful and crusading sense of righteousness that everyone was with him completely,  (and as an aside, he all but guaranteed my success in the job interview, but this by-the-by). The pace and direction of the lesson was fruitfully steered by Y____, enriching the discussion and through his example – explained in the way that it does and does not make sense to him – more children were feeling the refreshing wave of understanding. They were getting the point that media coverage of ‘the news’ is socially determined; that somebody somewhere is in the position to choose what is and is not worth sharing, and that this is a phenomenally powerful position to be in.

I want to do that in my lessons with Year 5 next year. I want to model the kinds of pedagogy that support my values as a teacher and as an individual, and which enable pupils to develop, re-structure and experiment with the knowledge and skills they are acquiring.

And as for the Year 3 maths intervention group, who I am to be teaching each week for just one hour, I want to set myself a bit of a challenge. It may be a challenge in and of itself, as I haven’t ever taught kids younger than Year 4 and I have tended to work with children in the top set for maths. I am reliably informed that the children I will be teaching one day a week do not yet know their times tables.

My little project is this.

With this small group, which is I think 18 pupils, I want each and every kid to be fluent in their times tables up to 12 by Christmas, and want to get there by whatever means proves to be effective for each kid.

That might keep this (surrogate) mother hen occupied atop her empty nest atop the ladders.

 

 

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