Saturday, 30 April 2016

Z is for Zoo trips

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


So a big cheer and a huge sigh of relief (for many) as we post our final letter today. 
Well Done - we've made it!

It always seemed to be that a number of classes would group together in the younger years to arrange a visit to a local “good” zoo for children to see the animals.  By “good” zoo I mean one where animals were well catered for in large outdoor enclosures more like their natural habitats rather than in concrete pits or cages.

Zoo trips were always full of awe and wonder.  Seeing an elephant up close is an amazing experience as is looking up and up at a tall giraffe.  Often some of the quietest children come into their own as out of their mouths tumble facts, interesting questions and their joy at being with so many different creatures.

Even when it is a wet day zoo trips can be such a worthwhile experience.  On one trip, when we had just disembarked from the coach and made our way to the monkey sanctuary, in the pouring rain, we were lucky enough to witness a mother orangutan take a piece of tarpaulin in her enclosure and use it to wrap around herself and her baby.  As she tucked it carefully around the head of her infant, I have never felt so close to our ape like ancestry.

Nowadays wristbands are worn by the children should they become separated from their specific group as we wander around the zoos.  School uniform helps but when lots of schools are out and about you always find a number in the same colour as your own school.  On one zoo visit, I felt a small hand reach into my own as we peered into one of the enclosures.  I turned to the child thinking they might need reassurance if the animal startled them to find myself smiling into the face of a child dressed in a similar uniform but with a face I had never seen before.  She smiled happily back but I went into panic mode desperately searching for another school group with the same uniform which luckily I saw down at the enclosure we had just come from.  Quick head count of my group – just in case we had “swapped” and my group headed over to return the pupil – much to the relief of that teacher.

Zoo trip days can be long and the singing on the coach back is always a little less as children fall asleep or chat to each other about the day’s events but, as school trips for pleasure for everyone, I think they are still number one!

Can you remember visiting the zoo with your class?  Did you ever help out as a parent on school trips?  Which animal is a favourite at the zoo for you?  I'm looking forward to reading all of your comments and now that the Challenge is at an end I will take the time to visit and say thank you to everyone who commented on my blog during the whole of this A-Z Challenge :)

Friday, 29 April 2016

Y is for Yoghurt

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

This is one of my pet hates in school whenever I do lunchtime duty!

Yoghurt in a squeezy tube
What idiot came up with this?
It’s dinner time and out they come
From lunch boxes to give to Miss

The children can’t tear off the strip
Without the yogurt squirting out
You can’t suggest they use their teeth
And so they struggle, so they shout

For help to undo, to tear, to rip
These awful yoghurt tubes of doom
So dinner ladies try in vain
And yoghurt flies around the room

Why can’t yoghurt stay in pots?
So much simpler, such less fuss
The idea was to remove the spoon
But yoghurt tubes just make me “cuss”!!

So now you can tell me your pet hates either about how food is wrapped these days or school lunches/lunch times - leave a comment below and let me know :)

Thursday, 28 April 2016

X is for x not X!!!

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


The letter I dread each A - Z Challenge!!  So for today's post you can have a peep into the phonics lesson as we try to teach children the complexities of this letter which everyone knows but not everyone can say!!!

Phonics Lesson

X is the name of this letter

Let’s say box and let’s say fix

Hear the sound at the end?

Now that’s the sound of X

At the end of the word
Like Max or fox

Put your arms like this
(crossed in front of your body)

You’ve got the X factor

Say the sound – ks!

I'd love to know what you think of phonics lessons in school now - did you get taught to read phonetically or with flashcards?  Do your children come back doing or singing their phonics lessons?  Which is your least favourite letter and why?  Go on - leave a comment below - you know I'd love to know :)

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

W is for Wheelchair Hi-5

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

At one of the schools where I taught, we were lucky enough to have a large school hall that was NOT used for lunch sittings so this meant that sporting activities could happen during lunch time.  As I’d always enjoyed netball at school (despite being one of the smallest on the court) I thought I would coach this.  However, wanting to be fair and give equal opportunities to boys as well I decided to go down the path of Hi-5 rather than straight netball.
Check out the video to learn more


I recruited various children and began coaching and eventually posters turned up from England Netball to be put up in school to help explain rules and show positions etc.  The children gathered round to look at these new posters as they came out of the packaging tube and help put them up about the hall.

“Hey, that looks great,” said one child unrolling a poster.  “When do we get our wheelchairs?”

“Wheelchairs?” I asked in bemusement.

“Yes, like they’ve got,” he continued and turned the poster round so the rest of us could see it.  The poster showed a child in a wheelchair playing Hi-5.

“Oh wow,” said the other children.  “That would be great.  Are we going to do that too?”

Obviously, I had to explain to them that the child in the wheelchair had mobility difficulties and that we would not be playing this way.  However, it also gave me a lift to realise that they didn’t see the wheelchair as something odd and instead embraced this idea.  We never did get to meet any wheelchair participants whilst we played in our tournaments but I always felt that those children would forever be willing to include anyone in sport and games when they got to secondary school.

You know I’d love to know your thoughts on sports in schools so leave a comment below.  Which team games did you enjoy playing at school?  Were you inclusive on the sports field or did the occasion never arise?  Did you ever have to battle to be in a team for whatever reason? Do you think the younger generation has a better attitude to inclusion in sport?

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

V is for Van (de Graaff) machine

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


Physics at Secondary School.  There were three of us girls who had elected to take the subject at “O” level compared to thirty boys.  I had initially put down “Gardening Science” in my options and faked my parents’ signature but unfortunately for me my head of year was having none of it and so I suffered Physics as well as Chemistry.  Maybe I should say my Physics teacher suffered having me in his class as I think I rarely understood what was actually happening during the lessons and spent a lot of time day-dreaming during them.  He did however make me the star of one of his lessons when he wheeled into the classroom his Van de Graaff machine, plugged it in and then asked me to stand next to it and place my hands on the silver ball part.

This photo gives you some idea of what happened next!


Not that I can tell you much about the physics we were learning that day, however, some of it must have stuck as I finished with a B in the subject :)

Now it’s your turn – what science experiments can you remember at school?  Which of the sciences did you take and were you any good?  Were you in the minority for any of your lessons?  In which lesson/s were you the star?  Leave a comment below and let me know :)

Monday, 25 April 2016

U is for Uniform

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


Nowadays in England, primary schools (age 4-11) have uniforms as well as secondary schools (12-18) but when I started primary school you didn't wear a uniform until you were older.

Navy skirt and navy jumper
Hung in the wardrobe
Beside white shirts

Navy tie with golden stripe
Practised a fortnight to tie it right

White socks and navy shoes
And downstairs a long navy mackintosh
Hung on the coat pegs in case of rain

This was my uniform for getting older
Secondary school conformity
Secondary school identity
Secondary school equality
Secondary school uniformity


What was your uniform like?  Did you have to wear a proper tie and learn to tie it?  Are you in favour of uniforms?  You know I'd love to know :)

Saturday, 23 April 2016

T is for Travels to Tonga

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


When it was going to be the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, my school decided that each teacher should choose a Commonwealth country and plan some lessons about it for their class. Some teachers immediately snapped up Australia, Canada, India and South Africa - plenty of resources easily available but I decided to ask my class of 5-6 year olds which country they would like to find out more about and so armed with a long list we had a discussion and then a vote.  The winner was Tonga!

Well I knew very little about Tonga and I wasn't sure what I would be able to bring to the classroom to help the children find out about life there but the internet is a wonderful thing and it wasn't long before I had found loads of brilliant little videos suitable for classroom viewing of Tongan life.

I went into the staff-room brimming with enthusiasm.

"My class are going to Tonga," I announced to the other teachers sitting there.

"Oh my God, how are you going to take them on an aeroplane without their parents?" gasped the deputy head.  "How long are you going for?"  The other teachers also appeared to be in a high state of panic and it was at that moment I realised just how mad my colleagues thought I really was!

"Hmm - I'm not taking them physically there," I said.  "We will be traveling in our minds," I explained.  "It's just that my class have chosen Tonga as our country."

There was a communal sigh emitted followed by, "You let your class choose and they came up with Tonga?"

I nodded and left.

Over the next few weeks, my class learnt how to do a haka (boy were they ferocious!) for their dance studies, learnt to sing part of the Tongan national anthem during music lessons (they were so quick to pick up the language!), wrote letters to the new king of Tonga as well as write about their thoughts on Tongan life during literacy lessons (the boys seemed to do some of their best writing ever for this), cooked pork wrapped in leaves in a fire pit (well the school cooker actually as I wasn't allowed to make a fire pit!) which turned out amazingly well and the children loved doing this as a cooking lesson as well as eating it as well as learning about the wildlife on these amazing islands as part of their science lessons. All of my support staff (as this was one of those years where I had a lot of children with special educational needs) said they had learnt so much as well as be totally amazed by what the children could do by the end of it.  We invited parents to cone in to see their displays of work as well as see and hear them sing and dance.

One day, I will travel to Tonga and it certainly wouldn't surprise me (if the opportunity arose) for any of that class to travel there too as this tiny island will always hold a special place in our collective, commonwealth hearts :)

I'd love to hear of any special places you studied at school and if you have ever got to actually visit them or which are on your travel list of the future?  Leave a comment below and have a super weekend :)


Friday, 22 April 2016

S is for Special School Swimming

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.




One of the things I am most proud of, during my time acting as a Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator in a mainstream primary school, (and one I know followers of my blog have heard about before) is getting swimming lessons in a nearby Special School’s hydrotherapy pool for some of my pupils for free!  My school had to pay for the taxi to take them but the Special School allowed access to their pool for free and an authority occupational therapist with specialist swimming teacher skills was also able to allocate hours to this initiative meaning my school did not incur costs for her time either. 

The benefits to the children were immense during these sessions.  The warm water of the pool allowed them to stretch out their bodies much more than they could ever do in the classroom or at home.  The teaching of swimming was not only an enjoyable activity but it also improved their muscle strength and the warmth also relaxed muscle chords in their throats allowing much better speech after the session too.  The ability to take part in swimming was also great for them - they did not miss out on the opportunity that the rest of their class had when they went to the local swimming baths for lessons,  

The hydrotherapy pool had a walk in shelf that meant the children could get in and out of the pool much easier than trying to navigate steps or use a pool hoist.  The changing rooms also had a great deal more space which was essential when helping with dressing and undressing.

The arrangement came about when it became clear that some children would be unable to take part in swimming at the local baths due to the nature of their disabilities.  The extra time needed for changing and the small space provided plus the great difficulty getting in and out of the pool would mean the children would have about ten minutes in the pool if that.  So I decided to do something different and phoned the local Special School which had a pool on site and explained my problem. They offered the use of their pool for an hour and a half (at a time when they would not be needing it) for free as it would not increase any costs to themselves.  I then rang the O.T. that I knew well (who had worked with the children before and also worked with other SEN children in other schools) and told her of my plight but that I had secured the hydrotherapy pool so if she had other children who might benefit then they would be welcome too.  She was delighted at this and could therefore make it a session where she could teach swimming and would be able to do this without costs for any one school.

To my knowledge, these swimming sessions continue to this day benefiting not only my former school's pupils but others in the area too.

So now it's your turn to tell me about your experiences of swimming at school - did you love it or loathe it?  Did you have access to a swimming pool in your own school or did you have to travel somewhere?  Did you get the opportunity at all?  Leave a comment below and let me know :)

Thursday, 21 April 2016

R is for Risks and Responsibilities

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.



When I was at junior school
teachers took risks.
They allowed us to conduct assemblies.
Ones we had planned ourselves.
They allowed us to practise instruments.
In the hall.
Alone.
We chose books from bookshelves.
Without restriction.
We grew plants in a greenhouse unsupervised.
In our final year we were even allowed
out of the playground to the tennis courts next door.
And we knew that we had responsibility;
for our behaviour,
to be sensible,
to work hard,
to work with others,
to produce things of quality,
And so we did.
And it helped make me

the adult I am today.

Now it's your turn to tell me what you think about the risks allowed to be taken in schools today.  Do you think children are given enough responsibility?  What responsibilities were you given as a child? What risks did you take and what happened?  I'm looking forward to finding out more :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Q is for Quiz Masters

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


When I began teaching, my first class was a made up of 30 children with birthdays all between March and August making them the youngest class of Year 1 children in the school and because of this expectations of their ability was sometimes seen as rather low by other teachers in the school.  They were however some of the most inquisitive pupils I have ever had the good fortune to teach and when they asked me questions I always tried to answer so by the time the summer term came around I knew that they had a pretty good general knowledge for their age.  Which is why when it was suggested that a fun end of school activity could be a general knowledge quiz I said of of course my class would like to take part.

"Are you sure, dear?  They'll be competing against the older years' teams even Year 6 children.  I'm not sure they'll be able to answer much." I was told.

"I think we'd still like to have a go," I replied and so it was decided that each class would field a quiz team of four children and in the initial rounds we would base questions on the year groups' syllabus to make it fairer.  General knowledge questions would come into play at round five.  The two lowest scoring teams would be knocked out after each round until there was a final round between the two top teams and a final winner was found.

In my class, we decided to have a mini tournament to decide who would be chosen as our team members and those four children who scored the highest would represent our class.  Our team consisted of three boys and one girl.  The quiz would be in two weeks time and from the moment they were chosen those four children were constantly asking their fellow class mates to "quiz" them! At break-times, going to each others' houses for tea, begging to stay in at lunch so they could read quiz books, they were so determined to do well.

"You can only do your best," I would say and "Remember two of you are still only five years old and two of you have only just turned six; the other teams are all older."

To which they would reply, "It's not your age that matters it's what you know, Miss!" as if maybe I didn't really understand what a quiz meant!!

A popular TV quiz programme at the time was The Weakest Link so one of the Year 6 teachers dressed up as Anne Robinson.  The children filed into the school hall to watch the quiz with the contestant teams seated behind tables around the sides of the hall.  I gave a big thumbs up to my little team and hoped that they would be able to answer some of the questions on the syllabus.  I really needn't have worried.  They blitzed their first and second round questions and remained in play.  I saw eyebrows raised by some members of staff.  Things continued to go well and they made it through to the first general knowledge round at which point even "Anne Robinson" looked slightly worried.

"These questions can be on anything," she said directly at me, "they're just mixed up. They're not age related."

I looked at my little team now pitted against the remaining teams all from the junior side of the school.

"Do you want to have a go at these harder questions?" I asked.  Four little heads nodded vigorously and the general knowledge questions began.

It was rather wonderful, I have to admit, to see those children shine.  Of course they knew where the prime minister lived, they could tell you the first man on the moon, they knew the correct order for the colours of the rainbow, they knew what flag they were being shown - in fact as one of them said very kindly to "Anne Robinson" - "It's alright, we can do harder ones if you'd like?" and so the undisputed winners of the whole school quiz turned out to be the ones who might not have been able to have a go in the first place :)

Now it's your turn to leave a comment about any time during school when the underdog came through or maybe your time being on a quiz team or even a TV show? Maybe it was your sports team that beat the odds to win?  Did your team win the debate despite unfair opposition? Or did you watch a child win the obstacle race even though they'd fallen over at the first hurdle?  Go on, you know I'd love to know :)



Tuesday, 19 April 2016

P is for Parents' Evening

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

I’m not going to bore you with tales from my years of teaching and being the teacher at parents’ evening – although to be honest I’ve always liked parents’ evening because I get time to spend telling parents some of the amazing things their child has done and where their talents lie as well as find out any problems that child may be dealing with.

No … today I will relate an embarrassing story from the very first parents’ evening my parents attended for me!  In those days, children did not go to parents’ evening so I was told how it had gone the following morning over breakfast.  My teacher had told my parents about how well behaved I was and how my reading, writing and arithmetic were progressing well and then she had told them they could look through my school books.  Big mistake!! 

Every morning, we would be asked to write what had happened the previous day or on a Monday morning over the weekend and I had elected to write as one of my news items that week that we had gone to visit my grandparents on their farm and the highlight of the visit (or at least the one I had decided to write all about) was how my poor dad had stepped in a pile of dog dirt and got it all over his shoe.  The fact that I had decided to record the happenings in graphic detail for my teacher to read had not gone down well with my father and I was told that such things should not be written about as “news”.  

I think as all young children sometimes find when writing “news” … boring is probably best which is why as a teacher who has had to read countless accounts of “What I did at the weekend…” shopping and going to the park seem to be all that happens and luckily most parents look where they’re going and don’t step in anything – least ways the children don’t write it down – they just tell me as soon as they’ve got in the classroom on Monday morning!

So come on I'm dying to find out all about those embarrassing things that have happened at parents' evenings or the worst things you've confessed to a teacher or you can write your own "news" of what happened yesterday :)  Go on - you know I'd love to know!

Monday, 18 April 2016

O is for Old?


Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.


To young children, everyone over the age of 16 looks old to them.  Sometimes there might be a distinction between Mum old and Grandma old but on the whole teachers can all be 21 for as many years as they like – they are still seen as old by little ones.
 
At one school, a young teacher joined us (Miss C) who was absolutely lovely and called me “School Mum” and I called her “School Daughter” as we both had long dark hair and the same type of slight zany-ness about us.  However, she came to me one day slightly mortified that some of the children in her class had started calling her by my name and she was beginning to think they couldn’t tell us apart!!  

I have to own up and say I was absolutely delighted to think I could be interchangeable with her as not only was she young enough to be my daughter (just) but she was also stick thin and a couple of inches taller than me!!  I think in all honesty having been the only teacher at the school for a number of years with long dark hair I think the children noticed that feature the most.  Although, after Miss C had been ill for a week I went in to her classroom to be greeted with “Are you better now?” so who knows?

Now it’s time to share your funny stories about age at school – did all teachers seem the same age to you?  Did you ever get mistaken for a younger or older pupil?  Do you look different to your actual age and has this benefitted you or been a problem? Come on you know I’d love to know :)

Saturday, 16 April 2016

N is for Nit Nightmares

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.



We stand in a line
That snakes its way past the headmaster’s office
Chatting quietly so as not to disturb
Avoiding a lesson brings quiet satisfaction
Although there’s always the fear
That we might be the one
Who has nits!
We wait and we wait as those before us
Bow their heads towards proficient fingers
Parting of hair this way and that and the back of the neck
Our turn and quite quickly it’s all over
And we shuffle back to class
Our scalps still tingling from the nit nurse’s fingers
But knowing nothing is living – no tiny visitors
My long hair is safe!

I remember one instance of getting nits as a child (I can’t quite remember how I found out but it wasn’t through the nit nurse) and my mum patiently combing through my hair and removing all offenders as I sobbed – the awful black and white imagery, of an Eastern European children’s serial where the children all had their heads shaven when nits were discovered, raw in my mind.


Both of my own children were always coming home with notices about nits being in class and could I check their heads and treat if found? My son got them once (he has such thick hair!!) but my daughter seemed to always pick them up (much finer hair) until she went to secondary school. And of course as a teacher I had to deal with such notices being issued every month and sometimes every week and would bemoan the fact that we were not allowed to tell the parents of those children we could actually see nits on!!  There were times when I found myself having to go against this as after notices had been issued and certain children were still terribly infected I decided it was best to have a quiet word as some parents might not be able to read or know how to treat the problem.  I never had a parent be cross – maybe because I always explained that having nits was not a sign of having dirty hair and that both of my own children had had nits too.

I bet your all itching now - so to stop those fingers from straying to your hair leave me a comment below - did you have a nit nurse at your school?  What happened if you got nits?  Does your children's school issue notices or do they ring you or have a quiet word?  Any amazing treatments ever prescribed?  Go on you know I'd love to know :)

Friday, 15 April 2016

M is for Milk Monitor

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country.

When I was a child attending infant school, we used to have milk in little glass bottles delivered to our classroom every day.  The job of milk monitor was to give out the straws at the designated time when everyone lined up to collect their bottle from the crate at the back of the classroom.  I can’t remember anyone not having milk.  Milk was good for teeth and bones and every child should drink it, seemed to be the message of the day.  It was also free to every child in infant school (ages 5-7) so everyone just drank it.  I liked milk and even though I can remember sometimes on very hot days the cream on the top of the bottle being a little difficult to break through with that straw – I always drank it same as my fellow students!

Today in England, free school milk is still available to the under-fives (in little cartons) but milk to infant aged children (although subsidised) has to be ordered and paid for by parents which is probably why so few children seem to have it these days although on those days when the nursery children were not in school and my class were handed their milk most of the children would ask for some and drink it up!

Now it's time for you to tell me ... did you have milk at your school when you were young?  Were you ever the milk monitor?  Can you remember milk in glass bottles or are you the carton generation?
Leave me a comment below as you know I'd love to know :)


Thursday, 14 April 2016

L is for Lost Property

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country


Where are my gloves?
Have you seen my socks?
The teacher groans
“Check Lost Property box!”

I can’t find my hat
I’m missing a welly
I found my lunch bag
But it’s gone all smelly!

My glasses are gone,
My pen’s disappeared
Have you checked Lost Property?
It’s as I feared

An over-sized yo-yo
A bunch of keys
And goodness me
What's one of these?

And here's a violin
in it's case
and a cuddly toy
with a funny face

Whose brand new coat?
And whose school tie?
And one lost trainer
I wonder why?

It's in this box
Instead of P.E. bag
The teacher’s voice
begins to nag

As if they’ve not
been told before
All items left
In school by 4

Will be taken to the lost property store!

Can you remember losing things at school?  Did you ever find them again?  Did you check Lost Property and find unusual items there?

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

K is for Kitten Klass

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country

I’m a cat lover – pure and simple and I can hone in on a cat from 100 paces.  Which is why one morning (out to collect the class from the playground) I heard a cry which could only mean one thing a cat in trouble!  Telling the class to wait quietly, I scrambled up the embankment and through the fence and into the parkland above.  Another pitiful cry led me to a bush where a six week old, lonely black kitten with white muzzle and paws lay underneath quite eager to scramble towards my outreached hand.  I snuggled it up in my jacket and descended back onto the playground. 

“Thank you, children,” I smiled and we walked into the school with the children none the wiser of what I held.

Once inside, a cardboard box from the art store and a jumper that had been in the lost property box for ever were quickly brought into play to make a makeshift house for kitty whilst a desk tray with torn up newspaper made an instant cat litter receptacle.  The kitten was introduced to the children who were very careful and quiet as instructed.  Luckily for me, my teacher co-worker was another cat lover and so I sneaked all said things plus kitten into the staffroom where I knew no-one would be going (definitely NOT the headmaster) until morning break.

The children were all as good as gold and we kept kitty a class secret up until morning break when I sped off to see how things were in the staffroom before others arrived.  Kitty had been excellent and a bit of torn up ham from my lunch sandwich was quickly gobbled up.  Now I needed to keep Kitty from the attention of the Head and at lunchtime go and knock on the doors of houses surrounding the park which I duly did but no-one had any news about where the kitten might have come from.  Back in the staffroom, one of the teachers was already smitten with the little one and thought she could probably work on her husband to agree to giving the kitten a home if I could just look after it for the weekend.  So that is why for a weekend my own children and I kept the kitten a secret from my husband (who would have gone up the wall if he had known I had brought yet another cat home!!) and on Monday he went to his new home and became a much loved pet.

Now it’s your turn to let me know what animals you have rescued, kept hidden or had in school as pets?  Share your stories below in the comments box.  You know I’d love to know : - )

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

J is for Junk Modelling

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country


One of the activities most children in my classes have always loved is junk modelling (making things out of old cereal boxes, washing up bottles, etc.).  Sometimes this activity is part of our history topic, so we might make castles, sometimes it might be science so we build mighty insects but often it will have a design technology slant to it too so we are learning about design features as well.

I often ask parents and grandparents if they would like to take part in these afternoons as having a few more adults around in class can be very helpful especially if sharper scissors might be needed or as was the case in this particular lesson proper woodworking tools!


The children were working in small groups to build the longest bridge they could that would support a particular vehicle that they would be asked to push across the bridge at the end.  They worked so incredibly hard and well together and the parents were very supportive and so we had an absolutely fantastic afternoon. However, when it was time to put tools down and go around the groups to have a feedback session about how they felt the project had gone, one of my most well-behaved and studious children decided that she could keep sawing (hands and saw underneath her desk) and of course managed to saw her finger!  It was the only accident of the afternoon and luckily it wasn’t too bad a cut but it went to show that even the best behaved can sometimes get carried away with completing their junk model!!

Monday, 11 April 2016

I is for Illness

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country
I liked school a lot when I was young and I had some very good and caring teachers but very occasionally I'd pretend to be ill just to have a day at home.  There is one journey to school that sticks in my mind all these years later ...

As I walk to school,
My mum pushing my brother in his push chair,
The golden sun shining on the pavement,
My feet start to drag.

We pass the doctors house
And make to cross the road
My mum’s out stretched hand to take my own
And I place my other arm across my tummy
“I don’t feel well, I feel sick,” I say.
“Are you sure?” she replies
Hand to my forehead checking for heat.
I nod not wanting to repeat the lie.

“Well maybe you’d better not go to school today
Maybe we ought to go home and see how you are there?”
Inside my lie makes my tummy feel slightly queasy
But I nod my head and we turn for home.

Once there I must sit on the sofa quietly,
Little brother told to leave me alone
Drink the water offered and read a book
Whilst Mum rings the school to tell them
I won’t be in today, maybe tomorrow
“We’ll see how it goes.”

It doesn’t happen very often
But sometimes I just want to be home
Instead of school
I want to read books and watch my brother play
I want to hear my mum doing the chores
Busy in the kitchen

And she doesn’t mind once in a while
And she’ll tell me she didn’t like school much
And ask if everything’s alright there and it is
It’s just the sun is shining and I miss my little brother sometimes
So now and again I’m “ill” and she knows the score
Tomorrow I’ll be back to school – no trouble
But today I’ll just read my book and be home
With them

Saturday, 9 April 2016

H is for Hugs

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country

I am a huggy type of person.  I get a lot of hugs off kids both big and small (off parents too once in a while!) and I like to give hugs too. And although there is always in schools a need to be careful so that actions are not misconstrued I think that hugs can really help to say it all when words just won’t adequately do and this is especially so with some children who have special educational needs.
So today is in praise of Hugs : )

Hugs can say so much
It’ll be alright or it doesn’t matter
Or … you feeling better?
Do you want to natter?

They can speak volumes
When words won’t do
"That’s the best ever!"
"I’m so proud of you!"

They can lift your heart
They can make you smile
Everyone needs a hug
Once in a while.

Who gave you your last hug or who did you give a hug to recently?  Are you a teacher who gives hugs or have they been banned from your school?  Leave a comment below 'cos you know I'd love to know :)

Friday, 8 April 2016

G is for Glasses (To see or not to see...)

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country

One of the banes of a teacher's life is making sure that all those children that should be wearing their glasses ARE wearing their glasses!  Some children need them on constantly, others may need them for seeing the board or for when they are reading or writing up close.  Because not all the children that need glasses wear them all of the time as a teacher you need to remember to remind the children to wear their glasses throughout the day and keeping track of who wears what and when can be hard!

That's why when I said one morning, "Now those of you who have glasses make sure you have them on so you can see the board, " I waited for the inevitable movement of children going to their drawers or out into the cloakroom to retrieve glasses and put them on.  I then began my lesson and looking around those upturned faces of the children, aged five and six, sitting cross legged in front of me, noticed one child who was peering very earnestly through her owl-like glasses.  I didn't think much of it at the time and continued on with the lesson, but later on as I was about to send the children to their chairs I noticed the child now had her glasses in her hand.  

"Put on your glasses, Diana," I said.

"I don't think I need them," she replied smiling.

"I'm pretty sure your mum wouldn't say that," I said knowing how many parents often asked me if their child was continuing to wear their glasses in class.

"She wouldn't know," was Diana's rejoinder.

"I think she might if she asked me," I countered.

"But she doesn't know I wear glasses," Diana said putting them back on.  I did a quick mental recall of was Diane's dad on the scene, thinking it might be him that had taken her to the optician's when she was staying with him and maybe he hadn't told Diane's mum?  But no, I was sure Diane never had any dealings with her dad.  I dismissed the other children from the carpet to begin their written work and walked over to Diane as she got to her feet.

"Well who took you to the optician then?  The place where you got your glasses?" I asked (maybe it had been Grandad who I knew did look after her at times).

"No-one," she said and by now her bottom lip was beginning to quiver and her eyes looked huge behind those lenses.

"Well, where did you get these glasses from then?" I asked, by now feeling really rather confused.

"From Grandad's drawer," she suddenly sobbed.  "You're always asking us to put on our glasses so I thought I ought to get some."

"Oh no, Diane - only the children who actually need glasses to see things properly need to be wearing them.  Can you see me properly now?" Realisation was flooding over me!

"No," she wailed, "everything's blurry," and with that she took off the glasses again.

I could see how in her mind she had been trying to be the good student and several of her friends wore glasses so having her own pair had probably been something she'd wanted for some time. I was having a hard time fighting back the laughter as well as thinking how come I hadn't twigged she didn't wear glasses!!!

"Well in that case you don't need to be wearing them and I think we'd better keep them safe until it's home time and you can give them back to Grandad, don't you?"  Dianne nodded and I passed her a tissue to wipe her eyes and watched her skip back to her place whilst I wondered just how Grandad had been coping without his glasses?  Mr Magoo came to mind!

So now it's your turn.  Did you wear glasses as a child and did you wear them in class or did you make excuses as to why you couldn't?  Did you ever borrow anything you shouldn't and take it to school with you?  Did you ever covert anything one of your friends wore or used at school? Did you have your eyes checked whilst at school or do you think you should have done?  You know I'd love to know so leave a comment below!







Thursday, 7 April 2016

F is for French Angels - Oh La La!

Welcome to my posts for the A to Z Challenge 2016.
This year, I am posting 
Special School Stories
 tales from either my time as a teacher or teaching assistant within classrooms in the U.K. or from my own school days growing up around the country

I am not a linguist but I love languages and so I have often been involved with getting European projects off the ground at the schools I have taught at and I have never balked at teaching children or having children teach (if they know one I don't!) various phrases in several world languages.  So when it was proposed that the younger children should start learning languages too it was my name that cropped up as the teacher to do it and that I would teach French and I would make it fun!

It was to be the infants' Christmas production and the speaking and acting parts were few and far between.  I had a very talented Year 2 class for one afternoon a week so I proposed we would add an additional scene to the production and this would allow those in the class without a speaking part to perform a song in French.  Sometimes I say things without really thinking things through!!  
With various nods from the other infant teachers, I was left to sort it out.  I soon realised that teaching a traditional French Christmas song in the three weeks before the production (in only three hours of lesson time!!) was going to be out of the question so I decided instead to go for the song Chanson D'Amour below:
Suddenly the new scene was very different to what everyone had imagined it was going to be i.e. the children singing a French Christmas song as a lullaby to the new baby Jesus near the end of the production - instead we now had a scene that would be cut in after the "normal" angels has appeared to the shepherds in the story. It would go more along the lines of "Pitch Slapping" with my French Angels  basically telling the other angels that they needed to have more style and launching into the song - ending with an oh la la in a very French superior but chic way.  Their costumes (and I had both boys and girls being angels) were white dresses for the girls and white shirts with black trousers for the boys and all of them wore ... sun glasses!  These angels were super cool and didn't they know it!  Getting a backing track for the song proved a nightmare and in the end the one I had to download had a terrible risque picture so I had to make sure I never had the whiteboard on whilst it was playing!!!  Although in our first rehearsal with all the other classes, the other infant teachers couldn't quite believe their eyes and ears the scene proved to be a big hit and when we played in front of the rest of the school and to parents there were lots of laughs as well as a big round of applause for my little French Angel superstars.  
(Thank you to Monacomac at deviantart.com for the Spock sketch)

Let me know what languages you speak? Which did you learn at school?  Did you have strange scenes in your Christmas plays sometimes?  Have you ever been a most unusual angel?
You know I'd love to know so leave a comment below :)