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Monday, 21 August 2017

The Great Invite Debate

As we head back to school for the start of the new year, along with all of the marking, planning and classroom design headaches comes one that is completely out of our control but which causes no end of fuss EVERY.SINGLE.YEAR! 
Home Readers? NOPE
Nits? NOPE

Ladies and Gents, I bring to you, 'The Great Invite Debate', causing havoc in classrooms and playgrounds across the globe! 

There are 2 main sides to the debate- where do you stand?

Side 1- no child should be left out so everyone should be invited

I appreciate the sentiment here and I can see how being one of the children without an invite can sting. I've watched as invites were given out and little faces fell when they were not handed one- not nice people, not nice. 
Resilience is something many young children are just beginning to develop and something as simple as not being invited can really knock a child- inviting the whole class avoids you having to deal with parents, and little ones, who might not be happy! 
Especially in the early years of a child's school life, friendships are a fickle thing and who your child is best friends with one day might not be the flavour of the month the next. Inviting everyone ensures that, by the time the party comes around, your child's current friends will definitely be on the guest list. 

Side 2- a child has a right to invite whomever they wish to THEIR party

As a teacher, I know full well that not every child gets on and that friendship groups are very important for children (& adults too!). 
Often, in larger schools, children play with others in different classes than their own so if you go for the 'whole class' option then there could be a chance your child's friends aren't even invited. Is simply being a 'classmate' cause enough to get an invite over 'real mates'?

So, if a large portion of the class isn't actually your child's friend then why invite them to celebrate a special event? 
Should we be forced to invite everyone we know to milestone events just to make them feel included? 
Would you do this for your child's Christening or your own wedding? 
Is a birthday party so different? 

What about cost? If you hire out somewhere that's big enough for the whole class this can incur a big bill and if you have it at home then you may not have space for them all- should your child miss out on having their friends at their party because of this or could inviting a select few be the answer? 

Whichever side of the debate you stand on, please remember there are little people's feelings at stake. Something which might seem like no-big-deal to an adult, such as not being invited to a party, might leave a lasting impact on a child. 

I have 3 things to ask you
1. Please don't feel pressured into inviting the whole class if you truly can't or don't want to
2. If you do opt to invite a select few then please make sure it's just that- a few. If your invite list includes the majority of the class then just think how those 3 or 4 children who weren't invited will feel.
3. Think carefully about handing out invites. If you opt for the whole class invite then don't laud it around and make those who didn't, feel bad for their choices. If you choose to invite just a few children then why not give them to their parent's on the playground/ push them through their front door or hand them to the class teacher to put discretely in book bags.
No one likes the smug kid who's playing Wonka with the golden ticket to their party! 

Friday, 21 April 2017

How long is too long?

A recent conversation thread in a Facebook group got me thinking.... how long is too long?

3 year-old 'Little Sally' was being required to sit at carpet time for 20 mins and was struggling.
This created a hubbub amongst the group's members (mainly Early Years practitioners) regarding how long we expect children to sit on the carpet for and if this is best practice.  

Is it ever ok to demand children sit on a carpet for longer than most adults could? 
Can children really concentrate for up to 20 minute never mind sit still for that long? 

I don't know about you, but I'm a fidgeter and as a KS1 teacher I spend a good portion of my working day on the carpet with the children. I usually have a pen in my hand for writing on some form of board or other and you can bet your life that I'll be messing with the lid or twirling it in my hand! Another given is that I'll be switching up my positions- legs crossed, legs to one side, kneeling! 
I couldn't keep still for more than a minute or two yet I (hands up) will become exasperated by fidgeting kids. Admittedly, my threshold for fidgeters is probably longer than most but still, I'm expecting my class of 6 & 7 year olds to do something that not only do I fail to model for them but that I also know I can't do! 
Why is that? I'll come back to the why in a minute....

Bringing the conversation back to 3 year olds and EYFS settings.... my understanding and experience is that children, not just at this young age I might add, learn best from doing, exploring, investigating, tinkering, having a go.....PLAYING for want of a better term and that they, even those aural learning amongst the group, will develop their ability to listen for increased periods of time at their own pace as they mature. This being said, the point could be raised that some children at this age can sit through an entire DVD with only a wiggle and squirm needed to quell their restlessness but the difference I see here is CHOICE! 
If a child of 3 is watching a DVD they love and want to continue to watch it then that is their choice, if they wish to get up and move onto another task then this is their choice too and most carers wouldn't be shocked by this happening so why then are some settings expecting and almost demanding that the same 3 year old sit for 20 minutes and listen to something they perhaps have little or no interest in? And why are they complaining when the child chooses not or is unable to this? 

Sadly, I have no answers here but I would look at the increased pressures placed on schools and nursery setting to get children 'School Ready' and the need to unpick what that term actually means. 
To me, 'School Ready' means eager to learn, developing an enjoyment of toys, books, social interactions and an increasing understanding of their own emotions, it most certainly doesn't mean the ability to sit on the carpet for 20 minute! 

Is there also a misunderstanding/ communication of what is actually expected once children are in a school setting? Do some settings panic and think 'We'll have to get them sitting for 20 minutes because that's what they will want them to do at the school'? I'm not sure, but if that is the case then this miscommunication needs clearing up quickly for the sake of Little Sally who can't and shouldn't have to sit for 20 mins!

So back to the 'WHY', why do we expect children to do something we, as adults, struggle with? Personally, I'd be irritated by a group of adults wriggling, fidgeting and messing with things too but  the reason for this is because their body language is telling me I'm boring, I've gone on for too long, this isn't what they want to do any more and I'm irritated because I've got a lot to say and as teachers, don't we just love the sound of our own voice! 

However, regardless of age, we need to be responsive to this. 
Yes we might still have a chunk of our lesson we want to get through but for whatever reason, things need changing up. 
Surely good teaching flows with the needs of the pupils and is responsive to not only their 'next steps in learning' but also their 'next steps RIGHT NOW'? 

Clearly, Little Sally's teacher isn't being responsive to the RIGHT NOW and it warmed my heart to see in the Facebook thread, so many amazing practitioners who were equally as outraged by these demands as I was. 

Poor Little Sally is 3... let her play, who wouldn't want to play?! 

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Hello….it's me!

Wow! This feels good! 
About this time last year I posted my last blog entry here on year2tastic and headed over to my already existing 'Confessions of a Try-hard' Wordpress blog in a bid to streamline my on-line life for a variety of reasons. 
In truth, it's sucked! 
It was not for me and I missed the fun, vibrant 'year2tastic' me! 

For the past year I have been leading a split life- my heart (and some of my products) still say 'year2tastic' but my Insta and logo all read 'Try-hard Teacher'. 
I feel like I've lost touch with who I am as an 'on-line teacher'. 
Before I made this switch I had a growing profile and I don't mean in follower numbers but in connections. I had developed real friendships and had a great network of teachers across the globe whom I could claim to 'know'- I had found my tribe! 
These days however, my tribe have moved on and left me behind. 

So if things were going so well then why did I decide to change things?
 In truth I was struggling, I had just found out that we were expecting our first baby (Little Miss T made her debut in October) and I was thinking ahead to how my life would change especially once I was on Maternity leave and would have no classroom to fall back on for blogging content. Streamlining my lifestyle and teaching blog seemed the sensible thing to do!

 But more than this, I was struggling with my identity as a teacher. 
I think schools, classrooms and teaching teams are highly personal things. We are a family, our school is our home and our classrooms are our own little worlds where we get to express ourselves and our place in the family and ours was changing. 

Our school had just got a new Head Teacher who had come in all guns blazing and was changing the school at a rapid pace- I wasn't sure how I fitted into things any more, my home and family didn't feel the same. 
Things I thought I was good at and felt confident about were now issues to be challenged or changed. I've a list as long as my arm of things I would have usually done without a second thought but was now second-guessing or being second-guessed about and I felt unsteady. 

I was worn out from being supportive and trusting whilst often biting my tongue to try and be diplomatic. All the time, feeling my zest and enjoyment of teaching ebbing away as it felt like I was constantly being judged or 'adjusted'. 
Don't get me wrong, I truly believed in many of the new changes and fully supported the reasoning behind them but was struggling with the way and speed they were coming in. 
It felt like our parents had just split up, our mum had moved her new partner in as soon as Dad had left and now he was tying to be our new one and we were trying to pull away from the uncomfortable hug- you know the feeling!
Maybe it was just me but I've never wanted the Summer Holidays to arrive as much as I did last year. 
People looked at me, 7 months pregnant, and presumed this was why I looked grey and shattered. 
In truth- it was work wearing me out!

So here I am, 5 months into my Maternity leave and loving every moment of it. 
As a new mummy to a 4 month old I have far more energy than I did last July and the time with my lovely little pumpkin is actually giving me back my love of the classroom. 
I know why I teach, I know just how important the little minds we help shape are, I KNOW that I am great at what I do and I actually want to do it again! 

Step 1 to getting back the old, fun-loving and vibrant me is to blog…. so here I am! 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Say hello to the……'Try-hard Teacher'

Hey my lovely friends!!
How has your return to school been? 
If I'm totally honest, I have found it quite stressful! 
We have a new Head Teacher and there has been a lot of positive change but still, change is tiring!!! 

And on the subject of change….
I've also been using any spare time I have to try and work on my move to Wordpress and rebranding.
'WHAT?!' I hear you cry!!! 
Never fear… I'll still be keeping this blog up to date until things are ready but I WILL be moving over to Wordpress where I will be incorporating my teaching blog along with my long-running life style blog 'Confessions of a try-hard' hence the new brand/ social media name 'Try-hard Teacher' 

I first began blogging back in 2013 on Wordpress and only started to use blogger for my teacher focused blog. I know a lot of people are making the jump to Wordpress and I can honestly understand why- it has a crisp, grown up feel to it and the data and information you can gather on Wordpress is vast yet easy to find. 

I'm choosing to take my teacher content over to Wordpress for 1 simple reason- time! 
Let me be straight- I'm invested in becoming a 'teacherpreneur' and love, love, love our online community but sometimes I find myself with nothing to post about here on year2tastic yet because I want to keep it fresh I force myself to write a blog post.
In contrast to this I often have lots of ideas of things I'd like to post about over on Confessions of a try-hard but because my time is taken up curating year2tastic, I never get a chance to post. 

So why go over to Wordpress?
It is so easy to streamline all of my content over on Wordpress- if you choose to follow my blog over there (which you can do without having to go through Bloglovin') then you will be able to keep up-to-date with ALL posts and may even come across a non-teaching content post you find interesting too- this way you buy into ME- me as a whole person and not just a teacher! 
It will be far easier to get to know the real me and we can make real links not just classroom ones!
There will be a menu dedicated to 'Try-hard Teacher' where, if all you want is teacher content, you can find all of my teacher posts.

If you would like to join me on this journey then please follow this link to take a peek at my new old home.

Please, please, please ask me any questions and let me know what you think in the comments

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Welcome to 2016….well, almost!

Welcome to 2016…..well, almost! 

I know, I know!!!! We haven't even had Christmas yet but seeing as I fly off to Las Vegas for NYE (big whoop!) this year I know I won't have time to sort out my first day back in the downtime between Christmas and school starting again (oh poor me!).

I love my classroom during the run-up to Christmas but once all of those gorgeous cards and colourful calendars have been sent home and the tinsel is packed away, it looks a little sad and empty and I feel a little lost!
Luckily, I planned ahead and took some NYE themed photo booth pictures of my class ready to peg up  to overcome the miserableness of bare-walls syndrome and to kind of make me feel organised!! 

Obviously there is far more to the job of a teacher than making the walls pretty but….!

How do you approach the first day back with your class? Do you launch yourselves straight back into the routine? Do you take it easy and play a little fast and loose with the time-table? 
Me, I like to strike it somewhere in the middle. 
We're all tired (yes I mean WE ME!) and struggling with the sugar withdrawals but I'm also highly aware that every moment is a vital learning opportunity. 

Yes I am that mean teacher who likes to get them straight back into the habit of writing!

On the first day back I like to run some 'circle-time' type activities and give the children a chance to share what they have been doing over their time off- I learn an awful lot about them during these chats! 

We like to reflect on the year just gone and remember all of the fun we had in class- 

You can click here to snag yourself a copy from my TpT store! 
I love using these activities with the children as they celebrate all of the positives and the sense of community our class shared before the Christmas break. 

After we have had our morning snack and are feeling refuelled and energised I then like to introduce some more focused written work. 

This year I will be getting my children ready for the hard work ahead by making wishes and thinking of achievable goals. 

I don't want them to simply set a goal but also explain why they want to achieve it, what it will mean to them and how they will get there. 

Do you encourage your children to goal set? How do you go about it? 
I'd love to hear your plans for the first day back...

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Global Glitter December Linky

Can I get an Amen for Christmas break?! 
We finished on Thursday and I know I don't have to tell you how much I was loving that lie-in yesterday morning!!!!

I just don't know where this year has gone- time seems to be slipping through my fingers at the moment! I can't believe the next time I link up with Global Glitter Tribe it will be 2016!!! WOW!

And on that note I bring you the December Global Glitter Tribe Linky- yes I know it feels like you've only just read the November one but trust me, that was a whole month ago! 
As you know, along with Myranda from Keep Calm and Teach 5th Grade, I am one of the founders of the Global Glitter Tribe and I couldn't be prouder than I am right now of all of our amazing Glitterati and fellow Blog Editors- please take a moment to visit the 'Meet Us' section of our blog and check out just who is involved in this awesome adventure with us! 

I have to say, I am loving Myranda's graphic for this month's link, is has a festive feel and I have 
loved taking part…

Staple Recipe
Growing up I didn't get to eat much chicken as my mother was scared of birds so refused to cook them. When I did get to have it, it was usually in some preprepared form such as a Kiev so as an adult I have made a whole roast chicken one of my go-to kitchen favourites. I stuff the cavity with a whole lemon (stab it a couple of times first and pop it in the microwave for 20 seconds) and several sprigs of fresh thyme. I then cover the chicken in a mix of olive oil and lard to ensure a crispy skin, crack plenty of sea salt and fresh black pepper over the top and break off thyme leaves and sprinkle them on too. I place the chicken on a trivet of potatoes, onions, parsnips and garlic to stop it from sticking and ensure it cooks all of the way through- the onion and garlic along with the thyme and lemon really flavour the juices and add to the perfect gravy! 
To find out what I do with the left over chicken then read my 
blog post over at Confessions of a Try-hard

Holiday Read Aloud Favourites
I know there are lots of classics out there such as 'The Polar Express' but my favourite read aloud at this time of year comes with a slightly sad undertone yet heart warming message- 
You can get your very own copy of 'The Snowchild' by Debi Gliori by clicking on the picture below 
Amazon's synopsis reads…
Poor left-out Katie doesn't know how to play. She has lots of good ideas - but she's always out of step with the other children's games. Then, one winter's morning, Katie wakes up and decides to build a snowman… Debi Gliori's charming story of Katie's Snowchild and the friendship it brings will warm the heart of every young reader.
Integrated Technology 
We are lucky enough to have a set of 25 iPads between 3 classes at my school. As they are often in demand, it is sometimes hard to get 1:1 but it is usually possible to get 1:2. One of my favourite apps to use in this situation or even in 1:1 or small group situations is 'Tag Cloud'- it is a free, user-friendly 'Wordal' type app and it is great for collecting descriptive language and thought showers on. 
Children can alter how the text is presented too- in the example above, each group had a different animal, they had to each type in a descriptive word and then agree on the layout. Based on the word choices and layout, the rest of the class then had to guess which animal the Tag Cloud was for- great lesson on making appropriate choices. My children are 6 and 7 and it is so easy for them to use- I'm sure there are a million and 1 ways to use this app and I feel like I'm only just scratching the surface. 

New Find
Prosecco crisps (or chips to my US friends) are Ah.May.Zing!!!! There are lots of different versions out there but I am loving the Marks and Spencer version the best- they even have cute little gold stars on them! Perfect festive indulgence!

Engaging Books
Egg Drop? The Pea and the Princess? Traction Man? Toys in Space? Biscuit Bear?
No…? Where have you been and what have you been reading to your children? 
All of these Mini Grey books are fabulous and next term I get to explore Biscuit Bear with my children again- it will be the 3rd time I've taught using it and every time I get more and more excited!
 Mini Grey's books are jam-packed with amazing teaching points and fantastic images. If you haven't used one with your class yet then I suggest you get yourself to the nearest bookshop and buy one- they are perfectly suitable for children from 5- 9 and I bet you could still keep the attention of 11 year olds with some of these beautifully written books. 

Snow Day Plans
We don't generally get snow days here where I live but in the days until Christmas Eve, when I am home-alone and relaxing, I love to snuggle up on the sofa with a steaming hot cup of tea in a festive mug and watch the Christmas 24 channel all day! It is fair to say that the likelihood of me still being in my Christmas themed PJs is also high! I get to unwind and feel festive all at the same time- how about you?

Don't forget that you too can link-up by following the link below to the Global Glitter Tribe and simply downloading the graphic- we would love to have you!

Saturday, 12 December 2015

'Twas the week before Christmas break….5 teacher tips and treats to see you through! Xx

Worn out? Check! 
 'Comfy' clothes for school? Check! 
Desk a mess? Check! 
'To-do' list a mile long? Check! 
Glitter in unmentionable places? Check! 
In need of a spa day? Check! 

This can only mean 1 thing……it must be the week before Christmas break! 

Teacher-wellness at this time of year is very important so, in order to help you to take a moment for yourself and get into the festive spirit too I've complied a little list of teacher tips and treats...

School- have all cards, calendars and decorations made ready to be sent home at the end of the day to avoid that last minute panic!
Home- indulge in a minced pie whilst taking 5 minutes to enjoy the twinkling christmas lights on your tree.
Treat- Scholastic Voucher Codes and Discounts for December
Click here

School- double check all assessments are done and get that data handed in (if you haven't already) so you're not sat on Thursday night still compiling it!
Home- take a hot bubble bath to some festive tunes!
Treat- Paperchase- Treat Me

School- colouring in is therapeutic- let the kids doodle away to some festive tunes while you make sure you've got any paper work ready for those who need it and you've got the photocopying done for the first day back in January- I know this seems early but you'll thank me later!
Home- get in the festive mood with a Christmas film and a few chocolates!
Treat- Bodyshop- Voucher Cloud deals for December click here

School- take down the festive displays and get the boards backed ready for the first week- there's nothing worse than realising you still have all of your festive stuff up when you just want to go home on the last day!
Home- Prep a tasty meal to have when you get in from work tomorrow- you deserve a feet up end to the Autumn term!
Treat- Dorothy Perkins- Voucher Cloud deals for December click here

School- let the kids watch a DVD and take some time to file any paper work, tidy your desk and do some general housekeeping- you will not be wanting to do this once the bell has gone- trust me!
Home- Glass of wine? Hot chocolate? You decide- it's officially the holidays!!!!!! Celebrate!
Treat- Photobox- Hot UK Deals codes for December click here

And to help you stop getting snowed under and keep your Christmas cheer I've made a little checklist for you to use-

Have a wonderful last week of school- let's make it a stress-free one!

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