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! 

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