I’m not stressed ……..honest

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Apparently April is Stress Awareness month and it is also probably the most stressful month of the year for many teachers. This is the month when we really try to cram in as much information as possible into our pupils ready for national testing in May so it feels very appropriate.

Teaching is becoming more and more stressful as the years go by. Every year there are new pressures on top of what already seemed like a full load. A year ago, I felt almost at the point of giving up my job completely as the stress was becoming too much. A supportive head and husband helped me through it but I have been determined that I was not going let myself feel that way again.

This year, I think that the stresses on teachers are even greater for many reasons that have been well documented elsewhere. However, although I feel hugely pressured and things have kept me awake at night, it hasn’t been as bad as last year. So what has been different?

Exercise has helped, especially walking. I live in a fairly built up area but there are a couple of walks that almost feel as though you’re in the countryside with streams and fields. Walking by water always makes me feel better.

I have also tried to build in time away from home with my husband. If I’m not at home then I can’t go onto my laptop and look at my planning again. Being somewhere completely different helps my mind to switch off properly. It’s also lovely to see new places or just walk by the sea.

However, think that a big part of the reason is that I have been more aware of the symptoms and therefore in a better position to deal with things. Last year, by the time I realised what was probably wrong with me, it was almost too late. This year, I have made a conscious effort to step off the hamster wheel when I felt that things were getting on top of me. It might be just for a short while such as going out for a walk at lunch time in the sunshine or maybe ditching the grammar exercise in their books in favour of a lesson done on whiteboards that won’t generate any more marking. Being aware of what is happening to you is really important. Stress builds up gradually and the effect can be catastrophic. I got away quite lightly but don’t ever want to feel like that again.

I don’t think that the stress in our profession is going to get better any time soon and so we need to get better at handling it. Hopefully Stress Awareness Month will help us to do that.

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Grammar Test Blues

I really, really dislike the Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling test. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not campaigning for a Sats boycott. KS2 tests in whatever format are here to stay but the GP&S test is wrong on so many levels.

First of all, why on earth do the children need to remember the names of grammar terms? Surely what is important is being able to use grammar effectively in their own writing? Talking to colleagues who teach English up to A level and they are amazed at the demands of the Year 6 curriculum and cannot see the need for it. In my experience, my children use the past progressive and past perfect effectively in their writing but sadly can’t always remember the names correctly in a test situation.

This need to revert back to grammatical structures and rules of the 1950s for children at school in the 21st century seems to be total madness and unproductive to say the least. Because I am having to spend so much time learning the names of grammar rules, I have less time to teach them how to write well. How can that possibly be seen as a good thing?

The aspect of the GP&S tests that really annoys me though is the mark scheme. Unlike the Maths or Reading papers, the Grammar test is not interested in what the children can do; it is trying to catch them out. If you look at any questions on the Reading or Maths papers where the children have to give 4 or 5 answers, then these are 2 mark questions and the children will receive 1 mark for getting most of the questions right. Not so on the Grammar paper. Many of the questions have multiple elements, sometimes as many as 6 things needing to be found and all of these questions are worth just one mark. If a child misses a single one eg forgets to circle London in question 26 of the sample paper, then they receive no recognition at all for the fact that they really do understand the use of capital letters.

The paper states that the pupils have 45 minutes to do 36 questions but in reality there over double that number but very few marks available for them. This to my mind is simply wrong. If a child is able to create new words using suffixes in 4 out of 5 cases, then they surely have a good grasp of what they are doing and should be given credit for what they know. The Grammar paper should use the same format as the Reading and Maths papers and let children receive marks for the things that they get correct rather than one error cancelling out several correct answers which is the case in many of the grammar questions at present.

A day off for a good cause

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Primary school should be about more than sats and stats! After History day last month, Friday was our annual charity day. Every year in March, we devote a Friday morning to raising money for charity. When it is Red Nose Day, that is our good cause. In the alternate years, we raise money for the school’s chosen charities.

The morning begins with a talent show assembly. Each class holds auditions during the week and the best acts get to appear on stage (for a small fee). The acts range from foundation stage singing en masse, jokes (funny and not so funny, strange, surreal sketches to singing and dance acts.

After that, the juniors go out and strip their classrooms of tables and chairs and turn the playgrounds into a giant bring and buy sale. It is all entirely their own work. All the teachers have to do is provide sellotape and prayers for a day that is dry and not too windy.

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We had a huge variety of stalls and competitions this year. As well as the usual cakes for sale and guessing the number of sweets in jar, we had a hula hoop competition and a wet sponge throwing stall.

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Foundation stage and the infants come to spend their money and the teachers stock up on books and wet play games as well as break any diet intentions by buying too many cakes.

This year the sun came out and we had a fantastic morning. I was impressed both by the ingenuity of some of the stalls as well as the generosity of many of our parents who had donated contents of stalls, prizes or helped their children to bake cakes.

This year, we raised a record amount of £875 which I think is £100 more than last year. That is almost of secondary importance though to the other things that the children get out of the morning. A morning free from Maths and English being just a tiny part of the benefits.

Maths Recall

This was originally begun as a Maths Blog when I had to keep a reflective journal as part of my MaST course several years ago so I decided that it was more than time for another Maths post.

One of the problems with Maths especially for Year 6, is helping your pupils keep all the plates spinning in the air at the same time. I have found my daily 5 a day practice to be really useful in keeping concepts and methods fresh in pupils’ minds as you are teaching them something different
See blog post here    https://devoil.wordpress.com/2015/02/

Another idea which I spotted today on Twitter was this

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This was from the excellent JustMaths (@just_maths ) and is to provide a bit of maths for Year 11 pupils everyday as they prepare for their exams. I am a great believer in not reinventing the wheel and so am going to create my own version of it for my Year 6 class to use in the Easter holidays. Hopefully the idea of doing just one Maths question a day won’t be too offputting and will help to keep methods fresh over the short break. It is interesting that I could easily use some of the same questions shown above which is indicative of how much more is being asked of our Year pupils this year.

I will post the Year 6 holiday version here when I have created it.

29 Days of Writing

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So that’s it then. Day 29 has arrived and I have managed to post something everyday!

It has been a bit of a struggle on occasion. The evenings where I had parents evenings and didn’t really want to come home and have to spend time writing even for a short time were difficult. It hasn’t been easy to find things to write about either although there was always inspiration to be found by reading other people’s entries in @Staffrm. Most of my burblings have disappeared without trace although a couple have obviously resonated with people on Twitter and been retweeted which was nice. I wasn’t looking for an audience but it is rewarding when you get a response that tells you that some one else feels the same way.

I have enjoyed doing the challenge just for the discipline of getting myself to write every day. I used to write all the while when I was younger but now the only writing I seem to do is in pupils’ books. It has been good to organise my thoughts and set them down in a semi-coherent manner.

Doing the challenge has also introduced me to a whole range of other people whose writing I have enjoyed over the past month. I have particularly enjoyed reading posts by @chrischivers, @JulesDaulby, @thatboycanteach and @rondelle10_b to name but a few. There were lots of other individual entries that I enjoyed reading and commenting on.

I am glad that the 29 days is over but will definitely try to write more often than I had been doing. Maybe I will manage the one a week challenge beginning in March. Watch this space!

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A picture a day

As part of #teacher5aday, I decided to take a photo every day. I liked the idea of capturing something different everyday and having a record of the year to look back on. January was difficult. Going to work and coming home in the dark severely restriced photo opportunities. However February has been easier to find things that I wanted to keep a record of. I have been storing my photos on Flickr and it’s fun even at this stage to look back at the photos that I have taken so far.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/138942551@N05/albums

These are some of my favourite photos of the past month:

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Feb 18th

I love this picture of the sunlight coming through the trees at the bottom of my garden. It looked prettier in real life but the photo sort of captures the feel of the morning.

Feb 15th
Feb 15th

This was taken on a walk on the first day of Half term. I loved the way the catkins were almost glowing in the sunshine.

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Feb 23rd

I really love the way the clouds reflect the sunlight early in the morning and in the evening.This was taken at about 5 o clock. The colours were so vivid that it was just begging to be photographed.

I haven’t taken today’s photograph as I am waiting for inspiration to strike  but I’m sure that I will find something.

 

 

Music and Memories

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Day 27 and this is my contribution to the current crop of music blogs in #29daysofwriting. Thanks especially to @thatboycanteach who posted details of his half term listening on Twitter and got me thinking about special songs.

Music has always been part of my life. My earliest memories are of listening to music with my parents and we always had the radio on at home. My mum used to love Noel Edmonds on the breakfast show! But then she likes Neil Diamond as well so there’s no hope really. She and my Dad have always brought records with a collection that included Wings, Elvis, The Carpenters, Big Bands and Glenn Miller so I grew up listening to lots of different stuff. Anything but classical in fact.

Songs are closely linked to my memory. I only have to hear certain songs and I can remember specific times and events from my dim and distant youth. These are some of the songs that have formed part of my life.

Blockbuster by The Sweet was the first single I ever bought. I really loved that whole era of glam rock. Killer Queen is another song that takes me back to my secondary school years as is Joybringer by Manfred Man. I remember listening to that song in the early 70’s when we were only at school part time because the new school building wasn’t ready in time so we couldn’t all fit in the existing building at the same time. That must have been a real nightmare for the poor Head Teacher.

Joan Armatrading’s I’m not in Love takes me right back to New Year’s Eve 1976 and the Railway pub. It was my first real night out in a pub with a group of friends and ended with my being over the moon because I had been asked out!!! Adult life felt as though it had really begun. Hearing the song now still brings back that feeling of nervous excitement that seemed to fill my teenage years.

You don’t bring me flowers by Neil Diamond and Barbara Streisand always reminds me of my Grandfather’s funeral. I had this song running through my head all that day so it is always linked to feelings of sadness. My Grandfather’s death was the first time I had lost a close relative and so his funeral had a big impact on me. I always regret the fact that I didn’t spend more time with my grandparents when they were alive.

Bruce Springsteen’s Dancing in the Dark and Meatloaf Bat out of Hell are my early years with my ex husband when we always dance madly at parties. It’s nice to remember that there were good times before we separated.

Sinatra’s New York, New York reminds me of my wedding 6 years ago. It was the last song played although it wasn’t on the playlist that I had given the DJ. When I hear it, I go right back to the dance floor at the Marriott Hotel where all our friends and relatives were on the dance floor dancing and singing along. It was a song that really summed up the whole day and how great it had been.

These are just a few of the songs that are so closely linked to my memories. What songs trigger memories for you.