Different Strokes

Pumpkin is the King of the (horse poo) Heap.
Coddle him early, and eventually he’ll take over.
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I love Sweetpeas.
Give her something to cling onto, then wait with bated breath to inhale her scent.
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Gladioli is very hands off.
Bury her deep and she’ll reward you with flowers for your home in July.
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Sweetcorn is a bit fussy, to be honest.
But give him a bit of protection now, and he’ll repay you with sweetness later.
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The Chickens are frequently distracted by looking for bugs.
I mean, really. They have no attention span at all.
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The Frogs aren’t fussed.
They’d take a puddle. I built them the Hilton.
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The Guinea Pigs don’t particularly like strokes;
they do go a bundle on lettuce though.
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And Me?
Well, I’m the kind of girl who likes to cover everything in black plastic.
Make of that one what you will.
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Posted in Gardening | Leave a comment

Making My Mark

When my daughter was tiny, she began to write on her walls. I could have done what most normal parents would have done, and told her not to do it again. But I didn’t. I just told her that she could only write on the walls in her bedroom, and not on any other ones. (She never did write on any other ones, by the way.) So she got to work. Full on. Big style. And as soon as her friends realised it was okay, they joined in too. She covered the walls of her bedroom with drawings, and lists of names, and height charts, and writing, and little messages back and forth with her friends. Recently, she moved into a bigger bedroom, and her old room became my study. And now I spend my writing days looking at the marks that she made when she was small. There is something rather lovely about that.

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David Didau posts a very interesting question here: “Is displaying students’ work worth the effort?” Intuitively, my sense is that it is. But it has taken me a while to figure out why my gut instinct says it’s something worth doing. I can list all the classic reasons: that a great display celebrates students’ learning, and gives them a sense of pride in seeing their work ‘published’. That displays brighten up the walls and add an aesthetic element to the classroom environment. That when we display posters, or key words, these can be used as a ‘bank’ to aid the learning that goes on in lessons. That it is an enjoyable, creative part of a teacher’s role (you may well disagree with that one). And that parents love to see their children’s work up on the walls.

But I suspect the reason I truly love them is much more basic than that: when our writing or our art touches the spaces we inhabit, we take ownership of those places. We make them ours, just like the early cave artists, or like those who scratched graffiti messages, way back when the ancient monuments were new. We say: this is mine, this is me (just like my daughter did when she was tiny). We tell others: I woz here. Even if only temporarily. And I made my mark.

Posted in Displays | 3 Comments

Naming of Parts

Today we have naming of parts. Yesterday
We had our reading test. And tomorrow morning,
We shall have mathematics. But today,
Today we have naming of parts. Cow parsley
Punctuates the hedgerows, the lacy white heads bend in the rain,
And today we have naming of parts.

This is the adverb. And this
Is the adverbial clause, whose use you will see,
When it modifies the verb. And this is the connective,
Which next year must be called a conjunction. The cow parsley
Drips in the pouring rain, as though it is crying.
Which in our case we must not do.

This is the exclamation mark, which creates surprise
Or suggests shock. And please do not let me
See you using more than one. (You can express shock without it
If there is sufficient power in your words.) The cow parsley
Is fragile and short-lived, but each year
It returns to the hedgerows, despite not because of us.

And this you can see is the subjunctive mood. The purpose of this
Is to express a wish that is contrary to fact, as you see. You may be asked
To name it in next year’s test. (It offers rather a pretty turn of phrase.)
Rapidly backwards and forwards language changes
As the cow parsley grows, and dies, so words do too:
They call it evolution. Language changes in our hands.

They call it evolution: it is perfectly fine
If you are not afraid to let it happen. Language must change
It cannot stand still. And this happens over time
Which in our case we have not got; and the cow parsley
Silent in all of the hedgerows and the rain bows the lacy white heads
For today we have naming of parts.

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(With thanks to Nancy Gedge for the beautiful photograph, and to Henry Reed for inspiration. Here’s the original poem: Naming of Parts.)

Posted in Writing | 1 Comment

A Perfectly Reasonable Excuse

This is a true story.

A few years ago, our house got hit by lightning in the middle of the night. The lightning set fire to the electrical system, and there was a serious fire. The hallway was filled with black, toxic smoke. We were lucky to escape with our lives. Many of our possessions got burned, including the children’s school bags and uniforms, which were in the hall ready for school the next day. As soon as the children had got over the initial trauma, they returned to school (we were still living in a hotel at this point). They did not have any uniform to wear, nor any school books. I can still vividly remember seeing my son’s school diary after the fire, when I went to meet the loss adjuster to list the things that we had lost. It was burned, almost to cinders, on the ground outside the front door where the fire fighters had left it.

If, when our children returned to school, they had been punished for ‘breaking the rules’, because they were not in uniform, and did not have their school books, then their school would officially have had a ‘no excuses’ culture and policy. There would literally have been ‘no excuses’ for breaking the rules. There would be no ‘reasonable excuse’ for which the rules could be bent. Happily, in this instance, their school supplied them with new books and presented us with a large bag full of second hand uniform. It still took them several weeks to fully get over the trauma, and it was several months before we could return to our home. To this day, my son is terrified of lightning. And I don’t blame him.

Because he has a perfectly reasonable excuse.

Posted in Behaviour, Children | 10 Comments

Hate Will Tear Us Apart

I guess it was inevitable that an Election defeat would be followed by a period of brow-beating, on the part of the politically minded. I’m not a member of the Labour Party, but their philosophy is just about the closest fit I can find to the kind of society that I would like to live in. So I’m watching all this from the sidelines, lobbing in the occasional tweet to stir things up (such as, “Pretty please can we have a woman next?”). But the very last thing that I had hoped for or wanted to see was in-fighting, bickering, rudeness, and a game of Pass the Blame. Sadly, I’ve stumbled across quite a bit of that in the past few days. It has gone very Dog Eat Dog in the online section of my world.

I sense something very similar in education at the moment, as well. I suppose this is the inevitable consequence of years of rhetoric about “failing” schools and “bad” teachers. Of the introduction of competition into the educational arena. And of the antagonistic approach taken by Mr Gove. These days I stumble across blog posts where the underlying message seems to be that the writer is ‘good’ because they use a specific method, and everyone else is ‘bad’ because they don’t. I watch the endless (and quite frankly, tedious) debates about ‘traditionalist’ versus ‘progressivist’, in which “I am right, therefore you are wrong” seems to be the main idea. (Though I get the distinct sense that “I am right, therefore I am cleverer than you” hides beneath some of the writing as well.) I even see educators in one sector blaming those in another for their perceived failings. This makes me incredibly sad.

I’m fairly old (my children reassure me that I’m “only middle-aged”, which I guess is some kind of consolation). But it feels like I’ve been around long enough to know how the air tastes. Whether it is bitter, or sweet, you might say. And I have to say that the air used to taste an awful lot kinder and gentler, and a damn sight more polite and friendly. Perhaps this is all just another inevitable consequence: that of joining Twitter, where some people lob their thoughts around with quite breathtaking rudeness at times. But here’s the thing: in the end, hate will only ever tear you apart, no matter how great your ideas or how noble your intentions. Hate will only ever end up eating you up from the inside out, no matter how hard you try to target it at someone else. When I come across someone who I sense is full of fury, my overwhelming urge is to hug them and to hope that I can make it all better for them soon. Because, as Martin Luther King, Jr. so eloquently put it:

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

Posted in Government, Schools | 1 Comment

The #TwitteratiChallenge Collection

This is a compilation of the #TwitteratiChallenge posts, done in response a challenge from Teacher Toolkit. The Challenge asked educators to nominate their five ‘go to’ people on Twitter for inspiration and challenge. Please let me know if I’ve missed your post.

Laura Henry (@LauraChildcare)

Jill Berry (@jillberry102)

Rachel Jones (@rlj1981)

David Jones (@ewenfield)

Choco Tzar (@ChocoTzar)

Rory Gallagher (@EddieKayshun)

Nicola Fitzpatrick (@blamehound)

Carolyn O’Connor (@clyn40)

Cherrylk-d (@cherrylkd)

Shaun Allison (@shaun-allison)

Chris Chivers (@ChrisChivers2)

Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner)

Helen Dunn (@MrsD_Helen)

Brad Mellor (@DnTTaL)

Jim Smith (@jim1982)

ClaireC (@Constant55)

Emma Kell (@thosethatcan)

Martyn Reah (@MartynReah)

James Bleach (@jambledandt)

Paul Dix (@pivotalpaul)

Carol Webb (@cazzwebbo)

Vivienne Porritt (@LCLL_Director)

Simone Haughey (@simonehaughey)

Penny Webb (@PSW26259)

Deborah Fielden (@DeborahFielden)

Rache (@HilaryWhite3)

Kathy Brodie (@kathybrodie)

Rachel Lofthouse (@rmlofthouse)

NurseryNook (@NurseryNook)

Kierna Corr (@CiarnaC)

Whatonomy (@whatonomy)

Shelly Sanchez (@ShellTerrell)

And here’s mine.

Posted in Twitter | Leave a comment

Anger is an Energy

It is what it is. It isn’t what I wanted (and if you’re reading this, it probably isn’t what you wanted, either). That hurts. Of course it does. But at this point I have a choice. I can lay down on the ground, licking my wounds, complaining about how it was unfair. I can feel sorry for myself; let my anger consume me. Or I can pick myself up, dust myself down, and channel my anger. Get on with getting on. Keep trying to get my voice heard. Make a noise. Say it how I see it. Be the Thorn in the side of the Establishment. Punk did that, way back when. And if you shout out long enough, eventually someone is going to have to listen. Even if it’s a bumpy track, I’m up for the ride.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment