A good supply these days…

‘Oo’s ‘er?’ Is the most frequent question I get asked when a colleague is away from school, closely followed by ‘Where’s Miss?’ Possibly without the correct apostrophes in the dialectical variations.

Today was just such a day. A colleague was out on a training course and I met the supply teacher who was to cover her. It was clear from the outset that this lady possessed a special calm. When the set cover work needed to be set up she sorted it, she was intuitive and seemed to know where the students were up to; just by a flick through of an exercise book. She understood the cover work and knew how to introduce it and got the class settled in record time.

I admire supply teachers. They do something I feel I could never do. I base my successful career on the fact that I can develop good relationships with students. They do what I say because they know what I will do if they don’t. They understand my sense of humour and we can work with each other to settle problems without either side feeling put out. I have always worked with relationships and my personality, and so far it has worked.

The supply teacher today seemed to work with her senses; and more importantly, a kind of sixth sense of just knowing what level to pitch everything at. It was like someone jumping into an unfamiliar car and being able to speed off, without stalling! I spoke to her throughout the day and she said that each time she visits she feels as if the school is even more calm and settled than the last time she remembered it. She said that having clearly set work and pointers to assist her move quickly into the work helps, so too does a department who can support and not just walk passed the door if someone needs a spot of assistance…especially with technology!

Being an effective supply teacher is a superpower. (To coin a Dr. Who maxim) and I admire anyone who is able to walk into any number of schools on a regular basis and just assume the role. Thank you. You are valued.


Where have all the flowers gone? Encouraging deep thinking

My 6 year old daughter came into my room this morning singing a protest song she heard on the radio. ‘Do you know this song, mummy?’ She asked, almost as if she had a nugget of gold to share that only she had found. ‘Yes, young girls pick them one by one…’It’s a war song.’ We then started an amazing conversation about how flowers could be the soldiers and what happens to them.

What I am learning about my girls is that they are only restricted in their thinking by what we choose to give them to think about. If I allow them to watch Disney films all day without looking into the background story then they will only ever look for the surface meaning. If we give them the tools to probe then they can do it just as easily. It only gets difficult as they get older, and have not practised this when they were small.

I took my daughters to see an amateur production of Oliver! Last night. The same daughter listened to ‘As long as he needs me’ and commented that it was stupid to fall in love with someone like Bill Sykes. I haven’t had chance to ask her why, and I think she would think I was stupid because to her, the relationship is obvious. He is a dangerous man and you should stay out of his way.

Looking for the deeper meaning is something I love doing. Sometimes with young children we avoid it because of the complex nature of issues; but I would still encourage it because it is only with practise will we have a nation of enquirers, philosophers and future engineers.

The week in the life of a show widow

My husband is a professional Musical Director and singing lecturer at Wolverhampton Uni. He has worked with theatre groups during our 11 year marriage. In fact, on our first wedding anniversary he was at the Wolverhampton Grand doing a dress rehearsal for the first amateur production of ‘Ragtime’ – if you ever get the chance to see this musical; if you are in anyway musically inclined, then do so. It is an especially moving piece of theatre and the songs resonate with me even now, all this time later.

This week Tim is at the Lichfield Garrick with @WBOSYOUTHEATRE. They are in the middle of a run of Oliver! (Never forget the exclamation). He has also been at Uni. He has left at 7.30am and returns about 11pm. He has done this all week. As well as this he has had to keep his other plates juggling. I really don’t know how he does it. When I returned from work today I discovered him having quality time with our daughters. He also sits with us at meal times and asks the girls what they have been up to. During this week we have to run along as if on three wheels because Tim is so busy, but we love seeing him coming home with a buzz, chatting about what has happened and who was in the audience and what the cast and band got up to. It’s a special job and one I’m very happy to be part of.

I am looking ahead to retiring. I know that one day I’ll just want to teach when I feel like it, I’d like to examine more and I love the process of seeing what students write. However, I know that my husband will never retire. He loves being an MD and his enthusiasm is infectious. I can see him being in this role and working with groups for another 30 years happily. I would like to think that the Dudley Hippodrome does reopen and he can bring some of his groups closer than Lichfield, just to save him the drive home afterward!

In the meantime, I make use of the washing machine, dryer and slow cooker and hopefully by the end of the weekend we will get back to normal. The next show week is in 3 weeks time! The shows must go on!


Running like the wind. Running wild? Running free. Today I taught my daughter of running to change your mood. She’s going through a tough time at school. Everyone does from time to time. She is clever and sensitive and the two qualities mean that she constantly thinks that other people do everything for a reason…rather than just doing stuff without thinking. So today she came home with her usual recount and I decided, with my youngest at rainbows, that we had an hour to spare. I told my husband my plan and suggested the run to my daughter. I have never seen her get changed to quickly.

We went to a local park, we ran round for about 10 mins and the she asked to play on the swings. We had a stop, had a chat and played…together in the dark. It reminded me of playing out late when I was small and getting told off when we tried to say that the street lights had only just come on so we weren’t that late home!

After chatting and playing we decided to run back reverse route…I didn’t realise until my daughter said, that she was scared in the dark and was starting to jump at shadows. It was a real experience for her and clearly swept away the cobwebs. When she returned she was in the mood to write her diary, and her first night run was a large feature, bigger than the upset she had had. I know that if I’m going to keep helping her to feel balanced I’m either going to have to get fitter quickly or enrols her in a triathlon for juniors!

The beginning…

Well here is my attempt at a blog.  Mainly a place to collect my teaching ideas but also a place to think!

The theme of the week is Blooms. Everywhere I look there are analytical spiders or flowers with creative questions. I have used thinking hats again for the first time in years and I am enjoying the explosion of creativity at school, Which seems to get lost when one has a deadline to meet…I just wish we could ‘play’ without having to do all the mundane stuff at the same time. It’s like being told you can have ice cream with chocolate sauce but you have to eat a plate of cabbage first.