Saturday 28 April 2012

Make em laugh, make em cry! Oh go on then!

And make em cry I did.

In my defence your honour, it was not intentional.

Our school have adopted and embraced the scheme of work designed to help the type of families and children we work with in our poverty stricken demographic. It's called SEAL.

 SEAL stands for Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning. It is a prescriptive programme designed for the whole school from Reception to Year 6.  ( There is also a Scheme of work for Secondary schools )

Because the Government changed and therefore the Education site - I am struggling to get you a link if you'd like to learn a bit more.

* It took me AGES to find you a working link but hopefully if you would like to have a look - it's all here

  Before I begin I would like you to know that I know I am making sweeping generalisations ( one of my UTTMOST favourite things to do EVER - even though I know recpients can find it insulting etc - but the thing is with sweeping gens is that they are mostly true! ) when I speak about the children at my school.

The children who come from the typical  family  I was brought up in are very much the minority.  There WERE children from horribly deprived backgrounds at school with me. I was one of them!  Ok I am kidding slightly; there was that one boy who was ridiculed for always having seconds at lunch, and for wearing filthy clothes. I am ashamed of myself that I know I was guilty of perhaps joining in and not sticking up for this boy - now I know what I do and now I know how this boy when he came to school, he was safe and warm and fed, I feel wretched.
My mum and dad worked hard, but money for  treats and holidays was rare - somehow I managed not to turn to a life of crime and drugs to compensate. However I digress....

Basically there are a set of themes that the whole school work on each half term, beginning in Reception and then building  year on year equipping our children with the coping mechanisms that somehow  in the 1970s and earlier our parents taught us without us knowing and there was a  way we absorbed things by osmosis that these children can't grasp automatically. 

These are the things that we need to be able to function in a society, all of the unspoken rules that make day to day life workable.  Not many of these children have  natural empathy -  they are always quick to blame, won't accept responsibility and have an almost too strong instinct of 'It's not fair - he/she was talking/fighting/messing too but you are not picking on them - again - the idea that the adults are PICKING on them rather than actually being in charge and kids you have to do what the adult says sorry - that's asks is just crazy! maybe it's just our school? Our parents? You have met some of them here before - the three hyenas?

 Some children do have empathy but don't  know how to express it. A lot of them need to come to an adult in school and offload a shitload of crap about their bloody awful morning  that some of you would find so shocking and incomprehendible you would not believe it, before they can even THINK about settling down and learning in school.

They might have stuff to offload that you only see in dramas past the watershed. These children are part and parcel of it. This SEAL programme is designed to try  help them HOW to go about  dealing with it it and gives them the tools, the language and the skills to do it. Some of the older children, before we began this scheme would only ever offer 'happy' or 'sad' as words to tell us how they were feeling. They would not even offer up how they are feeling. There are resources to support the whole family - which is where school needs to  head because a lot of our parents need this SEAL work too.    Every single primary school in this area is in the same boat.

This half term we are working on Relationships

 I was delivering the first session to a class in lower KS2.  They are an adorable little bunch. every single one of them and they are one of my favourite co horts in school right now. Have been from day one. Sure there are children with severe EBD, ADHD, ASD - heck a WHOLE ALPHABET of disorders but they are just so scrummy. The feeling is mutual becuse every day I am asked,
"Are you teaching us today?" with hugs and yays if the day is a Tuesday or a Friday!!

( Ok they need to work on their memory skills, don't we all)

The Learning Intention was " I can tell you about someone or something important to me "

I brought in a beautifully framed photograph of my children and my nanna. I spoke about them. They asked questions - mainly about my nanna - they know lots about my children because they like to hear about them particularly if I've been telling them off for messy bedrooms etc. So a few boys put up their hands and told me they liked their nannas because of the expensive games ( video probably something violent aged 15+ ....) they got them. So I waxed lyrical about my darling nanna, who had no money, but gave me her time, picnics in the park, songs at bed time.

 It was difficult to talk about her as she died five years ago. I love her so much and miss her dreadfully, but I managed it. It's only now I can even look at her bungalow as we drive past - but if I give her too much brain space I start to break down so I , as now, actually quickly compart her off and shut down my brain. I am very good at this. I have so much locked away. It is too painful yet to let out.

ANYWAY, I was very professional, I didn't get too emotional and simply explained that she'd been very old and very ill and sadly she had died, but it was ok ( It isn't you know ) I have my lovely memories, photos etc etc. I then focussed the conversation on special people and animals.

Now don't you fret about these little treasures. They are very much at one with their feelings. NOTHING gets bottled up in here........

I always tread carefully here becuse there are so many children with different family circumstances. I am certain there are less than a third of the class in married/ mum n dad  working households with no stepsiblings. We had a lovely sharing session ( where the words happy and sad are BANNED ) and then they had to go produce a picture of their special person or animal and write the feelings words around it and examples of why they were special. Children who had difficulties writing were allowed to draw these things.  The children were sent off to go about their task.  Literally within two minutes as I was getting my things tidied away  before working at a table with some children- someone came and reported that child 1 was crying.

I asked child 1 to come to me and asked what the matter was. I was told between sobs that she missed her grandad who died last year. I told her it was ok to feel like this and upset. It was only natural. Talking about them can help sometimes. ( YES I KNOW< I DO NOT PRACTICE WHAT I PREACH )  Did they want to choose someone else to draw and write about. No, child 1 was going to do her grandad, she was happy he was in Heaven looking down on her. Off she went, tears dried.

 In the meantime the sound of sobbing was intensifying by the second. Like a game of emotional dominoes rally they were going down in order!

 Child 2 came to tell me that the man she called grandad, but he wasn't really her grandad but my mum says he's like a grandad had died the night before. WHY O WHY had the Class Teacher not informed me of this before I went blundering in with my huge size 4s?

Child 3 sobbing his heart over the man who was his older brother's dad, who had died before he was born, he was crying because he was sorry for his brother not knowing his real dad.

Child 4 crying because her special person had moved to the next street. THe NEXT STREET!
Child 4's friend was crying because child 4 was crying.

Then came child 5.

This one tops the lot...... grab a tissue will need it....... no seriously, go grab a tissue....OK you were warned.....

Child 5, heart wrenching wracking sobs, approaches.

Me - WTF was I thinking? Why did I not choose music to deliver? I wonder if Sainsbury's need shelf stackers?

Child 5 - I am sniff, upset, sob because waaaaaaaaiiiiiiilllllllll

Me - sorry I didn't understand that, take a breath, and tell me again ok? *gives reassuring smile*

Child 5 - osniffksniff sniff sob, hiccup, snob, squeeze a tear out, sniff, huh,huh,  chest heaving up and down looks at me with huge pale blue watery eyes and says my, huff, doggy, sniff, got put dooo oooo cry, ooownnnnn. wails and weeps like wailing and weeping is going to be banned and therefore needs to get all her weeping and wailing done NOW

Me - ( inside trying not to think about when we lost our darling rabbit ) awww that's very sad news ( YES I KNOW I USED THE S WORD> )

Child 5 - I knoooowwwwww

Me - Here's a new tissue, what was your dog called?

Child 5 -  Calming down now. She was called Fido ( Obviously not but I have to be very careful about identity in these stories )

Me - Was Fido a good dog? Dogs are lovely aren't they? What colour was her collar?

Child 5 - stopped crying by now , she had a red collar and a basket.

Me -  Feeling confident that child 5 is gonna be o.k. Red is the best colour for a dog collar. Did you take Fido out for walks?

Child 5 - WAILS LOUDLY noooooo , she had bad legs that's why mum took her to the vet to get put dooooowwwwwwwnnnnnnnn. WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

Me - !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My mouth opened, but no words could come out.

Then fortunately the class teacher arrived back from his PPA time to take charge! I quickly explained our lesson. He laughed and said thanks for leaving me with this!!! I said you may get parents in! Nasty Miss Radiostar making our offspring cry.  He'd had no idea about Child  2s grandad. Child 2s parents obviously could not tell us! He was very supportive and replied that this stuff needs dealing with! And off I skipped back to the safety of upper KS2 where I was ready to deliver a mental maths test!!! Different kind of tear inducer!!

Want to know what lesson 2 is all about next week?
Learning Intention is " I can tell you about loss and how it affects me"
The lesson content includes a story about Lynford. Lynford is a hamster. Things do not go well for Lynford.

I think I might be *sick* next Friday......


  1. Amazing to hear some of the stories about what kids have to put up with at home. My wife's Aunt was a teacher for a lot of years in Iowa and actually had a kid come in with injuries from a big cat because the parents had one at home as a pet.

    I admire the work you are doing with these kids. I think you are right in that there seems to have been some kind of societal disconnect in the last decade or two during which there has been a massive shift in how kids respond to adults. Wouldnt like to guess why though... I would be volunteering to do more maths tests ;)

  2. Bless you hun!! What a lesson. Its testament to you that the children open up and tell you - they obviously trust you and feel safe.

    SEAL is great, we used it as a whole school teaching thing, but now we focus it on individual children and use it as an intervention.

  3. Absolutely love this and the way you approach the class - you're a tiny bit special you know.

  4. OMG. What a horrible day. Maybe you could call this lesson lesson 2, since you already covered everything sad? :(

    Those poor sweet babies. I got teary eyed, then busted up laughing when you asked about walking Fido & Fido had bad legs. Sometimes you just can't win.

    I still miss my Nana so much & she passed away in 1999. When your Nana dies, it's like a piece of your heart is gone, because I don't think there's anyone on earth that loves you like a gramma does. Even when you're being downright dreadful, they love you & make you feel like a gift. And now I'm weeping.

    Thankfully I have you, Rach. Someone that also loves me always. ;) Thank you for sharing your dreadful lesson with us. Those kids need you & you're so good for them.

  5. Thanks for sharing this. Sometimes its hard to remember what some children have to put up with.


Many thanks for taking the time to read my words and respond with your own thoughts. I always try to reply so make sure you pop back to see!