Posts Tagged ‘School’

Reading Rules

I am currently spending two mornings a week in our church school, reading with some children who need a bit of extra help. I’m having lots of fun with youngsters who are keen to learn and love to read stories.  This Jessica Hagy card from her wonderful website sums up what I’m seeing in practice:

I wish I could spend more time reading with them

I had a chat with a dad recently who was asking about tutors for his young son, who’s in Reception with the Engineer. I was surprised that he thought he needed a tutor. But it was because dad works long hours, and mum (who also works long hours) doesn’t speak English and Granny, who does after-school care, speaks limited English and cannot read or write in any language.

I was impressed with dad’s determination, but so sad that noone who could read simple English was available to spend just ten minutes a day reading with the child. I can’t read with all the children in the parish!

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New School Hats

Half term has just begun and I am very relieved to have a few days ahead where I can spend a few more minutes in bed of a morning. Plain Lazy is not my favourite t-shirt company for nothing. So this week I am going to gather myself together to prepare for what I am expecting to be a busier time ahead. Oh, and take the kids to London to stay with Nanna and Grumpy Grandpa and visit some museums, obviously. I may be lazy but I have an organised mother.

Last week I managed to add a couple of extra responsibilities to my life. Since the Engineer has started full time school, I have been wasting too much time faffing about. I always seem to get more done when there’s more to be done. So I am now officially a school governor and, following much red tape and council bureaucracy, I am also – ta-daaa – a school volunteer.  So now I’m Vicar’s Wife, Parent, Governor and Volunteer. I only need to start supervising dinners and I’ll have a full house.

I shall be going into school for two mornings a week to read with Year 6 and Year 2 pupils. I’m sure there’ll be much fodder for blogging, but I’ve signed the school’s paperwork agreeing to confidentiality. So I’ll not be able to share anything with you guys. Sorry. I’m looking forward to helping out in a school which has 35% pupils with special needs and some from difficult home situations.

I know a bit about the governors, because the Vicar is already on. I’ve been reading his stuff a bit so I’m already vaguely in the loop. Sadly my school gate pal Neatnic didn’t apply – she’d wanted to but couldn’t face writing the 75 word manifesto that I struggled with.

I’ve often heard local parents talk about wanting to get involved at school but they then seem to find the actuality too hard. It’s obviously not helped by the ridiculous bureaucracy that seems to have grown up around volunteering – CRB forms, council applications etc. But I think others are still nervous around teachers, seeing them as the grown ups, as if they themselves were still at school.

One of my aims in helping out at school is to help some of these parents make the step into school. I’m not sure how – any tips would be very welcome.

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Getting up faster

Just in case you didn’t read all the comments about getting the Vicarage household up and at it, here is an excellent YouTube clip that Iconoclast shared. It shows how a Japanese mum gets her kid up, dressed, washed, toothbrushed and fed and makes a healthy lunch ready to go to school, all in the space of 4 1/2 minutes. I am wanting to put it into practice IMMEDIATELY. I just need to find a good place to hang the vests.

In other morning news, today the kids were totally speedy, induced by a new reward chart to gain additional Club Penguin and PS2 minutes. Not sure if this counts as bribery, but it was effective today. Will keep you posted.

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Much flapping in the Vicarage this morning. The Vicar and I had put the lights out too late last night. Note to self: Christians on their way to heaven get to bed before eleven. As a result we were late up this morning and not chivvying the kids as early as usual.

We seemed to be getting away with it – it was 8.15am, the boys were downstairs and dressed and the Queen, so it was thought, was dressed but on the loo upstairs. We have to be out of the door at 8.40am at the latest.

Then it all started to go wrong. The Engineer had a meltdown because he wanted to practice the piano before his breakfast. As it was already 8.20am we suggested he eat first. Major strop. Then it was 8.25am and the Queen was still absent. I called up and she appeared out of the toilet. In her pjs. She’d been reading.

Following coaxing and flapping in equal measure we managed to make school just as the whistle went in the playground at 8.45am. Phew, we did it. But not everyone did.

Just as I see every morning, as I headed back home at 8.50am many stragglers were appearing down the slope that leads to the school gate. Some were with parents and being hurried, others with parents who mooched. And some kids were strolling along on their own.

When I spot kids on their own who lack a sense of urgency I like to encourage them to get one. ‘Chop, chop you’re late’ is my normal cry. It’s not always effective. But this morning I had success with a gang of lads who I see almost every morning as I head back.

‘I’ll time you – see if you can make it down to the gate in 20 seconds’ I said. It was wonderful to see them pelting down to school. They were only a few minutes late, but they are learning the habit of lateness and a lack of respect for school rules. I never see a parent with them. I’m sad for these boys and suspect that they are going to struggle to bridge the growing gap between rich and poor, reported by the National Equality Panel this morning.

At the bottom of the BBC’s report there is a graph which shows much inequality is ‘unexplained’. I wonder how much correlation you could find between a lateness and absenteeism record in primary school and future success.

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Well, he’s not really a babe any more, but he’s still only six, and as the snow continues to drift down here in the parish, I wanted to share the Joker’s theological thoughts on the current weather.

He told the Vicar the other night

Dad, I know why God made snow white. It’s so that we can remember that although our hearts are dirty because of our sin, he washes them really pure, like snow, as we trust in Jesus who died for our sin.

It’s good to remember that as we sit at home and I attempt to vaguely homeschool the kids as the school is shut again. Our hearts don’t feel very clean today as we bicker about studying, but they are.

The view from our living room window this morning

‘Homeschooling’ now seems to be consisting of the Queen and the Joker educating themselves about snowman construction. And I’ve promised the Engineer that he can write a blog post. Hmm. Very glad that I don’t do this fulltime!

The church from our garden

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Our church primary school has only shut for one day during the recent snowfest and that was because ice was making the pavement outside and the access inside the school almost impassable. Yay for them I say – well done those dedicated teachers who’ve driven in through difficult conditions to come and educate our children. But there have been many grumbles on the school gate about it being open. People seem to be full of  doom and gloom about getting their kids in.

I’m trying to work out if their attitudes about to going to school in the snow are normal or are only normal in an area where people’s emotional capacity is already stretched by everyday life, making the extra hassle brought by snow just one thing too many. Here are some of the things I’ve been hearing:

  • We should stay off school when it snows because I or the children might slip on the way to school and get hurt
  • We should stay off school when it snows because the children might slip over or get cold during playtime because the teachers send them out to play in the snow
  • We should stay off school when it snows because the other schools are off
  • We should stay off school when it snows because it’s snowed

Have you heard anything like this where you live?

Actually, I was slightly hoping for another day off today because I had a home school experiment planned. I was going to see if the kids would do some studying for me if I set the day up like a normal school day with break times and games and things. It all seemed possible because we tidied the house yesterday for our Open House.

But looking at the weather forecast, I suspect that proper school is back now for the rest of the snow season, so I’ll have to save that experiment for another time. In the meantime it doesn’t look like the school’s (already bad) absenteeism rate is going be looking up this term.

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The Vicar is getting together a collection of prayers for our church primary school. What we are looking for is lunchtime prayers, beginning of the day prayers and going home time prayers. With or without tunes.

We have a couple of prayers from our old school and collected from random places, but I would love to have contributions from others. Do you have a prayer you could share, that the teachers could use with our children?

The ones I have so far:

Good morning, Lord.
This is your day.
We are your children.
Show us your way.

Thank you for the world so sweet.
Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
Thank you God for everything.

Thank you God that I’m alive.
Thank you for our food.

Going Home
Nothing so far…

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On Thursday mornings, I organise a coffee morning in our church hall. I try to invite all the mums from the school gate, but in practice there are a regular group of about ten who come almost every week. They are a great bunch – friendly and chatty and fun to be with. I bake cakes every week and others either bake or bring something they’ve bought. We sit for a couple of hours, discussing whatever is on our minds.

This week it was banana choc chip muffins and cinnamon rolls

This week it was banana choc chip muffins and cinnamon rolls

So far, so middle class and just like any other church hall coffee morning for school gate mums. But it’s a bit different where we are. For starters we often have a bloke or two join us – people work shifts here, or are single dads or don’t have any paid employment. And then there are some of the conversation topics…

I’ll just share with you some of the things we chatted about this week. Some regular bog standard school gate talk, but others special to our part of God’s world, with its unique challenges:

  • How to get our kids to get on with their school work, and career paths we envisage for them
  • The upcoming school Christmas fair
  • A lunch club a few of us helped out with the other day
  • The local drug dealers, and a ‘conversation’ one of the ladies had had with a youngster who seems to be getting involved with the trade
  • The excellence of the local Chinese takeaway (apparently the lady will deliver on foot pushing her little one in the buggy if you are close to the shop)
  • The possibility that the local lap dancing club may be closed down because of all the crime that is associated with its clientele and staff
  • Foreign holidays we’d been on (or not)… and taking them in term time
  • How many times we’d been arrested (three between us, I think, but no convictions as far as I gathered)
  • Starting up your own business
  • The local prostitution trade and the club with an upstairs room used for those purposes
  • What had made us cry recently (for some a programme on Baby P, for me a report on primary schools that succeed in challenging areas)

That’s what I love so much about living here. You talk about unexpected things and all your preconceptions are challenged. I love my coffee, cake and chat friends and am so grateful for the fun we have together and for all that I learn from them.

What are your coffee mornings like?

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I'm definitely not this glamorous at the school gate

I'm definitely not this glamorous at the school gate

I’d like to tell you about the first time I talked to my friend Diamond. We’d just moved into the Vicarage and the kids had started at the new school. I was on a new school gate.

The old one was where I met my friends, chatted and hung about till I was thrown out by teachers wanting to get on with the lessons. Here I just had to hang onto the kids for comfort.

The new school gate was the one where I didn’t know anyone, but some of them already knew me. Diamond came up to me on one of those first days and said:

You’re the Vicar’s Wife, aren’t you?

We went to see some strippers last night. But I was so drunk I fell asleep and missed it.

I wasn’t sure what she was expecting me to say, but I commented

Sounds like a bit of an expensive way to take a nap.

And then she wandered back to her ‘gang’.

She must have liked my response, cos now she’s my friend. But, boy, was that a scary way to begin.

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Our School is the Best

snowflakeOur school is the best. It’s snowing heavily here at the moment. But our school is open.

The wussy schools down the road are shut, but somehow our teachers made it in. Whether they get home again is another matter. The snow’s at three inches and deepening.

I’m glad I’ve got wellies.

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