The Teaching Mum

A light-hearted look at parenting through the eyes of a very busy English Teacher.


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First Days, Friendships and Embracing Those Nerves.

Can you feel those worms, darling?  The ones crawling in deep down in your tummy?  Can you feel them squirming around and making you feel a little bit funny?

Don’t worry, they are called nerves.  They feel pretty horrible don’t they?  I understand that they make you feel a little bit sick; I can see your eyes look wider than usual when you ask me questions about starting school in September.

Nerves are good.

Nerves show that you care.

Please don’t ever stop caring.

Nerves have followed Mummy around all of her life.  They follow her into interviews, they accompany her whenever she starts a new job and they linger in the corner of her classroom at the start of every new school year.  She feels them in the pit of her stomach when she speaks in assemblies and they play havoc with her voice when she wants to speak up for herself.

They show she cares.

They show up whenever she feels passionate about something.

I can see that you’re passionate too and I love that about you.

“Is it September yet?” you ask me daily.

“No baby, it’s still August.”  I say.  “Don’t wish summer away.  I’ve waited so long to share it with you.”

“I’m looking forward to big school, Mummy,” with your eyes wide, you try to assure me.

I smile because you are so much braver than me.  That part of you must come from Daddy.

A few days ago, I took you and your brother to the park.  As we entered, we were greeted by three children chanting both of your names and the eldest girl came running up to you with a big smile on her face.  My heart began to sing a little.  I asked her name and if she was in Lower Foundation at your school and she told me that she was.  Looking over to her mum, I smiled and walked over to her standing and pushing her youngest child on the swing.  We struck up a conversation and she was lovely.  I asked if her daughter was looking forward to starting school in September, and that was when she told me they had moved and her daughter would be attending another school in another village in September.

Such a shame.

A number of your friends in Lower Foundation are going to different schools and the thought of it makes the nerves start fluttering slightly deep down in my stomach because, despite you not moving schools, you may have to start your friendship circle from scratch. You, my dear, appear unfazed by this fact

“Even if they say no (to making friends) at first.  I’ll wait a bit and then ask them again.”

Oh God.  Stop pulling at these frayed heart strings of mine.

At four years old, I can see myself standing beside a wall on my first day at primary school with my only friend next to me. Together, we are looking on at two girls – twins in fact – running around a bench chasing each other.  How I longed to be like them and know some of the other children in my school. (One of the curses of being an only child, perhaps?) Nerves ate away at me that day and I ended up crying.  The second day was much the same and again it ended in tears.  I can’t remember the third day or the fourth, but that’s because I made more friends and I began to settle. The nerves vanished and I loved school and would continue to love it until the day I left at sixteen to go to college with the twins I watched running around a bench all those years earlier.  And what became of the girl who stood with me by the wall as I looked on through teary eyes?  You saw her yesterday; you’re friends with her daughter.  Alas, you won’t be going to the same school in September; I hope your friendship defies that obstacle.

Can some friendships stand the test of time?

Taking what I learnt from primary school, I shouldn’t be nervous for you should I? Instead, I should tell you that the friends you make there could be the friends you make for life.

I try to hide my nerves from you, but you overhear me talking to Daddy about them.

“I don’t have any ‘Mum friends’,” I say.  “I’m not from round here.”

“You’ll make them,” he says.

“When?  I am never at the school gates.”

He tells me not to worry and that I will see them at school events or at the park or in and around our village.  But, this just makes me realise that you haven’t really played with anyone your own age this holiday because we don’t live on a street with children.  I remember when we first moved into our home, your Granddad expressed his concern that there were no other children living nearby.  I didn’t really think much about it because you were eighteen months old and waddling around in a nappy.  Now that you are almost five, I can see that spark of independence in your eye and I know you should be out playing with children your own age.  This understanding hasn’t hit you; you don’t notice that the majority of our neighbours are retired, so it doesn’t bother you…yet. Guilt eats away at me over the fact that other than playing safely in the garden or at the park, you haven’t experienced the joys of ‘playing out’.  You haven’t soared up and down the street on your skateboard; you haven’t raced your friends ’round the block’ on your bike; you haven’t made a makeshift shop at the end of your drive and sold junk to passersby and you haven’t shouted what you think are hysterical witticisms (but, are actually annoying) at loved up teenagers across the road, who just want a couple of hours away from their parents.

I don’t think skipping up and down a high street classes as ‘playing out’.

Therefore, I worry once more that in this carefree summer, as you stand on precipice of a new beginning, you may fall into the space below because you haven’t quite got all of the friends you need to catch you yet.  I feel that this is my fault for working a lot and for taking piles of books to mark at children’s parties when I should be mingling with the other parents carving out new friendships and arranging play dates.  Perhaps it’s both mine and your Dad’s fault for choosing the quiet street, the safe street, the street where we can look out onto fields as opposed looking out onto a pair of loved up teenagers sitting on a bench, holding hands just trying to get a couple of hours alone away from their parents.  Perhaps we should have considered what you would want from a house and a street.

“Kids don’t really play out anymore,” your Daddy assures me.

Isn’t that such a shame?

Playing out helped me make more friends and cement the friendships I already had because the games we played out on the streets forced their way into the conversations we had at school in between learning the alphabet and reciting our timetables.

I wonder, do your nerves start to rear their head when I ask you to blend a word for me?  I think I sense a sudden panic when I ask you what d-o-g spells over and over again.  You know that Mummy teaches English and you’re eager to please, so rather than concentrate on the letters, you spurt out random words in quick succession.  You sense the apprehension in my voice as I quicken how I say ‘d-o-g’ ‘d-o-g’ and then you just laugh and tell me that it says ‘dog’.

“Oops!” you say.  “I’m only kidding.  I know what it spells.”

Do you?

On your last day in Lower Foundation, I was able to pick you up from school because I too had broken up for the summer holidays.  Your teacher came out to see me and I thanked her for everything she had done for you over the year.  I wasn’t feeling any emotions over you finishing Lower Foundation, after all, you would be returning in September.  No big deal.

Your teacher told me that you are a good girl, a kind girl, a girl who knows right from wrong.  She told me that you played with all the children in the class and that you showed compassion to others when it was needed.  Finally, she told me that you would be in a class with some older children when you start your Literacy lessons in September.  At that statement, my vision blurred as my concern for you washed away.

As it turns out, you do know your letters; maybe you were just kidding all along.  I had no need to feel nervous for you.

However, no matter what path you choose in life, I will always feel those little worms.

Because they show I care.

When you’re standing at the gates on your first day at school and you can feel the nerves creeping into your tummy.

Embrace them.

It shows you care.

Your first day in Lower Foundation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Momma’s Got to Werk!

The definition of ‘werk’ from the Urban Dictionary (so it must be true): A congratulatory declaration of support, praise or approval, for an outstanding achievement in any area of life.

Sometimes it feels like I am the only full time working mum in the world.

But, that’s because, for the most part, I am an idiot.

I am, of course, acutely aware that there are millions of us working parents out there who are doing our best to annihilate the guilt that whispers in our ears every morning as we leave our children in various places.  Be sure, when I say ‘various places’, I mean Grandparents and nursery and school – I don’t mean the bread aisle in the local Co-op.  We know deep down that even though our choice to work full time was a difficult one, (or a necessity for me as we stupidly bought a house we couldn’t afford) it is a choice we made with our children at the forefront of our minds.

Grandma picked these two up from the bread aisle in the Co-op…

Then there are teaching mums.

And, of course, there are teaching dads and teaching assistant parents and learning supervisor parents. I could go on, but I always set a limit of 1500 words, otherwise people zone out…I can already see your eyes drifting over to the Amazon advert in the corner…

What I am trying to say without offending anyone is that the parents who work in schools and with young people have it hard.  We have it hard because we work in a job that requires us to care for a large number of children as much as we care for our own – but in a very different way.  We have a sense of duty to them; we keep them safe in a world of uncertainty; we work hard so we can watch them succeed and we are interested to find out what they have achieved in life beyond school and how they have made their mark on the world.

Sometimes we have to pick them over our own children.

Not just because it’s our job, but because it’s a part of who we are.

So, to all of the working parents out there.

I see you.

I am you.

To the mum sitting in her car with her head in her hands as guilt whispers softly in her ears, I see you.  Do you know why?  Because, last week, I was you. I not only missed my daughter’s first ever sports’ day, but I forgot all about it.  In fact, I will go so far as to say that I didn’t know about it because the newsletter that was carefully placed in her bag went unread.  I know.  Bad mum.  In my defence, when I come in from work after picking up my children, the last thing I think of is to check the school bag.  Come September, when my daughter starts full time school, perhaps I should prioritise checking her bag for important documents.  However, after a day of teaching, I want to hug my children and watch ‘Andy’s Dinosaur Adventures’ and silently debate as to whether I think Andy is fit or not.

I still haven’t decided on that one.

I like his hair.

But, his nostrils are pretty flarey. (Is that even a word?  It is now, I am an English Teacher after all…)

Anyway, back to my story.  I dropped my daughter at her nursery (that’s a part of our local school) to be greeted by four year olds wearing trainers, t-shirts and shorts. My daughter, however, had on her red school uniform and black patent shoes.  She looked up at me and I looked down at her.

“Is it Sports’ Day?” I asked.

Everyone nodded.

Bugger.

Fret not, the nursery workers assured me, they had spare kits that my girl could borrow.  Regressing back to almost twenty years ago, I recalled the one time I had to borrow PE kit from the lost and found box at school. Recoiling from the memory of big blue PE knickers that weren’t mine, and the stigma attached, I refused to be beaten.

“Give me ten minutes!” I said to no one in particular and dashed out of the door to race home to retrieve my daughter’s shorts, t-shirt and trainers.

When I returned to nursery, it was noted how quickly I had returned (winner of the three legged race circa 1989 I will have you know…) and helped my girl into her PE kit.

I overheard a mum telling her son not to worry if he dropped the egg and that it was the taking part that was important. And she was right.  All that mattered was that the children had a good day.

In saying that though, I am quite competitive having played netball since I was ten years old.

Leaning into my daughter’s ear I whispered: “Go out there and win.”  We fist bumped because we are cool like that, but then she unintentionally dropped the guilt bomb in my face and it exploded.

“Are you staying to watch?” She asked.

This bomb caused tears to well in my eyes.

“No, baby. Mummy’s got to go to work.”

My heart felt like lead as I left the building.  There was no dashing this time; I dragged my feet because I didn’t want to leave.

But, I had to.  Other children needed me – I had my job to do.

I was the parent sitting with my head in my hands in the car. The clock was ticking; I was close to being late for work.

I called my Mum.

Sports’ Day started at 9am and by this time it was ten past eight.

I woke her and she told me that she had an appointment at the opticians.

She assured me that she would try to pull a few strings and told me to get myself to work.  Thankfully, she was able to do her own sprint finish and make it to sports’ day and in time and just as I was about to teach my first class of the day, she sent me a wonderful photo of my girl jumping along a Hop Scotch grid.

Did you win?

I thanked the Lord for grandparents.

My guilt was still with me though as I dropped the ball.

I missed another big event.

Another first.

Later on in the same week, I attended a presentation evening for our pupils.  I, along with a large number of colleagues, stood and cheered on pupils who were receiving recognition for their hard work and commitment throughout the year. I am certain that not all parents could make it; they too could have been missing a first. So I stood with my colleagues and we applauded their children because that’s what we do. I am in no doubt that there was a teacher standing on a grass verge cheering on my daughter last week perhaps missing a first of her or his own because that’s what we do.

In all honesty, there will be lots of firsts that I will miss and that’s life. There will be seconds and thirds that I get to experience and it’s those moments I will cherish rather than dwell on the ones I have missed.

Tomorrow, we go on holiday for the first time in three years.  That’s one of the many good things about being a teaching mum isn’t it? The holidays. I am looking forward to the many firsts I will experience over the next six weeks. However, the Dude has developed a penchant for climbing, so here’s hoping they’re all positive firsts…

So, to the mum sitting on a sun lounger with her head in her hands feeling guilty because she wants a moment’s peace.

I see you.

I am you.

Fancy grabbing a cocktail?

Me on holiday…

Enjoy your summer, folks!

The plan for the six week holiday Vs the reality

Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday


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Love Breeds Love

I am not usually one for writing about current news stories because my blog was never supposed to be serious.  I found that in the stressful world of being a busy working mum, writing comical stories about my misgivings as a parent gave me (and perhaps one or two others) some light relief to what was usually an end to a busy day teaching and parenting.  However, every so often the real world sneaks up on me, smacks me right between the eyes and I feel compelled to write about it.

That’s how I have felt about this past week.

I shy away from controversy and tend to keep my opinions to myself on social media.  This is for two reasons:

Firstly, I don’t want to say something that others don’t agree with and end up reading cutting remarks about and me and my writing (because I am a total wimp and cry easily).  For me, social media isn’t about my airing of political views and spewing about what is wrong or what is right about the world today.  No, for me, social media is about sharing the fact that one of my amazing Year 8 boys asked me yesterday if ‘Utopia’ was a country.  ‘No,’ was my reply. ‘That’s Ethiopia.’  It’s about that time when I told a pupil that Rudyard Kipling was not, in fact, Mr Kipling’s brother (if only he had been though…)  It’s also my documenting of proud parenting moments such as when we lovingly bought our girl two goldfish and she screamed and shouted all night for a dog.  My Facebook isn’t about being ‘in’ or ‘out’, I just want to make people smile.

A parenting ‘misgiving’. She was showing me her plaster!

Secondly, I don’t write about current events because I am not clued up on everything that’s going on in the world at the moment.  My television channel barely moves from 614 and 615 when the kids are awake (CBeebies and Nick Jr for those of you who are wondering…) and by night, my sordid love affair with Sky Atlantic takes precedence over watching the news.  I am not knowledgeable enough to weigh in and discuss serious stories and my come back of ‘I know you are, I said you are, but what am I?’ is just not a strong enough argument to defend myself against some of the trolls hiding in the dark spaces in-between the comments section on social media.

Despite my knowing more about ‘Andy’s Prehistoric Adventures’ rather than some of the ‘prehistoric’ views of our country’s MPs (Oh no, she didn’t…), we do now live in a world where the news is instantaneous and where, if we want to, we can delve into all of the nooks and crannies of a story.

This week, I did just that.  After putting my children to bed each night, I strained my eyes and read page after page of news on my phone screen and some of the facts I read brought me to tears.

Last week, I watched British Football Fans fighting in France.  I read about a young pop star being killed in Orlando and then my heart broke for Orlando again when innocent people were killed and injured in a night club in a horrific shooting.  Tuesday came around and I found myself reading about Orlando again and how a two year old had been dragged into a lagoon by an alligator.  Then on Thursday, just as my colleagues and I were about to watch the England and Wales football match, I read about a local MP called Jo Cox.  She had been shot, stabbed and rushed into hospital.  My colleagues and I briefly discussed it and condemned the attack instantly.  We settled down to watch the match knowing that Ms Cox was alive and in safe hands at Leeds General Infirmary.

After the game, I rushed home and collected my children from Grandma and Grandad’s.  The Other Half was home and making dinner.  We briefly discussed the football game and spoke about the hideous attack on Jo Cox.

Once seated at the table, the conversation came up again.

“I hope she is okay,” I said.

“She’s died,” the Other Half said.  “It’s barbaric.”

“She hasn’t,” I insisted.  “She is in hospital.”

The Other Half reached for his phone and instantly updated me.

I had to take a minute.

Like I have said, I am not political and I did not know the MP, but this news story absolutely devastated me.

Later that night, as I lay next to my children, I read more and more about the very wonderful Jo Cox.  As a successful working mother, she would have left her children that morning and expected to see them again that evening.  No one should ever go to work and never return home.  I was heartbroken.  I searched desperately to find the good in the world again.

That is what this post is about.  Finding the good.  Because it is there.  It is all around us.  It always has been and it always will be.  It’s about knowing where to look.

This week, I found goodness in my Year 9 class.  They are a wonderful eclectic mix of pupils of middle to low ability. Sometimes they challenge me; sometimes they stare at me in silence with blank expressions on their faces, but more often than not, they make me smile.

Sometimes they amaze me.

On Thursday morning, they did just that. But, they didn’t realise it. Nor did I until they had raced out of my class in a bid to be the first in the lunch queue.

The topic for the day was the analysis of language.  We read an article about an openly gay rugby player.

After a weekend that saw the news filled with stories of hate that linked with both sport and sexuality, I saw this article as a great tool to spark some serious debate, some riveting conversations and some strong opinions.  I thought I might even have to challenge some ideas.

I was wrong.

I have mentioned in a previous post that rugby is the beating heart of our school; it is a topic that draws a lot of our pupils into conversation.

We read the article and before picking out key words and phrases, I wanted to find out what they thought of it.

“Why do you think the rugby player kept his sexuality to himself for so many years?”

“He was scared of what others would think, Miss.”

“Yes, so if your fellow team mate told you, after years of playing rugby together, that he was gay. How would you react?”

Silence.

“What would you say to your friend?”

Eventually, someone spoke.

“I wouldn’t say anything, Miss. He’s my friend.”

I smiled.

“What if your friend wanted a reaction, your opinion or some advice?  What would you say?”

“I’d tell him to stay focused on the match because we had a game to win.”

I feared that they didn’t understand what I was asking of them.  However, we unanimously agreed that the appalling things that happened last weekend have no place in this world.  They recognised discrimination and they condemned it.

When asked to speak about sexuality in context, they couldn’t.  Not because they didn’t understand, but because it just isn’t an issue for them.  I am lucky enough to work with young people who tolerate, accept and love people’s differences – whether it be their sexuality, their beliefs or just how they have their hair styled. When the world is at its most cruel, I look to them because they are our future and they are good.

They will sometimes be naughty and will test my patience, but they will grow up good.

People yearn for the Britain of old when people were perhaps more patriotic.  But, weren’t people also more racist back then and less tolerant of people who dared to be true to themselves and stand out from the crowd?

I am lucky enough to live in a country that celebrates freedom and I am privileged to teach pupils who don’t just tolerate people’s differences, but they accept them because it’s all they have ever known.

As teachers, we will strive to educate your children and turn them into good citizens, but education starts and finishes in the home and love will always breed love.

Thank you Year 9 for allowing me to see some good in the world this week.

Love breeds love and happiness is infectious