I love my sisters

When I watch Mamma Mia (as I have done tonight) I see those friendships as the relationships I have with my sisters. The good times, the bad times, the fact that something shared with one is something shared with all of them. Gosh, that makes it easy- you only have to say it once and then they say it for you.  We ache as one and celebrate as one.  I wouldn’t change it for the world. 

I also have been lucky to have some amazing sisters-in-law: Anne and Jayne.  They too have become part of my wider sisterhood and despite the geographical distance between us we pick up where we left off and we care for our families and are able to share our worries and concerns. 

But then I think of the other ‘sisters’. Starting with my niece, Rachel. She is learning from us how to be a support and nurture her friends – what she can expect from them. What a blessing she was to us all ( after all those boys Pilch!!!).
Then there are the ‘daughters-in-law’.  We are blessed with you: you know who you are. We will not always share opinions and there will be disagreements along the way – but my goodness, once you are part of the family, if you need something the sisters will respond.  

Of course, after that are my sisters that are not sisters: Carole, Kath, Sue, Janet, Judi, Julie, Debbie, Sue and more recent friends and colleagues.  What a joy it is to have female friends with whom it is possible to share joys, sadness and the occasional moan.

The ‘sisterhood’ has now expanded to real and virtual friends- long live the sisterhood! We need each other and can offer the support that comes from shared interests and beliefs. 

I am thankful.  I love my sisters. 

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Sometimes you’ve got to be a little bit…


This week we took 40 children on a residential visit to Ambleside (beautiful despite the sometimes relentless rain).  They completed team building challenges, ghyll scrambling (if you ever get the opportunity – go!) canoeing and hiking.  Not to be outdone by the considerably younger staff team I got stuck in and by the time we finally arrived home, my aching body yearned for a deep bath and time just for me.

Whilst relaxing, I was listening to the music from Matilda the Musical by @timminchin.  I know that might not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely mine.  I was listening to Naughty and the words made me think:

Jack and Jill, went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water, so they say
Their subsequent fall was inevitable
They never stood a chance, they were written that way
Innocent victims of their story…

…But nobody else is gonna put it right for me
nobody but me is gonna change my story
sometimes you have to be a little bit naughty.

How many children think that their story is already written?  That their day to day existence determines what they can expect or aspire to when they grow up?

A well planned residential visit can offer opportunities for children to have experiences that they would never otherwise get, to see places so unlike those where they live and to discover things about themselves that they had been unaware of.

This week I have seen children conquer fears, marvel at the wide vistas of the Lake District and all that ‘green’, feel exhilaration wading through waterfall pools and pride in accomplishing new challenges.  Some quieter children have demonstrated great leadership skills and some have learned that they can survive without gadgets.  I like to think that the experience has given them a glimpse of the possibilities in the future and the idea that their story doesn’t have to be written already – that they can create their own futures by becoming aware of the wider world.

It also makes me cross – this could be the last residential visit for our school for some time to come.  We have always needed to heavily subsidise these visits in order to make them affordable and to ensure access for as many children as possible but tightening budgets (and they are NOT increasing in real terms as we are frequently told) means a strong likelihood that schools like ours can no longer sustain this.

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This afternoon I’ve been out in the garden.  I have some beautiful pink David Austin roses that are an absolute delight.  Their scent is beautiful and strong.  However, they are tricky little blighters with thorns like sharp blades – my hands and arms are testament to that.  I take pride in their bounteous blooms and love the way they cheer me as my hard work with them pays off.  

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Sunsets – it’s not about the sun setting.  

People who know me, know that I love a good sunset – the colours and the reflection of the sun in the water, the hot colours swirling across the sky. I seek out holiday destinations that are west facing and would like to live on the west coast one day.  
Two things though- the presence of clouds and the beauty of a sunrise.  

It occurs to me that some of the best sunsets that I have seen are when the light reflected off the clouds creates the most beautiful of colours – sometimes almost a rainbow hue. (Teachers please note the use of parenthesis!). 

It made me reflect on this as an allegory for life. When life casts clouds over us, there we can experience some of the very best moments as the best moments shine brightly amongst or after the darkest of days. Sometimes we need the dark in order to see the light.  

The other thing that I have noticed is that I can be so busy thinking about capturing the perfect sunset that I am oblivious to the perfect dawn.  

How often do we search for something’s no ignoring what is right before us.  

Whatever, (as the youngsters say) if you are blessed by seeing/experiencing a sunset or a sunrise, take heart, the world is a wonderful place and the greater glory can help with our perspective on life at times.  

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The Bouquet



She was handed the beautiful bouquet and received it gladly – it was just what she wanted, what she had waited for.  Flowers of many colours and yet how they complemented each other – no two the same.  A peachy scented rose, the daffodil heralding spring, the unremarkable forget-me-not and a gerbera pushing itself upwards with its vivid hue and confidence.  She breathed in the scent and delighted in what she had been given.  One flower stood out: the colour was unusual and the shape of the petals unfamiliar.  Curious, she plucked it from the rest and sought to locate it within the pages of her reference books, but nothing was quite the same.  Frustrated by her efforts she visited experts to try and identify the strange but beautiful bloom.  Not one could put a name to it.  She looked and looked and sought to understand, not noticing that little by little the frail flower had wilted.

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How do you say goodbye?

How do you tell someone that you love them? How do you thank them for everything that they mean to you?
For always being my first phone call when things went wrong – car crashes, poorly children to name two

For a wicked sense of humour – think of that raspberry book

For ALWAYS providing a hug

For teaching me to graciously accept offers of help

For spray painting that old bike a shiny new red

For showing what it means to be a man of God

For aiding and abetting as our wedding became a teddy bears’ tea party

For the introduction to the Saturday teatime classic – the syrup butty

For really making me laugh when I remember that you used to wear tights under your trousers when it was freezing at work in the winter

For wisdom and understanding

For never managing to convince me to get Sky Sports

You filled a gap in my life and occupied that place in my heart ever since.

It’s just too hard. I don’t have the words or the ability to recall all at once the myriad of things that I need to say.

Just sad.  And a bit cross.  But mostly sad.

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Free Wi-Fi! – The needs of a child (actual or perceived)

I think Maslow talked a lot of sense when he came up with his Hierarchy of Needs.

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My experience of children in various settings including schools and voluntary organisations together with the learning I am currently undertaking as part of a Counselling Skills course leads me to believe that children must have their basic needs met in order to fully thrive and reach their ‘true potential’.

There is discussion about the impact of needs being met/not met on the education of children here. I have also read from a number of people on Twitter, for instance, that many children from poorer families will have academic success despite their basic needs not being met and I am sure that this is the case.  I’m not an academic and I’m sure there are many who could point me in the direction of evidence to support arguments in support or denial of Maslow’s theories.

This week I have read that teachers should not try to be social workers by @LearningSpy.  Discussion followed and many teachers agreed that the key role of a teacher is to teach whilst at the same time @imagineinquiry sounded the note of caution about not ‘shrugging off’ the responsibilities we have to the children in our classes when they turn to us when ‘life’ deals them a bad hand.

I believe that in many ways I am in an enviable position; I work in a school where there is a Learning Mentor who is second to none.  With a background in Social Work and an overarching sense of care and concern for the children and families of our school tempered with a healthy dose of practicality and a sound awareness of what support (or not) is out there, she is the first port of call for most of the adults in our school when we become aware of a difficulty in a child’s life that goes beyond the everyday trials and tribulations of the primary aged child.  This frees me up to teach but, rightly or wrongly I still see my role as more than just that.

The images below have been circulating the internet for quite some time.  People laugh or have a wry smile when they see them, acknowledging the hidden truths that they convey.

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Reading around Twitter this week I have been thinking about the other things that children feel like they need.  The little things that we may not notice or don’t take the time to find out more about.  This morning I watched this video about refugees and the things that are so important to them to take when they flee their countries. Some of the items I would never have imagined.   It made me think about the things that I have heard this week that are important to children, that unless we take time to know them as well as teach them we may be missing an opportunity to develop relationships that we can build on once we are teaching:

  • Going to gymnastics club
  • Someone to chat with at lunch time
  • Being able to talk to an absent parent
  • Having a close friend
  • Matching socks
  • No mayonnaise on their sandwiches
  • A pencil to do their homework
  • A clean PE kit
  • Being ‘first’
  • Having a yellow plate
  • A pony tail instead of plaits

So, I’m a teacher, not a social worker, my job is to teach and ensure the children become ‘cleverer’ (and there’s been quite a bit of debate about the use of that word this week in my classroom) and I know this.  It’s what I trained to do.  But I don’t leave my heart behind when I enter the classroom or school.  I can’t ignore the girl who can’t think about anything else other than the fact that her mum has walked out on the family vowing not to return and as a consequence the child hasn’t produced any work that morning. (Not in present school).

I have been rewarded many times over for taking time to know these things about children.  I enjoy being privy to the details that occupy their minds when they are not in lessons (lunchtimes can be so funny and entertaining) and if this means that sometimes I then have to do something about what I have been told, then I will.



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