From out there to in here…

This morning was fab. Brilliant. Inspring.

I was at an incredible meeting with all sorts of different people from all sorts of different professions and we were all there to develop a strategic plan for the area in which I work. The meeting was following a Strategic Assessment which was recently undertaken. The findings were no more than I expected (levels of deprivation, disengagement, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, unemployment, debt etc. etc.) but what completely blew me away was the fact that the first recommendation, the prime action, was that everyone should work towards developing a Rights Respecting Community.

Now that may not seem that interesting to you but for me it was incredible. When I first started at the school, a number of years ago now, I brought with me the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools agenda. It is based on the United Nations Convention for the Rights of the Child and it underpins everything that we do in my school. It permeates the very fabric of the building. It has transformed the relationships within the school and consequently the behaviour of the majority of the children. And it is the children who wanted to extend it beyond the school context. If we can get the adults on the estate to behave in a Rights Respecting way that would be just SO powerful.

The children have led Rights respecting training sessions for the local PCSOs and community Police Officers. They have led information sessions in the local library. And this morning there were all these important people saying that what they wanted was for the school children to lead the way in developing Rights Respecting in the community. And backing it with time and money!

I don’t get to work strategically like that often enough. I wanted to be a Head because I could have an influence over the outcomes of a larger number of children. Here was the opportunity for the children and the school to contribute, as part of a much wider team of people, to the transformation of the community. I am really excited!

One of the things I love about my job is the range of thinking that I have to do in a day. I went from blue sky to focused on one child in the space of an hour…

I got back to school just in time to collect the lunches for the support group and went with them to do my lunchtime duty. One of the boys was in a very strange mood and he just kept making loud screeching noises. He wasn’t doing any harm, he was just randomly screeching. He got fed up with the computer game he was playing and I tried to offer him other things to do. He didn’t want to play with the cars, or the dinosaurs, or the lego, or the building bricks, or draw, or colour, or play naughts and crosses, or play cards, or read with me. I gave up and he just roamed about the room.

About a minute later he came over and asked if I would play naughts and crosses with him. So I did. It was lovely. He is such a needy little boy, just playing an ordinary game with him, and watching his face when he won, and him seeing my expression when he won and I hadn’t let him win, was delightful. These ordinary moments of adult-child interaction are missing in their daily lives. Some children need you to be so much more than their teacher.

One of the other boys in the group had refused to do his writing during lesson time and so I was tasked with getting him to complete the work during the time the others went out into the playground. He always eats his lunch incredibly slowly. I teased him about it a bit by saying that we would do the writing together when he had finished his lunch. He laughed and said that he ate his lunch really slowly so that he wouldn’t have to do anything he didn’t want to.

He ate really, really slowly. grinning at me all the time. When he eventually finished and I had helped him tidy his lunch things away I asked him to come and work with me. He wasn’t having any of it and started stropping around the room, knocking things over and telling me to ‘fuck off’. I ignored the swearing and started ‘mucking about’ like I did when my own boys didn’t want to do something. I asked him to come and sit down in a very silly voice, I teased him gently about his skills in avoiding doing any work. I got him smiling and eventually, and ever so slightly begrudgingly, he came and sat down. The puppet and the weighted toy had the desired effect and by bargaining with him I eventually got him to write a sentence. Just as he was about to add the final full stop the other boys returned to the classroom.

As an indication of how fragile these children are and how little resilience they have, it took one slight comment from one of the other boys aimed, quite deliberately, as he was passing, to undo all the work that we had just done together. The cubes went flying, his work went flying, and I went flying to catch him. It took a lot of talking and coaxing and reassurance to get him back down again. He finally calmed down and we picked up the cubes together. Just before all the cubes were collected up he told me that he was going to add the final full stop to his sentence. And that is what he did.

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