Thursday 30 January 2014

This Week

Well, this Monday was the first of the observations. It was billed as a 'learning walk' which is where the people observing visit classes to get a snapshot of what is going on, with a focus in mind. The focus in our message book was independence, use of additional adults and differentiation. The walk was joined by our 'SIP' which stands for 'school improvement partner.' The head, another member of SLT and the SIP appeared in our room at about 10.45. I was outside re-enacting the Bear Hunt for the third time with a group of about ten kids. We had to do it a lot of times as they all wanted a go at being the bear. They were doing some lovely comic acting! Anyway, the head came out and asked me for my 'Learning Journeys'. I asked if he meant my 'My Books'-a book with photos of the kids which we talk to them about and scribe. It also has artwork in. I have not got far with those this year yet. He said 'No, your learning journeys' I did not know what he meant and so asked the SIP herself. She said 'you know, where you keep your post its and observations'. I call these my assessment folders and have always done this since working at the school. They are sometimes called learning journeys, or profiles, but anyway. I had to tell them that no, I didn't as they are at home where I work on them  (never having time in school.) I offered to show her my excel profiles which is where the information in the observations is used and where I keep photos. 'No, never mind' she said grumpily. So I went back to what I was doing. Nobody had a very good experience of the SIP. (Including the leadership team from what I can work out) She was not friendly. She did not talk to the small children who tried to talk to her in my class. After school we heard that in her opinion, we have not got enough evidence on the children's progress. I don't know how she can say that when she has not seen what I have got. It is very frustrating to be told things which, if you were a part of the conversation, you could explain. However, I do not feel upset by it, because I know that I am doing what I am supposed to be doing despite the shallow uninformed opinion of some. The next step is to help them to see this ! 
The rest of the week has been quite fun, despite being ill. I, my TA and my EYP all have a terrible cold with various degrees of lost voices, coughs and sore throats. We have all soldiered on though! A lot of the kids have got it too. We have got outside quite a lot despite the continuing rain and have done lots of fun activities. The new smart board is very popular, especially for the animated bear hunt story. Today has been my first day off this month (not ill-my two days off unpaid which are so great.) and I have spent most of it working. That is not the idea but I had a lot of catching up to do after all the late nights doing displays recently. It was worth it as I am now up to date. Yesterday I visited another nursery for the morning to look at their environment and displays. The teacher there used to be an advisory language teacher for Greenwich and she is really good and very nice. I got some great ideas for story telling, but, more importantly I was reassured by the normality of her nursery-the same issues we have such as clutter, working mess, not enough staff, the messiness of young children during  play (which people do not seem to be able to understand or accept) It was a lovely warm place which I think our nursery is too and that to me is the important thing. It was a much better designed space than our nursery. It had a kitchen! We asked for one of those but no luck.
Other things I have been up to...
 I had fun making a little scene in one of the painted boxes. My weaving became a bright rug which the dolls house lady likes.
 I misread the title of 'Total Carp' magazine  which made me laugh so I took the picture.
 Cassie sat politely at the table waiting for treats.
 On Tuesday I took a trip to the Chinese supermarket with the other nursery teacher as we needed some supplies for Chinese New Year celebrations. It was fun and most interesting. I can't wait to take Andy there!
 These are the lovely yarns I am using to weave myself a scarf. It is taking a while as I only get a little done each evening. It is quite exciting as you don't know what the finished article will look like as it is wound around the top of the loom. I am hoping to finish it at the weekend.
 A little weaving in my journal. 
 Tiptoe, tiptoe, it's a bear! He is nearly ready to go in the cave, but is currently residing in the toilet.
 A very strange mannequin in Greenwich market today. 
 Greenwich gulls.
The river bus.

Tuesday 28 January 2014


If you are wise in the Nursery, you will have your wellies ready!  

Thursday 23 January 2014

Weaving and a New Cup for Tea

These are my weavings so far. I am becoming unable to stop weaving! It is so quick compared to crocheting and a fun way to try out lots of different colour and texture combinations. The little loom is great but limited in that it can only make a piece with a maximum size of about 10x20cm. So I went for an upgrade! It is called a beginner's loom and has the exciting option of being able to make your piece of fabric as long as you want. It came ready threaded so I wove away happily. I was not quite sure about how to thread it up again though I knew roughly. The instructions are not that clear (but are written in a very enthusiastic tone.) I worked out from my mistakes what to do next time though. The other great thing about weaving is that it is using up loads of yarn-some that I have had for years and never touched as it would be a pain to knit or crochet with. You can double the yarns to make lots of lovely effects. It is officially my latest obsession!

I have been quite good-in that I have resisted the call of the charity shops for a couple of weeks. But I caved last weekend and found this Coronation mug. I have been kind of looking out for one so was pleased with my find. It is lovely bone china which is my favourite type of cup to drink from. It has survived its sixty something years with only one small chip to the rim.
 In other news, school continues to be interesting. The local authority have told the school that we need to improve asap or we will be in special measures (not the meaning of 'special' that I favour) if we are inspected soon. So, we have a R.A.P. which stands for Rapid Improvement Plan. This translates as a lesson observation of 40 minutes every other week for the next thirteen weeks, and a peer planning and observation programme for the intervening weeks. Oh joy!  I have decided to try not to let it all bother me too much, and it is being done in the spirit of 'we will get through this together' so let's hope that is the case. My classroom has been transformed into a place with less furniture (not more storage-I have just chucked stuff out and had a change around) and with labels on everything I can think of. I am in the middle of completing about five different displays, which should be finished by Tuesday at the latest. My planning has been annotated to death, and the outside planning and provision has been sorted out a little more by the teachers in nursery and Reception  so bring it on! We also, as of today have a working interactive whiteboard. I will let you know how my first observation goes next week. Let's hope I am not still inadequate!

Saturday 18 January 2014

A Walk in Rotherhithe

At Christmas I found out that my cousin has bought a boat which he is eventually going to live on. I have not yet been to see it but today Andy and I went for a wander in the area thinking we might chance upon it. We didn't but we did have a lovely walk and a pub lunch. This area is Surrey Quays and is in Rotherhithe. It is just along the road from Deptford where we used to live so we do know it quite well as we went for lots of bike rides around here. It is a large residential area now with lots of houses and flats on the edges of the docks and lots of residential boats in various bits of it. It is a great place for a bike ride as it is flat and many parts of it have no traffic.

''Surrey Commercial Docks (incorporating the Greenland Dock and Eastern Country Dock) 1807-1969
The Surrey Docks were the only docks situated on the south side of the river, opposite Limehouse. The Commercial Dock Company had purchased the Greenland Dock at Rotherhithe in 1807. It was used for the North European trade in timber, hemp, iron, tar and corn. The company eventually owned all the docks built at Rotherhithe over the following 70 years. The interconnected complex of docks, basins, timber ponds and waterways of the Surrey complex extended for over 150 acres of water, and were surrounded by nearly five miles of quayside. Apart from the Greenland Dock and East Country Dock, in which general cargo from many countries was unloaded, they were devoted to the handling and storage of timber.''
(From here)

I decided to have a rest day today-no washing, work or hoovering! I was at school until ten past seven last night so think I deserve it! I was doing various display jobs, one of which was to put up pictures of the children above their new coat pegs. This may sound like a quick job but it is not. It is, however,  mind numbingly tedious. 

1. Take the photos-the fun and quickest part.

2. Crop the photos in photo shop. Fiddle around in photo shop for two hours to put little frames around them (a different style of frame for morning, afternoon and full time children) then type their names. I did this on Thursday evening. (The alternative is to individually mount each one on backing paper then trim them all again and I prefer the photo shop way of making them look nice!)

3. Print the photos.

4. Trim the photos.

5. Put all the photos in laminating pouches.

6. Laminate the photos.

7. Trim the laminated photos.

8. Put four tiny pieces of blu tack on the back of each photo.

9. Alphabetise them. (Not strictly necessary but it pleased me!)

10. Stick them up,

11. Admire your work.

12. Go home.

Wednesday 15 January 2014

Firsts, Fox Near Miss and Why My Nose Hurts

First number 1-using ready mix fast drying concrete. Ages ago I got a great tree branch from the common to use for display. Then I bought a big flower pot and some concrete. Then nothing happened for some time. Tonight my colleague and I followed the simple instructions, and concreted the branch into the pot. You have to put the water in first then add the concrete and I put slightly too much in, but it still started to set very quickly and hopefully the excess water will evaporate over night. We are going to turn it into a shared display of the family tree from the book 'Stickman' by Julia Donaldson which we have been reading. Poor Stickman goes for a walk, but suffers the indignity of being used as, amongst other things, a stick for a dog, part of a swan's nest, a boomerang and a flag for a sandcastle. He asserts himself each time saying 'I'm Stickman, I'm Stickman, I'm Stickman, that's me, and I want to go home to the family tree!' Eventually he ends up being put onto the fire ready for the morning-a real cliffhanger-but gets rescued by Santa who drops him off at the end of his rounds-phew!

First number 2-weaving! I may have done this at some point in my childhood but I don't remember it. A while ago I bought a great toy from the charity shop -a craft kit from the sixties called 'Junior Handicraft Outfit'. It was 'sold as seen' which seems to accompany some of my greatest buys. It has all sorts of goodies in it, but the best one is this miniature loom. It has two shuttles and a heddle (the thingammy you put the yarn back and forth through when setting up the loom. It has holes and slits and is lifted up and down to allow the shuttle to go back and forth and over and under. The space you make is called the 'shed'.) It took me an evening to make this piece. I love the way different treatments of yarn give such different textures and appearance to the finished cloth. 
 It feels very soft but as it is closely woven also quite firm. The possibilities of what to make are whizzing round my head in their usual manner with no thought to whether I have the time or not! I shall make a few pieces then decide. Perhaps a coat of many colours. (Not really!)

 This isn't a first, or why my nose hurts, but I love seeing these horses (belonging to the army) and was lucky to see them on Tuesday morning when I was on my way home for PPA, having done some jobs at school first. Just over the traffic lights from this spot tonight, I had a very near miss with a fox. He ran out in front of me from the left. As I saw him he saw me and it felt like we locked eyes. Unlikely I know but that is how it seemed. He made an about turn and I swerved to the right and we managed to avoid each other. Luckily the road is slightly wide there so there was room to swerve without going onto the wrong side, and no other cars were in the road at that moment. It was all so quick and I think I did a speedy check but I just didn't want to kill the fox. I wrenched the wheel so hard I bashed my leg! I hope he didn't then go on to run under another set of wheels.
As for my nose-with no explanation it started hurting two days ago-on the bridge, feeling like I had been hit, which I haven't. It has got worse over the last two days and is swollen and red. Not unsightly yet (I don't think!) but painful and with a feeling of pressure. Of course I have googled the possible causes and I am not alone. If it doesn't start to get better by the weekend I will go to the doctor. Or maybe not, because a girl in my class has already told me what is wrong. I was telling her about my painful nose, and she said, ''You know why that is don't you Sarah?'' 'No' I replied. ''It's because you're getting old, that's what it is.'' All said in a very wordly wise tone. It really made me laugh. 

(School update-Thanks for the supportive comments and fighting talk. Wish you were all here to come and show them! I (and my lovely colleagues) have worked hard this week to clear the clutter, make my room more organised and easier to use. This has meant some chucking out-three pieces of furniture-a shelf unit (partially broken), a computer table (which I may need to get back again as, amazingly enough, we are going to get a computer that can stay in the room and the kids can use) and a metal trolley (currently in my kitchen needing some more cleaning before I decide to keep or sell it) This, and moving around of a lot of furniture, plus the arrival of a new book display shelf, have made the room look less messy and more open. Tonight I was there at just gone six, finishing mounting some work for display when the head and the lady who observed me walked into the room next door. Then they came to have a look at my room. The comments were all very positive so that is something and I do feel a bit better about the whole thing. Also we are going to get our interactive whiteboards this week so that will be fun. So, no more moaning for the moment!)

Monday 13 January 2014


Cheerful is not exactly how I feel. But positive and determined despite continuing repercussions from last week's observation. I had already planned to move my writing and mark making area but had not had the time to do so. I started tonight, only to be called to a meeting to be told all the same things I have been told via email and in the feedback last week. The meeting lasted over an hour. I also got my written feedback. It suggests that I am not challenging children sufficiently, nor using my observations to plan next steps. It also says that there is not enough evidence of children's learning displayed. How they could tell, in a twenty minute observation when I was not even present, that I am not using observations to plan and teach I don't know (well actually I know how they thought they could tell-it was because the planning wasn't annotated. No it wasn't, because it was only half way through the second day back, and, believe it or not I don't annotate my planning every five minutes, and, in addition, a lot of it is in my head relating to what has just happened, and I may not always find time to note it down, or need to. It may well become part of next week's planning too. But to make a judgement based on one small element of everything I do does not seem valid to me). I try very hard to individualize planning and to use what I find out through assessment to plan next steps. Their view of my planning was not mentioned in my verbal feedback. Also there is a maths display I did just before the ofsted which consists of photos of children playing in a mathematical way, with comments showing their learning, and some evidence of how I used their play to promote mathematical learning or plan next steps. On the neat little table at the bottom of the observation there is only one tick-and it is in the 'inadequate' box-relating to progress made. If they had sat down with me and looked at my tracking they would be able to see the progress made. I am not sure what to do about this as it is a written document and I feel it is inaccurate and quite damning. Yes the mess is not too serious and can be altered but if they are saying that my teaching and planning is not good enough then I am not happy about that because I feel it is. I think I will talk to my union rep, not to kick up a fuss but just to put it on record with her that I feel it is an unfair judgement. 
Thank you for all the supportive and helpful comments and I hope to stop ranting soon. My colleague asked me today if I would like her to build me a bridge/ Why I asked-'so you can get over it!'-good advice! The way I am choosing to get over it is to do the positive things I had planned anyway, not to let them knock my confidence, and, ultimately to prove them wrong!
Below are some cheerful yellow roses. They are in a lovely little rose bowl from a charity shop-for once not bought by me, but a present from another colleague who probably has an even bigger charity shop addiction than I do! I really love the bowl and the way she knew just what I would like. She also thought it would be good to put the flowers in that the children are always bringing me so perhaps I will take it into school for a while once the roses have had it. 

Saturday 11 January 2014

Massive Rant With no Pictures But A Happy Ending

This week was the week of lightening unannounced class observations. As they were lightening and unannounced I was actually on my lunch break when the observation took place. I came back to find the two members of senior management in my room who then proceeded to question me about various things they had observed-largely to do with our crappy outside area, what the adults were meant to be doing, why all the children went out at once, why I was on my lunch break at that time, which areas were which in my room and so on. This took about another twenty minutes of my time which meant my TA actually missed her afternoon break in the end. Meanwhile a child in my class had managed to poo all over the floor of next door's toilet, so I went to help with him, then it was tidy up time snack time and home time.
This was on Wednesday-the second day the children were back after the holidays.
I had my feedback yesterday after school.
It was actually pretty interesting for the following reasons-it started with negative points, (No three stars and a wish for me, more three wishes and a star) and ended with positve points which to me are the things I am trying to achieve summed up.
The negatives:-
My room is messy.

It doesn't have clearly defined areas.

Some of the mess was actually a danger to health and safety.

(This I think referred to a cardboard box temporarily filled with the duplo I was using that day as I had nothing else to put it in. The box was perched on top of the large duplo tub into which everything was dumped at one point then never sorted out as the storage (old and tatty but usable) was thrown out.) A lot of stuff has been thrown out but not enough yet bought to replace it which is one of the major issues in the outdoor area. But things take time, especially when they depend on many layers of decision making and pointless circular messages between all involved. I suppose the cardboard box could have fallen on someone's toe. And if something happens then yes we are liable, but I don't think it was dangerous-just messy yes, but I feel I do not have a dangerous classroom (believe it or not I take children's safety seriously!). (And surely the same argument should apply to the outside-the gate, wall situation-if something happened etc etc-despite management having known about it since September)
Anyway, my answers to these criticisms were. yet again, that I have no storage, that my room is a difficult room to arrange (read 'poorly designed') due to the windows, radiators, doorways and smart board ready cabling boxes on the walls. The clearly defined areas I agree with but I have tried. I have now rearranged the classroom about 3 times in a major way, and it now works pretty well. I had already planned to rearrange my writing area in the light of ofsted so them coming in and telling me that is pointless. (Though now I have a deadline-next Friday-yippee!)
Specific criticisms were that I had not yet got a display up.'You had a lovely Diwali display up but that board is empty now'. To which my answer was that it is only the first week of term-and in fact when they came in it was the second day! I have a display planned and the work is beginning to be collected but I can't manage it out of nothing. My Diwali display was ordered to be taken down at the end of last term when I was not there, with the argument that Diwali was long gone. (Next door's Diwali display is still up and they were not told this)
Another choice criticism was that my classroom had 'more of the appearance of a playgroup than an educational setting.' Having looked at the definitions of playgroups online, they all refer to a group set up by parents to allow children to play together and develop play and social skills. Doesn't sound too bad. THe educational environments in Scandinavian settings often aim to look like homes-cosy and welcoming and a place for children to adjust from home to school. I aim for my room to be a bright welcoming and stimulating place which I think largely it is.
Eventually I had finished arguing with all the negative points,(or at least giving my reasons that they were as they were. And I kept finding myself saying 'this sounds like an excuse but it isn't' before giving the reasons-for example that we are not allowed to stick anything on windows or blu tack on walls, and I only have one display board and then cupboard doors and cardboard packaging boxes. Plus I have totally inadequate storage.) What annoys me the most is that really, I have massive complaints about how the nursery has been equipped. It is simply not good enough-not even in a basic sense but where is my right to complain? And how come everything comes down to being my fault, despite having spent the whole of last term asking for the things we need and NOT getting them?

Then we got onto the positive points (To be fair on the person feeding back to me, if I had just shut up and let her finish instead of arguing with every point then we may have got to the positives a bit quicker-but I just can't help myself) -which were:-

The children were all engaged well in their play.

The children were cooperating with each other and helping each other.

They were cooperative with adults (even strange adults which the observers were to them)

They were calm and well behaved

The children were happy. Yes happy!

So to sum up, the negative points are clutter, dangerous mess and lack of clearly defined areas. (An example- 'The children had maths resources in the home corner',  to which I replied 'yes, they use them for cooking'. And to which I thought, 'have you ever actually spent time in a class room full of three and four year olds?' They use stuff as they see fit. (I acually planned to put the maths area near the home corner so they could use the resources if they needed to)  For example I was offered a bowl of people to eat yesterday. I did have to draw the line and said 'I don't eat people!' At which the child laughed and took them away. A small tiny interaction amongst many in my day A small human interaction based on our knowing each other, and what we are like. She knows that I am not being unkind in not eating her bowl of people. I know that will make her laugh and also that we can get a conversation out of it involving 'why' questions and reason giving-or not-because that is human interaction.) Management are very fond of saying to us that we are missing opportunities to observe and extend children's learning. I just wish they would video me for a day and see how many opportunities I grasp, how I think on my feet and adapt in split seconds to the situation, whilst maintaining a calm and purposeful atmosphere and managing to nurture, love and make these children happy and secure.
So, whilst I do care about the classroom environment, and try to make it as good as possible for the children, yes, perhaps I am a little messy and sometimes, heaven forbid, a little disorganised.  Or, to be kind to myself, maybe there are other more pressing things going on most of the time. Such as concentrating my efforts on making my class a confident, secure and happy group of children, who are allowed to learn in the most suitable way for them, and who, as individuals and as a group I highly value.

That's it, the end-happy because the children are happy! Happy Happy!

Wednesday 8 January 2014

This Week

This week is actually going quite well. It has been lovely to see the children and people in general seem much more positive than at the end of last term. Positivity is one of my aims for this year along with curbing my hoarding acquisitive tendencies and lightening the amount of things I have in the flat a little. Obviously I cannot become a totally different person, but I can do small things such as not going into every charity shop every week, not buying so many magazines, and using up some (lots!) of the materials I have here. I am happy with my collections of many different things and they do make me happy to look at, draw, and use for various purposes including story telling at school where things have often come in very handy. I will just try to organise some of my things better. I am trying to do a little every day and not worry about the whole thing as that way inertia lies!
I have been finding time to read and to do a little crochet most days. I have been working on this cushion over Christmas and finished it the other night. I made a tube of the hexagons then wondered how to join the ends so I could wash the cushion if I wanted to. I don't know how to make a wiggly edge straight though I am sure there is a way, so instead I added a couple more rows, then crocheted one end together. With the other end I crocheted a long chain, then used this as a kind of lace to do up this ened. It took a bit of trial and error but it worked in the end and can now be undone.
On Monday a group of us went to the cafe in Woolwich-The Coffee Lounge is its name and it does lovely coffee and sandwiches. A water main had burst and I took this on the way back up to school just as my colleague had paddled through it. Talking of paddling, we still have the massive puddles in our playground, though we have the promise of it being sorted out soon. A bit vague so for the minute the poor premises assistant man (and us) have to sweep it and the children who have wellies can enjoy a splash around.
Chocolates. I didn't eat many over Christmas so am making up for it now with some late presents. These are milk tray and only a small box so hardly sinful at all.
My Christmas tree went last week well before twelfth night as it takes such a long time to sort out and I was still on holiday then. I miss the smell of the tree but not the space it was taking up. These trees have become friends waiting for the bin lorry to come.
The box that Cassie has climbed into was found on my home visits in September. It is a drawer. There were three of them left on the street so I picked them up and took them away to paint and use for display. I really like them. This one had crocodiles in but when Cassie sat on them all, I emptied it for her. Later on Lily had a go too. When I came home tonight, Cassie was really scared of something. She has been staring out the back window a lot with big worried eyes. I took her outside and waited around to try to show here there was nothing there anymore but she came rushing back in as soon as I went. I have provided an emergency litter tray in case she is too scared to go outside and wee! It may have been a fox or a cat, hopefully nothing else! It would be so much easier if cats could talk and explain themselves.

A chair in front of the fire to dry a thick bath mat. The bath mat was dry but the chair became a cat multistory with double access to the fire. 
A page in my journal with a pen cat on a posh chair. 

Monday 6 January 2014


Desolate was the word that came to mind when we went to look at the river on Sunday. There are lots of industrial nowhere roads leading down to the river and we drove down one. We cycled along there years ago and there are some houses and a pub. Then you get to the road between the river and the yards containing various river focussed industrial enterprises-piles of stones from where I don't know, which are loaded onto boats to transport. ( I think!) It is a run down area but quite frequently used by cyclists and runners, and probably people going to the pub. We only parked for a short while so I could take a few photos. There was a small section of shore down some green and slimy steps.There was a view of the barrier one way and the dome the other. The barrier has been closed a lot in the last couple of weeks due to all the storms and high tides. It has only been closed something like 130 times in all the time it has been around, but 5 more times recently. 
 A glove and a pipe doing an impression of a severed arm. 
 A high voltage corrugated iron shed.
 A beautifully faded 'No Parking' sign to add to my collection. I wonder who Durham Jetty Estates were and what they did. Some interesting pictures of lots of rusty beauty here on Derelict London.
 A view of the dome through the ever present Buddleia.
This building looks pretty run down but I think it is occupied and by the looks of the yellow light someone was in.
Maybe we will visit somewhere less desolate soon!