2021…was it 2020 again?!

Well, it wasn’t quite what we hoped for, was it? It’s hard to remember what happened in 2020 and what happened in 2021 but there we go.


January started with school lockdown  for Ben, after just 1 day back for him then bang, the government did what it should have done even just 24 hours earlier. I was still teaching, but with an even more reduced class. Creating videos, working with those in class and a bit of extra release time to do that. I had a great end to my first year in my new job and it absolutely the right move for me to make. I started the school year with the same class, some, still not back due to their medical needs but the same team. Then at half term I was asked to move to another class to help out a class that needed a bit of a shake up and consistency. It’s not my bag, but it is challenging me! Plus it has meant meeting a few more people that work there thanks to being in a different bubble. I’m going back to my old class in the summer, and I am looking forward to that, especially as we will be moving in to our new classroom in the new build. That is exciting! I also took on another personal challenge this year, my NPQSL, or National Professional Qualification for Senior Leaders. It’s interesting and a good chance to reflect on my self as a leader. Ben had a big change too this year. He moved to secondary! Thankfully he was able to do some of the traditional Y6 stuff  such as leavers assembly with us sitting in masks and distanced. But at least he did it. Their show was filmed and a parent arranged for it to be screen at the local cinema so Ben and Joe went to see that. Sadly he didn’t get his residential, but there we go. I’m fairly sure he will remember his Y6 for many years to come! He seems to have settled well at high school, though all the stuff to take and PE kit 4 times a week one week out of 2 is a bit of a challenge! Proud of him for settling in, making new friends and working well. Seb has moved up to pre-school and we have applied for his reception place. It’s so weird that he is currently older than Ben was when he started in Reception but still has 9 months to wait! We’ll find out where he is going around Easter time, but we’ve opted for a different 1st choice to that that Ben went to. They are such different personalities.


Music has continued to be important to me throughout 2021. At work is has allowed me to connect with those in class and those still at home. The Collective has continued to play a huge part in my life over the last 12 months. We’ve covered songs such as The Rose, I’m still standing, Do you hear the people sing (with 1000 voices!) and this Christmas even Chris de Burgh heard our version of his song “A Spaceman Came travelling”. I stepped up to be a music team leader and now an overseer. The friendships I’ve built on over these 12 months have been amazing. One friend, Laura even drove from Aberdeen to meet me and come on my birthday weekend! (More on that later) and in December I got to meet Simon aka The Boss and several others at a small concert. The lovely Karen and HNH even put me up for the night. Strange to think I hadn’t met these people in person before this event, I’ve spent so much time with them all it feels like I’ve known them years and years! Looking forward to what 2022 will bring for The Collective. At the end of 2020 I also passed my audition for Endeavour mixed chorus. Sadly due to restrictions we haven’t been able to sing in person yet, so I’m not officially in yet, but it’s been great to have a new challenge of mixed barbershop (and therefore bari not bass) and I look forward to meeting these voices and faces I’ve seen/heard on Jamulus and Jitsi.

Family and friends

Sadly again covid has meant not enough time with family and friends in 2021. Lockdowns and restrictions meant events not celebrated and times together at a minimum for large chunks of time. However, we did spend time together and Christmas this year was lovely being able to see my parents, my inlaws and my brother and his girlfriend (and her baby bump!) which is the big thing that I missed in 2020. Been very happy to spend time with them all, even if it hasn’t been as much as I’d like. This summer me, Joe and the boys had the chance to go on holiday. We made it back to my favourite coastline, the Yorkshire Coast. We had a fabulous time on the beaches at Bridlington and Filey, enjoyed a stroll around Peasholme Park and fish and chips at Winking Willie’s and many more lovely times. I even sneaked in a couple of meet ups with friends who live up there. This summer I also managed to finally do one of my 40th birthday celebrations! 10 friends joined me in Windermere where we stayed in the beautiful Bannerigg. We had a fab time playing Cards against humanity, time in the hot tub, making and building on friendships (lots of these people had never met each other despite being in my life for ages!) And eating lots. The burger company we bought from were called Boom Boom Burgers and as well as yummy food, they made us laugh and gave us a playlist as each burger was named after a song with Boom in the title! The lovely Laura who I met through the Collective even came to meet me, and my lovely friends for the first time which was amazing. The final night just the two of us was great and I look forward to more. Just a shame Aberdeen is a long way so they have to be more planned.

I’m still taking my photo every day. I can’t imagine not doing it now. March will see my 15th year of it! I’ve made so many good friends through it and so many memories kept too. I periodically look back at them. All the photos in this come from that.

So there we go. Lots of positives, but still the looming fear of getting sick or those around me getting sick. I am thankful for the vaccine programme and I’m triple jabbed. I look forward to Ben getting his at some point as he’s in limbo of being high school but only 11 and the UK not yet doing the 5-11 group. I’m trying to be as kind to myself as possible and take plenty of time to reflect and have “me time”. Let’s see what 2022 has to offer.

2020, not quite how we planned it!

I guess that’s the understatement of the century, eh?

2020 had great promise. So many amazing plans ahead. However, a novel coronovirus had other plans and we all had to stay home, miss our friends and family and get used to video calls. Most kids missed huge chunks of time from school and sadly in the UK, the hell this has been for many doesn’t appear to be stopping any time soon.

However, it’s not all been doom and gloom and I’ve decided that instead of looking back on the missed events (turning 40 was NOT the celebration I had planned) I’m going to focus on 5 positives.

1. My family.

I’m so lucky to live with a supportive and caring husband and 2 amazing boys. There have been challenges for all but we have remained strong and together. We’ve enjoyed more time together, usually on our walks in the local area. In the spring and summer we were able to go outside in our small but usable garden and enjoy the sun and warm weather.  In the last few days we’ve been able to go out and enjoy the snow! Seb’s blissful ignorance has been a big point of light relief during the hardest times. The fact that he doesn’t know what is going on has really helped. You have to keep going for him. He needs me to be the best mum I can be and that has snapped me out of some low points. He loves life (hates sleep I think) and is a joy to be around. Ben has been a superstar. He really struggled initially with the closing of schools and him having to be home all the time. He struggled with me having to go to work. He struggled with even leaving the house for a long while. Worried that we would get sick. I’m so proud of him working through his struggles, struggling on with his home schooling mostly alone as either I or Joe would be at work and the other chasing after a very enthusiastic toddler! Joe has been there all the way. We have been there for each other! He has coped with a fairly new job during the lockdown, doing most of the childcare thanks to me hardly being home and being away from his family who we usually see every week. We celebrated 18 years together, 14 of them as Husband and Wife.

2. Family I don’t live with.

Sadly I have seen very little of the family that I don’t live with. This is rubbish as I adore spending time with my parents, my inlaws and others. Family is super important to me and was what I missed the most over Christmas. Thankfully we have had a few times together and for those I am very thankful. Can’t wait to be with them again.

3. Friends

Although friends have had to be at a distance mostly this year, I am so so grateful to have so many wonderful ones. The ones I have known for years and those new ones too. WhatsApp and Messenger have never been so well used! Hurrah for technology. Though I will freely admit that I can’t wait for the return of hugs! Zoom has been great for being able to see folks, as there are times when I want to see familiar faces rather than just type a message. I always finish a video call of any kind with a real sadness though, when it’s people that I want to see in person. It makes me miss them all the more. I did manage a couple of garden visits/local walks when that kind of thing was allowed and that was lovely too.

4. Music

Music has always been important to me in some form. The sudden stopping of chorus rehearsals, quartet meetings and playing instruments felt very strange. Like part of me had gone. Thankfully there were options. We turned to Zoom to catch up with folk, but the lag meant we couldn’t sing together. It was nothing like being together on the risers but it was good to see familiar faces. Let’s hope BBAC and QuarterBeat can come back soon. Early on the the National Lockdown, when we were on a week in, week off rota for school, I spotted The Collective Virtual Choir. Decided to give it a go. I’m so glad I did. The chance to meet new people from around the world, the chance to sing different songs and challenge myself to learn away from the group situation. The friendship side blossomed as the project developed and seeing our work come together week after week, month after month has been amazing. In August I was invited to join the music team and it felt like a real honour. I get to listen to people’s personal recordings and offer them support to improve, I get to lead sessions and support others in their learning from notes, breaths and words to performance and video recordings. I just love it. The Christmas concert on 23rd December was just a delight to watch. Thankfully The Collective isn’t going anywhere yet with new songs for 2021 so bring it on! Thank you to all those I have made friends with through it, from various points of the UK and the rest of the world!

5. Work

It might sound strange, but work was a bit of a saving grace during the lockdowns as well as being scary! It gave a sense of normality when nothing was normal. Even though my whole class weren’t there, lots were and that gave me purpose. In a time where we couldn’t meet with friends, those friends I had at work were comforting. They also helped me to celebrate my 40th. My class team were so lovely, giving me nice gifts, a card from the kids and making me smile. Sadly they couldn’t give me a leaving party as the best news was that I got a new job! It’s closer to home and with my favourite kind of kids, those with the most complex and profound learning needs. I love being a special school teacher, but I’d lost my love for my old school and I needed a new challenge. Doing a job interview in the middle of a global pandemic was certainly different, but it was brilliant to get that call from my new head offering the job. It was sad to say goodbye to so many familiar faces and friends, but I know when we can, I will see those close to me again and I keep my eye out on my old kids on the school’s social media pages. So far, a term in, I am loving my new job. Sadly because of the situation it’s not been possible to meet all my class yet, but the ones I have are amazing and a real delight to get to know. I’ve also got a great new team of TAs who are my company all day every day! Because of our bubble being just our class, it means I’ve gotten to know them really well. Good job they are lovely, eh? The only others I’ve really met are management and the nursing staff and they have all been fab too. Can’t wait to really get to know other folk and see other classes! It’s been a real professional lift for me and for that I am truly thankful! Here’s to further fun and learning in my new role in 2021 and beyond.

So there we are. 5 pretty major positives. Here’s to more in 2021 when hopefully we can see our loved ones and give them a hug without fear of passing on a potentially very dangerous virus and to singing side by side with friends new and old.

I’m going to finish with some of the lyrics to Simon Lubowski’s original song for The Collective “It’s not the end”

One day we’ll stand, side by side. Oh how our hearts, will fill with pride. When all around, was dark and blue, I found my star. You found one too. It’s not the end, with you my friend. Never the end.

As September approaches…

Emotions run high for me at this time of year. Always. For as long as I can remember. This week before a new school year is always odd. I’m normally chasing around trying to get everything sorted.  I’m normally stressing about that curriculum area work that only seems to get done in holiday time as there’s no other time to do it. But not this time. This time it is a new beginning.

A new job in a new school. New faces. New colleagues. New challenges. No familiar folk to catch up with. Noone who knows me. It’s a strange and let a slightly liberating feeling. It’s made me think, did I greet any new staff at my old school in a friendly way? I think I did. Did I make them feel welcome and part of the community? I certainly tried my best! If you have new starters in September, especially if they are quite new to the profession, welcome them! Take them in with open arms (ok socially distanced ones at the moment!) and help them to become a valued member of your school community. I know when I started at my old school 15 years ago, this is exactly what happened and those who made me feel welcome are still good friends to this day.

Will I sleep well tonight or tomorrow night? Nope! I never do. Will I be nervous? Yup! Is this a bad thing? Nope! Am I excited too? Absolutely I am! So it’s time to bring on the adventure! I have knowledge and experiences to share and the same to learn from my new colleagues and maybe new friends too!

Good luck to anyone else starting a new job this week and to everyone who has just gone back or who is back this coming week, all the best! It surely can’t be any stranger than what we went through last year!

Moving on…

“I’d like to offer you the job”. The best sentence I’ve heard during lockdown and possibly the best one for a very long time. Doing an interview in the middle of a pandemic was strange to say the least. No shaking hands, no tour of the school or teaching a group, sitting in a room socially distant from the 2 people in the room and a 3rd member of the panel via video. But ultimately I’m still me, still the same passionate teacher. Turns out they thought so too. So in September my new challenge begins.

15 years ago at the end of July was the last time I heard those words. I was in a very different place then. I was 25, engaged to be married, no children and had only stepped foot in a special school during my training when I did a placement there and it had ignited that fire in me that special was where I wanted to be. I had been absent from my previous school due to workplace bullying, had quit with no job to go to and was considering leaving the profession after just 3 years. I remember looking around the school with the head and thinking this was where I wanted to be. A sponsored conga was happening so we tagged on the end! I was so nervous. I didn’t have the special experience apart from that short placement and some summer work. I knew I wanted to be there, though. Thankfully the head thought I should be there too, and so my adventures in special ed began just 6 weeks later.

I’ve had a very varied time over the last 15 years. From reception to Y6, from first days in Primary to moving on to secondary. From those with the most profound and complex needs(my personal favourite area of special ed) to those with moderate learning difficulties and a whole spectrum of things in between. I have laughed (a lot), I have cried (a lot!) And I’ve been proud of my pupils so so many times. I’ve seen children walk for the first time (though I would never tell the parents I saw it first, just that they were so close today you may want to try when you get home tonight!) But most of all, I’ve been able to be part of the lives of many amazing children and their families and made a difference.

People have played a huge part in my life over the last 15 years. I went from a TA joining me just a few hours a week to being line manager for 3 full time  very experienced TAs! I really believe that there should be more work on managing staff in teacher training, and by more  I mean any! It’s such a huge part of the job. Vital to the smooth running of any classroom. Not only that but I had to learn that other services were equally important in special school life. Physiotherapists, Occupational therapists, speech and language therapists and sensory impairment staff would also play a regular role in my life as a teacher. It was a huge learning curve but one I loved. It was hard and I had a lot to learn but many of these additional adults became life long friends and for that I am so lucky. They have shaped me in to the teacher I am today and for that I am truly thankful. You know who you are.

I have also helped others on their way. From students coming for placements and deciding that special ed is something they’d like to consider, to TAs and teachers starting out or struggling with something specific. The delight of passing on knowledge as others have done for me.

So now it will soon be time to say goodbye to so many of those things that are familiar. The faces of the children and adults I see and know well; the grounds; heck even the  commute! That last one I really wont miss! I struggled through huge building projects on the motorways, closed off roads for months at a time and endless hours stuck in commuter traffic! My new role is closer to home, within the same local authority that I live in so hopefully not completely different school hols to the boys any more!

I am so excited, and a little nervous, to be the new girl again. To bring my skills and knowledge and enthusiasm to mix with a new staff team and some new fabulous special learners. I hope to make new friends and learn loads from new colleagues and the from the children and young people.

Bring on the new challenge, September is calling!


Since Schools have been shut except to those with an EHCP, The vulnerable and key workers children because of Covid 19, I have decided to find a positive every day. I’ll update this post periodically with the latest ones. I’m also continuing with my photo a day project which can be seen on Flickr and Instagram, with a focus on positivity and looking out for the simple things that bring pleasure. (Nichola80 on both)

1. Ben did his school work without any objection.
2. Seb is such a joy and distraction from the depressing news out there.
3. Lots of parents kept their kid at home today. It meant I had 1 pupil and joined with next door who only had 2. Also means a rota has been brought in and I’m off till 15th April!
4. Joe managed to work from home and the boys played nicely in the garden together.
5. Ben loved seeing his friends from Cubs and a few Beavers too thanks to Zoom based virtual meeting.

6. We had a real laugh tonight playing Drawful with Skip, Al, Tom, Gemma, Mike and Julia. So great to do stuff together.
7. We did 3 video calls today, one to the inlaws, one to my parents and one to Chris and Alex. So lovely to see their faces and hear them. More of these to follow during and after these crazy times.
8. Ben smiled quite a lot today. He didn’t leave the house but that’s ok. Mental health comes first.
9. The sun shone just before tea so we got to play in the sun before I made tea.
April 1st Day 10. Ben did really well with his home school work today. Doing it early in the morning seems to be right for him then switch off.

11. People again came out to clap for key workers. I also got to watch 1 Man 2 Guv’nors which was v funny.
12. I’ve seen Ben smile and laugh several times today. He’s played with his brother more while we were outside too.
13. My lovely neighbour Maddie dropped cake around for us. Typically I had just finished baking myself!
14. Spoke with mum and dad and Jill and Chris. Missing all 4 of them but so lovely to see them.
15. Towels dried despite showers.
16. Film night with Joe. Rocket man.
17. Quiz night with BBAC. I won.
18. Time outside in the sunshine where Seb entertained himself for more than 5 minutes!
19. Jesus Christ Superstar on live stream, followed by Foo Fighters on 4 music! Good evening’s entertainment.
20. National Barbershop Quartet Day. The 4 of us got together via email to plan a photo to celebrate.

21. Joe’s dad is home from hospital after gall bladder trouble.
22. Ben came out with me on a walk.
23. We all went out for a walk today.
24. A moment of peace and quiet in the sun, listening to the birds.
25. Ben worked hard in his virtual dance class.

26. My lovely new rainbow necklace came from Down the Rabbit Hole, helping to raise money for NHS.
27. Enjoyed some me time tonight after having a big wobble.
28. Enjoyed an evening walk. Didn’t see a single car and everyone respected social distancing.
29. My commute was rather pleasant, there and back. Meant I got to have breakfast with Ben before I left too.

30. Nice time with the children in my care at work.
31. Fun with my BBAC friends tonight thinking of lockdown alternatives to some of our songs.
32. Seeing how proud Ben was in his cubs uniform clapping for key workers tonight.
33. Ben made it out for a long scoot with me and Seb today. He was obviously nervous at times but I’m super proud of him for not giving in.
34. Seeing folk to celebrate Logan’s birthday, albeit virtually. I miss them loads but glad we could kind of be together.
35. Good bit of work on some singing tonight. Needed that.
36. Chocolate arrived in the post! Yum.
37. Enjoyed some time in the sunshine.
38. I won the quiz with choir! 40/40
39. I got happy post. Some origami from Pam, one of my fellow photo a day friends.

1st May

40. Caught up on some tv tonight. Enjoyed that.
41. Baked and sang today. 2 things that make me happy.
42. Went up to Lindow Common for a walk. Ben freaked a bit, but we made it!
43. Watched the first episode of Celebrity Drag Race with Gemma tonight via WhatsApp! Booked in for same time next week!
42. Nice day in class. Kept ourselves to ourselves. No distancing, just not possible, but a nice day.
43. My guess the baby quiz went down well with choir tonight.
44. Good baritone action rehearsal for One Voice.
45. Played my clarinet today before the street quiz VE commemorations.
46. I enjoyed a walk by myself this evening.
47. V relaxed day with Joe and the boys.
48. Today I cooked tea just for me and Joe. Made something different for the boys and they ate earlier. It was yummy! (Lamb shank slow cooked)
49. A walk with Ben this afternoon. He was visibly less nervous. When I asked him what he would remember about all this? His reply was that Boris Johnson is an idiot. I couldn’t disagree with him!

50. Fun night with the BBAC girls.
51. Nice to watch Seb playing in the water.
52. I got an interview! Fingers crossed there will be good news next week.
53. Virtual Convention. So sad not to be actually there but nice that other events have been put on, including being part of the mass sing.
54. Seeing mum, dad, Chris and Alex. I miss them so much!
55. Nice day with the kids at school. There’s no social distancing within class but they are a lovely bunch to be with
56. Fun tv tonight with Joe. I’ll get this has been great Lockdown TV.
57. BBAC Zoom night with added special guest.
58. I got the job! Strange circumstances for an interview. So so happy to be getting back with the complex needs kids.
59. I’ve had lovely messages wishing me well in my new job and folks saying they will miss me. Nice to know I’ll be missed.
60. Baking went well today. Chocolate fudge cake cupcakes. Delicious and not naught as no sugar or flour in them!

Socially distant interview ready!

61. Great feedback on my singing for The Collective. Now to make a couple of changes for the final recordings.
62. More baking! Millionaire’s shortbread again boys’ request.
63. Lovely catch up with the bass gang tonight.
64. BBAC Tracks of my years tonight. Hard to pick just 3. I went with Toni Basil’s Hey Micky, Jamiroquai’s Virtual Insanity and Your Song by Elton John but the Moulin Rouge version.
65. An early morning trip to the Carrs with Ben and Seb.
66. New builders tray arrived, Seb loved it! “A pool”
67. Phone chat with mum.
68. Seb played with his duplo for AGES today. A good 2 hours maybe. It was lovely to watch and occasionally be asked to help

1st June
69. Enjoying the nice weather- Seb just seems happier playing outside.
70. A lovely walk up to Lindow Common tonight. Took a gorgeous photo.

Lindow Common at Dusk

71. Made lasagne. It wasn’t my best but Ben said it tasted really good.
72. Fun time in my Collective Bass rehearsal tonight. New Song- You’ve got a friend in me.

A new year and some thoughts.

It’s been a while since I was here, though quite surprised at how long ago! I was still on maternity leave for one!

My son was 2 in October and has kept me very busy this holiday, with what we think was the Flu. Delightful and no rest for mummy!

My other son is 9.5 and has been a superstar helping me when asked (sometimes even doing it first time, others requiring 10 times!) He’s a Cub Scout and loving it, wont be long before he is a Scout! Thanks to his Akela and to anyone who reads this who volunteers with Scouting/Guiding. You do amazing things for so many young people! I helped out recently to help deliver content for their disability awareness badge. Would be remiss of me not to offer to help there! The kids were great and I think the other volunteers learned something too!

I managed another full year of my photo a day project! I just adore looking back over a year/a few years/a decade and seeing how life has changed.

I’m still singing with BackBeat a cappella, or BBAC for short. This year we made it to the convention stage and did ourselves proud. Hopefully we’ll make it back again there in May to go for it again. I’m also now singing in a Barbershop Quartet, called QuarterBeat. We initially set up to help chorus learn new songs, but actually found out that we sound pretty good together and we enjoy each others’ company. For one reason and another last year was pretty tough going for some, so 2020 is the year of QuarterBeat I hope! Looking forward to getting our first proper coaching session in this year too. Exciting.

My wonderful husband Joe is still keeping fit with his running and occasional games of football. He regularly runs 10k! I am in awe of anyone who can do that. Sadly my body said years ago that running is not for me. We celebrated 13 years married and 17 years together this year! Not bad going!

So that’s personal stuff, but what about professional?

I’m still in the same school. I’m now a long standing member of staff, having started my 15th year there this September! Since I returned from maternity leave I’ve been set new challenges, moved away from my real love of the more complex children and given a class leaning more towards MLD! To say it was a shock to the system would be no lie. In fact I’ll be honest and say that I wrote my letter of resignation at one point! However, I’ve stuck it out and showed that I can put my mind to anything if I have to. I have 8 of the same 12 again this year! I wont lie and say I still miss PMLD massively and I hope to return there very soon, but I’m keeping going. I’m a professional and will always do my best for the children in my care.

My other new challenge since mat leave, is that I am currently part time. I work Monday to Wednesday and have a lovely job share who does Thursday and Friday. We never see each other but we talk a lot! She was on mat leave for most of last year, so it’s good to have her back this time! I think that some people think that part time is easy. It’s not. It’s really not. Learning to share your class with someone is tough. It feels a bit like you’ve been off sick every week! Learning to fit everything I need to in to my work days is tough! I still believe it was the right decision for me and my family though. It has also meant that that big change in class was easier on me!

I think it’s actually, shock horror, made me a better teacher. I feel I now give in 3 days what I used to give in 5. I have more energy and enthusiasm, knowing I’ve only 1/2/3 days to go! We should be embracing part time in schools, not scowling at thinking folks are slacking off! My 2 days at home during the week are full on, believe me! We need to see more leaders being part time. Why should that stop at a certain level of hierarchy? Surely 2 heads looking at the same role from their unique stand point are better than 1?! There are loads of reasons why part time should and can work for those who want or need it within teaching and leadership in schools. We need to embrace it.

I for one am looking for a new challenge, a new school where I can use my knowledge and expertise to make a difference (especially if it involves PMLD/Children with complex needs. Even better if it was part time too!

So yeah, a quick sum up and a few thoughts! All comments welcome!

#parttime #teaching #SEND

A review of 2017 and what do I hope for 2018 #Nurture1718

What a year! Politically the world has gone mad! Brexit, Trump and North Korea to name but 3! 

However, personally it was also a pretty mammoth year.

So what did I think might happen? Well, lets have a look.

I had hoped to keep up with Twitter and ed events but as it happens I have been pretty crap for reasons coming up! I never made it to Northern Rocks due to illness and I can’t remember the last time I joined in an educhat. Ho hum. That’s life. 

However, I have made it on to Twitter every day nearly in order to share something; my photo a day project! I have once again managed a whole year of photos. This is my 6th full year in the 10 since I started! So great to have a tonne of memories to look back on. My family and friends are so used to me taking photos now which leads to many more being taken! If you’ve never had a go, why not make 2018 your year? Here’s a link to my 2017 in photos. 

In my post last year I talked about singing entering my life again in the form of BackBeat A Cappella.  For 1 reason coming up I haven’t been there as much as I’d hoped but the group and individuals within it are very much part of my life and I look forward to seeing what 2018 brings. Our first competition was a triumph, even if we were robbed of a place or two! We have some exciting songs to learn this year as well as getting ready for convention. 
In my post last year I talked about my new toy, my baritone sax. I love it! I got some fantastic responses from my class with it. Even if a couple took a few sessions to get used to it! More of the same for the 2nd half of next year. 

As for work, I am still at the same school. The right job move never came up. That is still on the horizon so I shall see what the year brings. My first change however will be part time later this year. Excited to see if I can find a better work/life balance. 

I did do my middle leaders course but sadly for the complications below I never managed to do my final presentation so don’t get my certificate 😦 

So how come there were so many things that didn’t happen or were not quite what I had planned? Frankly it is all about family! 2017 saw the creation, baking and arrival of a 2nd son for us! S arrived very speedily in October. It was a rough pregnancy with terrible nausea to begin with, the return of spd and the crutches during 2nd trimester and the diagnosis of gestational diabetes at the start of the 3rd! I can’t thank my family enough for their support during my pregnancy and a special shout out to Jo Paterson, the creator of the website Gestational Diabetes UK. That website and the accompanying facebook group were a total life saver for me.  Not enough is known about gestational diabetes and people assume it is the same as type 1 or 2. It isn’t and the current nhs advice sucks! Please take time to have a quick read on Jo’s page to educate yourself. It could be your wife, daughter, sister or friend who get it. 

I am now in the throws of sleepless nights, breastfeeding on demand and changing nappies. Please don’t ask me “is he good for you?” Because what you mean is, “is he sleeping through the night?”. No. He isn’t and I’d be worried if he was. That’s not natural for a child of his age, especially one who is breastfed! He is good for me in many other ways though. He gives me great eye contact. He recognises my voice as well as that of his dad and brother. He makes the most gorgeous cooing sounds and has started to have a “conversation” in this way. He can briefly track an object or a person too. My friends working with the most profoundly disabled children like I do, will know how amazing all that is and how hard we work on that with our very special learners over much longer time frames than the 10 weeks S has been alive! I can’t wait to see how he grows and develops over the next 12 months. Such an exciting time! 

I plan on making the most of my maternity leave this year. Attend some classes, starting with Baby Sensory, which appears to be very similar to what I do at work! When I return to work in July it will be tbe biggest change in my 16 year career. I am going to be part time! I am sure it will take a little getting used to, sharing a class. But I am hoping that it will provide a better work life balance for me. I am excited about the change.

As for the rest of my family over the last 12 months? Well Joe has done amazingly well with his weight loss and fitness. He ha fully embraced the Man v Fat ethos and is slimmer now than I have ever known him over the last 15 and a bit years! If you have a male relative or friend who wants a kick start to their weight loss have a look at Man V Fat Football. It’s a great idea. Joe is so dedicated to the cause that he got up at 4 something one morning to appear on BBC Breakfast, playing football live on the show! It’s great to see him feeling so confident in himself and looking fantastic. He’s also made friends along the way.

2017 saw B complete infants and move up in to the juniors! He loves learning and is full of knowledge, especially when it comes to maths and science but he does find the writing hard going. He continues to play football after school with WFA which he adores, playing even in the wettest and coldest weather. He also continues to make steady progress in his swimming. He finished stage 3 early in 2017 and is 85% of the way to achieving stage 4, though what is left is pretty tricky stuff!

We continue to spend a lot of our weekend with family and friends. It’s what makes us happy! In the summer we combined our family holiday with spending time with friends. As I had both gestational diabetes and severe spd at the time I couldn’t get out of our lodge much. So having my friend Claire there was fab. Our boys are only a few days apart and get on so well together. They would go out with the dads and I had some company! The Liverpool lot continue to feature heavily in our lives. A great group of friends and the kids all get on so well. I am lucky to have some great friends and I see no reason for that to stop. It just gets a bit trickier for us all to get together and all fit in a photo together! 

We are very lucky to spend a lot of time with our parents. I love seeing B and now S’s relationship develop. Many happy memories together. I hope for plenty more of this in 2018. We’re off back to the Yorkshire Coast for our family holiday this year. I can’t wait! 

So although 2017 was not quite what I had planned on the whole, it’s been amazing! Roll on 2018! 

Pre-writing and early writing

There has been quite a focus on handwriting following the lovely Nancy Gedge’s videos on the TES. Many discussions have followed. I rarely work woth those actually writing these days but I do a lot of work on the skills needed before this developmental and physical leap. When I started in Special Ed I spent a LOT of time with OTs and Physios in class working alongside them with the pupils to create individual plans for their needs. Often this would include pre-writing skills. I thought I knew a lot. I didn’t, though some things I did know were and still are useful. However over the last 12 years NHS budgets have been cut and cut again and its so rare to see the OTs in school let.alone in class and the physios so busy they have no time to book regular slots in class. 

Thankfully I have a good memory (although currently being 36 weeks pregnant is testing it at times!) and doing activities over the yeats has led to plenty of knowledge stored up. 

I decided to add a couple of basics and some classroom ideas on here as Nancy said I should get on my blog! She was right. It’s 9 months since I blogged! So here we go in no particular order other than the order they pop out of my pregnancy fuelled brain!

1) Position, position, position! 

This may sound obvious but if you want someone to write or use their upper limbs effectively, they must be positioned well. I work a lot with children with very limited movement, many of them using wheelchairs. I spend a LOT of time ensuring they are in a good, comfortable working position. Think about sitting on that horrid waiting room chair or trying to sleep in that hotel bed where the matress is well past needing replacement. It’s uncomfortable, it’s distracting and it’s just not nice! Oh and you can move, lots of the kids I work with can’t! Well the same is true for children without physical difficulties. How often do you see them swinging their legs because they don’t reach the floor or the table is too high so you can barely see their eyes. All it takes is either the correct size table or chair or some kind of footrest/cushion to ensure a comfortable position! It’s all about stabilising the core of your body. Try it! See how your writing changes when you are not able to plant your feet flat on the floor and work on a table of incorrect height. The same thing applies to your office if you have one! 

2) Big movements first, small movements later! 

Children generally (obvious exceptions where a physical difficulty prevents independent gross motor movements) need to work on the big movements and get these right before you see refinement in small movements. Small children should be given LOTS of opportunities to do gross motor movements such as those reserved usually for PE only. Good early years provision should be able to provide these opportunities, especially outside. Ribbons, pom poms, strips of newspaper, sand and water play, play dough, mark making in glitter, sand, flour, anything in large trays, large paintbrushes and water on the wall, mega blocks/duplo etc are all great for getting that coordination built up. Working towards the midline and then crossing the midline are also important at these early stages. You or I will simply reach with our domiment hand to get something we want, children often reach with the nearest even if the likelyhood is they will drop if. Sometimes children need to work on these skills that we just aqquire. Don’t jump to a child using a tiny paint brush, crayon or pencil if they are no good with bigger movements. It’s often futile! 

3) A few tips for lefties

Ok so this is quite specific but it is a subject very close to my heart. I am a lefty and so is my son. Often teachers really don’t think that us lefties need any extra help. They would be wrong! So here are my top tips for helping them. 

  • Position. As well as the stuff I said above, once they do get to writing, consideration really needs to be given to where the lefties in your class sit! Noone wants to spend time bashing arms with the pupil to their left as their elbows stick out! Simple problem easily solved! Furthermore with regards to position, paper position is important. It should be tilted slightly clockwise so that it is at an angle and the point of the paper is central rather than to their left (hope that makes sense!). This allows them to see what they have written already more clearly. Remember, unlike right-handers they can’t see anything other than what they are writing!  This is why you sometimes see people with that horrible hooked position like Barak Obama uses. Eugh. Horrid and will lead to pain and difficulties in some cases. A lefty’s pencil grip should look the mirror image of a right handed one! 
  • Grip. Moving on from what I said above. The lefty grip should not be any different from a right one. However they may find it difficult to copy the mirror. Pop the pencil in your left hand if you are helping. Moulded grip pencils can help too. Ot reminds them when their fingers should be and stops the temptation to hook their hand or hold the pencil too high up. 
  • Joining up. Ok I’ll admit I HATE that kids in primary school are being forced by the government to use cursive writing. It’s bloody hard and noone cares once they get to secondary so why can’t they just develop beautiful printed handwriting? Being a lefty makes it even harder. You can’t see what you just wrote as the rest of your hand covers it. Also, we are pulling the pencil not letting it flow as happens when you are right handed and writing left to right. We’d be fine if we were writing right to left! Many of the joins taught are not natural at all for lefties. Consider this if a child is struggling. It might be something as small as letting them cross their ts the other way to the way in the scheme you are teaching. 

I think I’ll stop there for now. Any comments or thoughts welcome on here or come and find me on Twitter! 

2017- Looking forward

Having looked back on my hopes for 2016, the next logical step is to set some new hopes for 2017! 

So seeing as most people who read this post will have done so by clicking a link on Twitter, I’ll start with that. I love Twitter! So many interesting people on there. I met some of those for the first time this year like the lovely ladies Nancy and Lynn who I met at Primary Rocks in Manchester amongst others. A good chat with the Orrsome Rachel Orr was another highlight of a great day. I am looking forward to going again this year and maybe meeting some more folk and catching up with others again. I will also be attending Northern Rocks in Leeds again in June. It will be my 3rd time and it is always so interesting. This year I got to meet the very interesting and inspiring Jarlath. I have chatted with him a fair bit, and that day was no exception. I have his book still to read, I really should get on with that when I get time! I also finally got to meet the lovely Sue Cowley whom I first “met” many MANY years ago as a trainee teacher when she was researching one of her books! 

So, I plan on still using Twitter to keep up with what is going on in the world of education. Special Ed can be quite isolating so it’s great to keep in touch with othere in special as well as Primary and Secondary colleagues. Lots of debate happens, usually I’m watching but step in if I am passionate about something. 

Many people on there have been great friends and given great support such as all the lovely ladies I share my photos with and the lovely Mary, Claire and Betsy who have given me great wisdom. 

More of the same from me I think with regards to Twitter. 

My singing has taken to the front towards the end of this year as I mentioned in my review of last year. BackBeat A Cappella is my new performing outlet and I am super excited about where this is going. I have made some great friends and learn something each week. We did a small performance in our last rehearsal in December and it reminded me that there is nothing like performing! It’s fabulous me time too and has nothing to do with teacher me, mummy me or wife me. It is about me, Nichola! 

I am also going to enjoy my new instrument! Tomorrow I’m off to buy a baritone sax! I am super excited about this. I used to play one as a teenager but it wasn’t mine and I had to return it to Kirklees music service when I left the group. I can’t wait to see how my class respond to this new sound! I already use my clarinet in class so it will be an interesting contrast! 

I look forward to seeing how B gets on this year. He is growing so quickly. It doesn’t seem two minutes since we announced I was pregnant (7 years ago today we told folk outside family and close friends infact) yet here he is 1/3 of the way through Year 2. I am sure he will have plenty of learning challenges but I will be there to support him all the way. I am sure this year will also involve the losing of teeth and growing even taller! He continues to make slow and steady progress in his swimming lessons so we shall see how this year goes. 

I hope to continue to see my family. Joe and B during the week and going with them to see my parents and inlaws at the weekends and school holidays. I love the relationship B has with his grandparents and I want that to continue to grow as well as the 3 of us doing things together (when we have holidays at the same time!) August we have a trip down south booked and I am really looking forward to that, especially our own personal hot tub! 

Professionally I hope that this year is the year of change. I look out for the right job, be that a move sideways or slightly upwards. I want to stay in Special Ed but I am ready to move on. I will finish my middle leadership course and continue to work hard on my project for that.l which will continue long beyond my course. It might be the year Ofsted pops along to visit us. It will be the 4th time at that school and many more than that as a trainee and teacher! Interesting to see how the process changes year on year and how what they look for changes too! 
So to sum up? Progress and change and being brave I think sums things up. 

A Review of #Nurture1516

Wow, I kind of forgotten I had written this. I’ve been a bit rubbish with the posts in recent months. Work has felt especially busy this term so I haven’t written anything for months! Sorry!

Anyway, lets look back at what  I said this time last year. I split things in to 5 sections so lets see how many have positive things to say about them.

  1. Photo a Day. Well I have mostly managed this. I stopped uploading them in mid November (can you tell when work got really hectic?) but I have still taken them and may at some point get around to uploading them! I love how taking photos makes you look at life a little differently, and it gives you great memories to look back on. 2017 marks 10 years since I started first doing a photo a day project so it will be good to carry on with that next year!
  2. Performance. I said I wanted to get performing again this year, after the enjoyment of my dancing show. Well, it’s not dancing but I have found a new creative outlet! I am now a proud member of BackBeat A Cappella, a ladies chorus. I started alongside 2016-12-15-21-17-45lots of other ladies with this new group back in September. We have come such a long way in such a short space of time and I am excited to see where we go from here. I have already made some great friends as part of this which is lovely.
  3. Family. I think I’ve done ok here. My son and husband still know what I look like, though at times it’s been hard work making sure I get all my work done at times and still see them. We still visit my parents and my inlaws frequently and I love spending time with them. Me, Joe and B went to London for our 10th wedding anniversary and had an absolute blast! We walked for miles and miles (a marathon in 3 days!) and saw lots of the sights, B seeing them for the first time. More of the same next year I hope!
  4. Cooking and Baking! Well my love is still the sweet stuff, my baked lemon cheesecake went down well at the BackBeat Christmas get together and my pavlova has gone down well a few times this year. I have also been a bit more creative with savoury stuff as my husband has joined Slimming World and is doing really well. He’s lost over 2 stone since September and I am super proud of him. I even made Slimming World friendly Pavolvas in the run up to Christmas for him to take to a  taster session! I’m a good wife 😉
  5. Work. Well I said I wanted to move and I still feel like that, as I am still in the same place. A few interviews done, and no negative feedback means that the right job just hasn’t come up yet. I keep my eyes open for the next opportunity and continue to learn from those around me at work, on Twitter and I have self-funded a middle leadership course this year to develop my own knowledge. I still adore working in Special, especially working with those at the lowest levels of development.

So, in reflection, it’s been a pretty good year! Lots to work on for next year I think.