I wrote yesterday about the role of nurses in Joshua’s life and so this morning, I wanted to thank all of the teachers in our lives too. I loved my school days, I was one of those children who were eager to learn and I used to yearn for the end of the school holidays, to return. I can still name and visualise my primary school teachers, from the very tall Miss Mcfarlane in primary 1 to the young, very cool Miss Craig, who had us making chapatis in the classroom! I adored them all. I was quite the goody goody at school. We moved from Scotland to England ready for me to begin my high school career and I recall one English lesson, where the teacher, Mr Williams, used me as an example of how effective corporal punishment in schools was! I had indeed seen many boys ‘belted’ for bad behaviour but I was never a recipient, and it was not fear of the belt that made me well behaved. But he was trying to make a point, comparing the Scottish to English system so I let him continue. I adored high school too and had more variable teachers there, but I selected my O’ level ‘options’ based on my favourite teachers basically, which is why I did not pursue physics due to my fear of the bully Mr Salt.
Fast forward 20 years from my leaving school, and I was taking 4 year old Joshua to nursery school for a whole new experience of teachers. He began at mainstream school and coped well with nursery, and we were both in love with Mrs Jordan – in fact even now he is 21, if he misbehaves or won’t go to bed, we still say ‘Joshua, what would Mrs Jordan say!’ I begged the Headteacher to allow him to spend his whole education in the nursery school, it felt so fun and safe for him, but she declined and said he would grow too big for the children’s furniture which was very true. She helped us apply for a Statement of his Needs, so that he had 1 to 1 support when he got to mainstream primary school, which was brilliant. Again he had such kind teachers there, most memorable was Mrs Eldridge, who still smiles and stops for a chat when we see her down the town. She allowed him to simply be Joshua in her classroom and he loved being in that class of peers.
But then at 8 years old, when the school work became more demanding and he was spending a lot of time in a small room alone with his 1 to 1, it became clear that he was not suited any more to mainstream school and so we began the process of seeking a local special school for him to move to. The one we chose was too full so we were offered a place at another, 45 minutes drive from home, and we accepted the place. These should have been the best teachers of Joshua’s life, as they were experts in Special Educational Needs (SEN) but they simply did not know how to handle him and he became disengaged. I recall being shocked when the teacher asked me for advice about how to engage him, when I had hoped he was moving to a professional, expert learning environment. Joshua was undergoing a lot of seizures at the time, but the final straw was when I arrived unannounced and found Joshua in the corner of the classroom with his hand on his hands on the desk. Not only could the teachers not reach him but the school was not equipped to deal with his seizures, not having a school nurse, so he spent a lot of time at home, out of school after receiving Midazolam, his emergency medication, which once administered, they needed him off the premises for 48 hours.
So we went to a Tribunal to change schools , fighting for one that was closer to home, though in a different LA area, and that had a school nurse. That school was already above its pupil numbers so a 6 month process of gathering reports and evidence was necessary to convince the authorities that this move would be in Joshua’s best interests. The tribunal itself took ten minutes and in March 2011, Joshua moved to his final Special School which felt like him ‘going home’; finally there were staff who understood him and could engage him and could accommodate him when he was having seizures. Joshua was finally happy at school again and his cheeky smile that he had lost, returned. He finally found a teacher who understood him, she recognised and fostered his sense of humour and could get the best out of him. He loved coming to school again and he adored his teacher and many Teaching Assistants too, who were rewarded with his smile and big hugs on a daily basis too.
So, thank you for all of the great teachers in my life, both for me personally who gave me a great foundation to build upon, and also for Joshua through his school career. During our school days, you are the main adult presence in our lives, other than our parents, and you have the power to influence young people, as to whether they go on to love or hate their school days. Luckily I was fortunate enough to be taught by some of the best and so, that is what I wanted for my son too.