School Days

I have swapped my day off this week and so I am not in work today, but instead, in my Parent Governor capacity, I will be in school all day. There are teaching posts that we are interviewing for and I am one on the panel of four who will be asking questions and assessing the candidates. I have not done it for some years now but I recall that I have enjoyed it when I have been involved and that I found it to be an emotional experience. I have a different perspective to the other members of the panel, as I am the only one who has a child with Special Needs at the school and I feel that will give me a unique perspective. I will be looking to see if each candidate is someone that I would like to have teaching Joshua, whereas the Head and HR will be presumably looking more at their employment record and their future potential. I will want them to demonstrate how they would engage my cheeky, lively son who has a very short attention span.

Every candidate, and there are 8 of them, will have to give a lesson which will be observed by the assistant head before their interview, and then we will ask the same questions of everyone so that we can compare the responses. I know how anxious the candidates will be as they are looking for permanent contracts in school and so I will try my best to put them at their ease, so that they can perform at their best. As I have worked for the same company for 29 years, I have not had much experience of being interviewed, in fact I have had more experience being the interviewer. We will have an individual rating system for how well each question is answered , so that the panel then compares overall scores. In the main, when I have been involved before, our ratings have been consistent, which gives reassurance, but on occasions we have had to speak up for a particular candidate and give our reasons for our support.

So today I am taking Joshua into school with me, which I always enjoy, and I will bring him home at the end of the day too. I have already arranged that he goes into after school club until we are finished our debate. Lets see what today brings….


Turning a Negative into a Positive

Yesterday was our Parent First Aid training at school, which came about after Joshua’s seizure in the bath incident in January when we had to call an ambulance. Once we were home from hospital and I began to analyse my response to his accident at home, I was very aware that I had no formal first aid training and so I asked his school to lay it on for other parents like myself. They asked me to make a call to the training company that they use and to find out what they could offer as a half day course, which I did. I reported back to the Assistant Head who is responsible for safeguarding and training at school, and he booked the course all on the same day that I made the request.

I then had to hope that I was not the only parent who recognised their need for First Aid training, and I promoted the opportunity on our parent social media and was overwhelmed by the response that I received, by the level of interest. After February Half term, school sent out a letter offering the training on a first come , first served basis. I was worried that the level of hypothetical interest might dwindle once a real time and day was offered, but I needn’t have worried, as twelve other Mums turned up for the training yesterday afternoon. The trainer began by finding out about our children, our experience of emergencies at home and about the level of first aid knowledge that we had already. I was the only one who had been on a three day First Aid at Work course during the same week, but some had no formal training and others were looking for a refresher on some old training.

The trainer was excellent, she was informative, knowledgeable, but she went at a good pace and encouraged us all to try out the practical techniques of CPR, placing each other in  the recovery position, abdominal thrusts and bandaging. She answered everyone’s questions without making anyone feel silly for asking and she took account of  some of her audience’s blood phobia, fear of their children choking and their reluctance to practice with an audience. We were all shown a defibrillator and how it works which I thought was invaluable, as I had heard that you could not hurt someone by using one but I had not appreciated until this week, how it takes you through the steps and will not shock a patient if it is not necessary or helpful. I , for one, would be less afraid now of reaching for an AED if a situation demanded it.

While there was some duplication with what I had learned earlier in the week, yesterday had more of a child and baby focus, rather than adult colleagues, and she also related her course work to children with special needs, who may be non-verbal or wheelchair-bound too. I found that the three hours went really quickly, due to the balance of listening and practical exercises too. We finished at the end of the school day so that many had to dash off to collect their children and some joked that they wanted a badge or a certificate to prove that they had undertaken this training, as they were pleased with what they had achieved. I have since been thanked by several of the Mums for having the idea and for organising the course. We all, of course, hope never to need these skills, but at least now, if we are faced with an emergency on our own, at home, we will know what to do while we wait for the paramedics to arrive. It is clear that time is of the essence and so we might now be equipped to take some simple steps to make our children, or even a random member of the public, more comfortable or even save their life.

Festive Fundraising Over

The school fundraiser was a big success yesterday and I was delighted to have been involved. When I arrived at school, already each classroom had a table outside displaying their festive treats that they had created : Christmas buns, cards, candles, elves, calendars…there was no end to the festive merchandise and it was all beautifully displayed too – I was stunned by the classes’ creativity. I walked around to the dining hall where the cake bake stall was set up but lay pretty empty with just two contributions on it. I added my own baking and I asked some of the classes if I could add their buns and mince pies to my table, rather than filling their class displays. By the time parents started to arrive, the cake bake stall was fully stocked and it virtually was all sold by 11am.

Two 6th formers appeared to help out and we had one with us, who offered to make hot drinks for the visitors, which was a great help. He earned his keep as it was busy at times and he took his reward in yule log! The other 6th former manned the ‘cinema’, giving out tickets and selling popcorn to see a short school film that had been created. I sneaked a peek at the film at 11am during a lull and it was so brilliant that we asked to see it twice. It featured pupils and staff set to music and it showed school off at its best, as they acted out friendship and helping one another – of course it made me cry.

Joshua appeared early on and I gave him £5 to spend on the stalls and he had a good look around, before coming back to me with his purchases in exchange for a hug and some lemon drizzle cake.

It was not just parents and classes who came to the fundraiser, but we had visitors from both staff and School Councils from some of the other schools in our Trust, who wanted to look around our school, so it was a showpiece event too. I am sure that they were impressed by what they saw, as everyone threw themselves into the morning’s festivities. I believe that around £400 was raised for school funds too, which was a great morning’s work and there were lots of smiling faces too. So now on Black Friday, Christmas really got underway at school.

I Second that Emotion

I expect today to be an emotional day for three main reasons : firstly, this morning will be the last time that I will see Joshua until Monday evening and that is a really long time without seeing or being with him. This is his short breaks/respite weekend and we are going away on a trip overseas tonight, so I have been busy packing both for his weekend away, buying pet food in bulk to leave behind and our packing – although ours is still incomplete and can be finished off this afternoon before we catch our ferry. I have been talking about Joshua’s weekend away with him but I am never sure if he understands, but he does recognise his overnight bag that always goes with him and he seriously studied me packing it last night on his bed. I am optimistic that I will receive timely text updates throughout his weekend, which will keep me updated , preventing me from worrying and wondering.

Secondly, I am having my first ever mammogram this afternoon and I am not really sure what to expect, other than discomfort. So that will be a new procedure in my life, now that I have reached that age in my life when the risk of breast cancer is highest. It has coincided with a diagnosis for an important lady in my life, as she begins her chemotherapy next week and I wish her well and a speedy recovery.

Thirdly, this morning is the harvest festival at Joshua’s school and I have always loved this celebration. I recall the first one that I went to back in 2011, back then the whole school walked down to the local parish church, which was a feat in itself. I sat at the back of the church and was overwhelmed by the singing, signing, joyand care in the church and I cried throughout it. Lots of concerned staff stoppped me on the way out to check that I was OK and I sobbed that I “loved it” through my uncontrollable tears. I am made of stronger stuff 7 years later, as I have seen several more school performances like that since, and although I may shed a tear or two at something poignant, I am ready and armed with tissues.


The Morning After

This is the first early morning for a week when I have not come downstairs and put my oven and my apron on!The Macmillan Coffee Morning at school could not have gone better …..

I arrived at school at 8.30 with a car boot full of homemade goodies – coffee cake, parkin, lemon drizzle, key lime pie, flapjack, cheese straws, victoria sponge, apple cake etc. There was so much that it took me two trips from the car to the dining hall where we were holding the event. I began to blow up balloons, lay out table clothes and put bunting up around the walls. Staff arrived to either donate a creation or to eye up what they planned to buy later, as I set out the cake on the tables. Then very soon, parents, once they had dropped off their children, began to arrive. From 9am until 11.30 it was pretty full on, with serving cake, chatting to guests, making hot drinks and keeping track of things. Two 6th formers were volunteered to help – not my son thankfully as he was creating chaos in the short while he was there during the set up stage! One of them was taking photographs for the website and the other took over the tea and coffee-making.

Each class had made their own contribution – buns and cake – and they each came to the dining hall with their donation, throughout the morning, and they amused me by mainly buying back what they had been involved in making! There was real pride in an enormous ‘rainbow cake’ for instance and that class were the main takers of it too. The Parents were keen to know what their child had made and to buy a slice of it in support. The parents sat at tables like in a cafe, some coming back for seconds, and the cardboard collection box that Macmillan supply, grew heavier and heavier.

I do not know yet how much money we collected, but I expect it to be in the region of £300 as I was counting it up and I had got to £240-something when was interrupted and I lost count , so I handed it into the office to be counted. In addition to that, I took some cake to the reception of the adjoining school and to my own offices and they donated a further £35. No doubt we will know the grand total next week!

Already though I would consider it to be a roaring success; not just due to the cash raised for a brilliant charity, but also for the fact that it brought people together : it united pupils, parents and staff in a common cause and of course, a love of cake really helped! There was a real buzz about the dining hall yesterday morning and I am not sure that it could have gone any better.

School Life

I was in school all morning yesterday, for the first time this term and  it felt good to be back there. I always enjoy taking Joshua into school as I can see how he responds when he arrives and how he greets the satff. Yesterday, he could not wait for me to sort out my bags on the back seat of the car, he opened the passenger door himself and was out, raring to go. He dragged me into school, so I was in no doubt that he was pleased to be there. We got to Reception and he immediately spotted one of the 6th form teaching assistants and he ran up to her for a hug, even though she was not there for him but was taking a peer swimming.  Joshua was collected by his TA and taken upstairs, without so much as a backward glance. I could hear him talking and shouting happily in the stair well as I walked towards my meeting.

I am part of a working party that brings parents and school together in ‘partnership’ to discuss issues of interest to us both. Yesterday we discussed the school website, communications with parents and their approach to Relationships and Sex Education, which is a challenge when the ability and understanding of the pupil base is so varied.  We meet up every half term and try to represent the views of all parents, so that the parent  voice is heard in school decision-making.

After that meeting, I caught up with noisy Joshua again, as we were meeting Orthotics with his troublesome splints, which are rubbing his ankle and making it sore and I had a great welcome, as though he had not seen me all day! They have taken his splints  away again to adjust for the third time. Joshua enjoyed the appointment, surrounded by three young ladies. While the Physiotherapist was removing his boots and socks, he was pulling and stroking her tempting ponytail which was right at his level, but luckily they have all known him for a long time, so tolerate his ways. So that she could see his foot position when walking, the orthotist rolled his trousers up to his knees, which he was not happy about and he kept pulling them trouser leg down again, so it became an amusing battle of wills. Once she had finished with him and he was back in his boots, he rushed down the school corridor at top speed to get  back to class, or lunch, I am not sure which but I know that I had to run to catch him up!

If ever I needed any reassurance that Joshua was happy in school and that he was in the right setting, I got it in bucket-loads yesterday.


Let them eat cake

For the last two years, I have been organising a monthly coffee morning at school for parents to get together and we had the last one of the academic year yesterday. I have to say that I enjoyed this one more than any other this year, as it was well attended but rather than breaking up into lots of small chats, we sat around the meeting room table and all talked as a group. There were never any awkward silences and nobody was ranting, but there was plenty of give and take in the conversation, with everyone contributing. It maybe takes two years for people to build up the confidence to speak up or come on their own, without the back up of friends or family, but I really felt as though we had developed something special yesterday.

I do not really have a sweet tooth, but I recognise how happy a slice of coffee cake or a piece of gingerbread makes people and I use it straegically too. I use cake to thank people that are important to me at school : I always treat the school nurses as Joshua is so relaint on them to keep him safe at school. I always save something for the two ladies on reception too and it never fails to plaease them. The lady who makes JOshua very happy with musical input said that my shortbread was the best she had ever tasted! I have started to make cheese straws too, as I love them and find them moreish and they also went down very well. The Head enjoyed two cheese straws then begged me to take the tin away!

For me, baking, then giving cake, is a process that I enjoy : I love to make people happy with such a simple thing, so I think I can certainly be described as a ‘feeder’. That is why, when Joshua was not eating at the end of last year, I found it so distressing – not just because I could see him getting skinnier before my eyes, but because providing food is clearly part of who I am, so when he rejected my cooking, it impacted on my perception of myself too. Often when someone is sad and I cannot solve their problem, I bake them a sweet treat, as an expression of how I care for them. While some spontaneous shortbread , chocolate brownies or flapjack do not solve their problems, they certainly help to make a bitter pill more palatable.