Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Embracing the Happy

I thought about starting a new blog for this part of my life. It is a new start in many ways. I decided not to though and it's taken 4 days to make that decision. I have been in the place where I thought I was clever enough not to go, and in fact I was there because I thought I had avoided it, and I was so smug about having avoided it that I missed the fact I was in it.

Of course the problem is that if you are only just starting to read this blog because of the link I've put on Embrace Happy, or because you are my EH buddy, then all of the above will make no sense. Partly, you may have to get used to that because generally I blog first thing in the morning or late at night and that's not always conducive to clarity.

Partly it's because now it's another choice. It was a choice to be busy, to be always active and working and doing but more and more I'm realising that this is now a habit. I got into the habit of proving how well I was Coping, how I was Fine and how I was being Terribly Brave, raising my Bereaved Child. (The capital letters were put there by other people when they spoke to me.)

I am knocking 40. 10 years ago I was about to enter the most complicated, tragic, joyous year of my life. I had an 18month old son and I was married to his father, we lived on an RAF base in Norfolk, after an RAF base in Oxfordshire and life was settled.

It didn't last.

I have, however, booked a happy ending and I am going to have one - I am having one, and going to keep having it.

All I have to do now is to take all of this energy that I have put into being so busy I can't think or feel and turn it into my word of the year.....


That is the place I want to go to, the place I thought I was in. In fact, I've been in the place I thought being busy would avoid. It didn't. I've just been busy, and not achieved that much compared to the effort I have thrown in.


That's the plan anyway.....

Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so don't mock the spelling and I'll be back later to sort the layout!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Remembrance and Armistice

On Sunday we, as a country, held Remembrance Sunday parades and services. I went, as I have done for years, to Tower Gardens. For the last 5 services, I have gone with J. It is now almost traditional that AC's dad meets us there with AC, we stand together as a 'family' and AC then comes home with us. AC's dad is very understanding, and very compassionate about Remembrance Sunday.

This year, as usual, we people spotted, we chatted, and then the service started and we fell silent. The Exhortation was given and then the Last Post started. And then I cried. I cried for 2 minutes, solidly, and then the Reveille started, the standards flew high, and I stopped. It is like a tap.

This year was different. This year the boychild stood in front of me, and when he realised I was crying, he put his hand behind him to hold mine, nudging J on the way so he could hold the other one.

For the first time, AC comforted me.

He grows up, ever up.

That means that today, I am less concerned about him going to high school and having Armistice on his own for the first time. He has broken so badly in the past that I have been worried. In all honesty, I still am a bit. But I'm his mum, I'm supposed to worry!

Today the nation will stop for two minutes. Today the nation wears it's poppies and remembers the fallen and supports the living. The nation bows its collective head to those who serve.

Today I will cry for two minutes again. I will ensure I have tissues and my class can't see me. I will make sure I have a brew before hand to bolster my spirit and pray hard to bolster my soul.

I have written my usual Remembrance Poem, but not for sharing today.

They shall not grow old.....

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so don't mock the spelling and I'll be back later to sort the layout!

Thursday, November 6, 2014


Once again we are approaching the Armistice, and once again I can feel the distance developing between me and the rest of the world.  I am less concerned with the petty things than I would usually be.  I make sure things are done because I am not interested in discussing the consequences with other people, not because I am aware of the importance of that thing being done.

Yet, at the same time, reading the posts from the other Scotty mums, I am aware that we are different.  Rich did not die in war, he died here.  There are other mums in the same situation as us, mums whose child's father died of a heart attack, and another mum whose child's stepfather died in a motorbike accident a year after Rich.  The child is much older, just started Uni, and yet that child always has time for the AC to speak to her, always makes time to contact him, the whole family is lovely and epitomises what Scotty's is for.

Maybe that's what I need to do for the next few days.  Retreat from the world, and focus on my family, my Scotty family.  They understand.

Several are incensed with the way that the AC and I were treated after Rich's death.  A couple of the more militant ones have pointed out that I have a case to go to court, using the paperwork that was discovered, and fight for our entitlement that way.  I have said that I cannot risk that taking anything away from the BG, because she has lost her father as well.  I don't want her, whenever I see her again, to feel that I went in to attack against her.  I have always and will always love her and worry about her in the same way I worry about the AC.  Not quite the same way I suppose - she's not likely to be behind on her textiles homework as her mother is an excellent seamstress! I don't know the specifics of what I need to worry about lol, but I worry for her generally.  Is she happy?  How is school going?  What is she up to socially?  All that kind of thing.  I don't worry because her mother is a bad mother, because she isn't.  (I assume she isn't.)  I worry because she is Rich's daughter, because she was a huge part of our lives, even when she wasn't here, because I told Rich I would always be there for her, and I'm not really there for her at the moment.

It is a funny time of year, this one.  Perhaps I just need to settle myself down a bit.

More tea....

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Delay in posting

It's been a while since I've posted on here.

My mother told me, when I was small, that if I couldn't say nice, then don't say anything at all.  That's more or less why I haven't written on here.  After the post on betrayal, I was so angry, so hurt, and for the first time in 5 years I let that out.  Previously, I have had a small child, and I have slapped that brave face on and stiffened my upper lip and been a good but muffled mummy.

This time I chose not to.  I looked at my now 11yr old son, and I kept my anger and disappointment away from him, but I allowed myself time to explore my feelings, and to explore what I needed to do.

I had to do it.

If I didn't do it, then it was going to fester forever, like the canker pus filled worm that upset me in the first place.  (Yes, I am not all the way through this anger yet.  But the fact I can apply Shakespearean insults instead of just swearing is progress!)

A few examples of my favourites.....
Shakespeare Insult 13 – Henry IV Part 1
“That trunk of humours, that bolting-hutch of beastliness, that swollen parcel of dropsies, that huge bombard of sack, that stuffed cloak-bag of guts, that roasted Manningtree ox with pudding in his belly, that reverend vice, that grey Iniquity, that father ruffian, that vanity in years?”
Shakespeare Insult 14 – Henry IV Part 1
“You starvelling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish–O for breath to utter what is like thee!-you tailor’s-yard, you sheath, you bow-case, you vile standing tuck!”
I do know it's childish, but why should I only allow myself to feel grief and anger and happiness and love?  I have to let this out.

I've waited long enough.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Bank Holiday Monday means nearly work time!


If this is BHM, then next week is Last Day of Holiday, and Tuesday is Back to School for me, Thursday is Starting High School for the AC.

It's end of summer.

We've had a great summer. We've done some stuff to help raise money for Scotty's, we've been away for a week at the Blackpool Scotty lodge, we've been to a couple of festivals, we've had a laugh, we've repaired bits of the van, we've camped randomly, we've seen friends we haven't seen in ages, we've chilled on the sofa, we've watched some tv and played some games together.

It's been a busy, enjoyable, fun-filled 5 weeks.

And it's over.

But I get to this week and I start to think seriously about work (rather than the odd hour here and there) and I want to be going back. I want the routine and the organisation back!

I am a creature of habit. My cats are creatures of habit - they will come and get me if I'm not up by 5:30am (even in the holidays...) My son is a free flowing creature, but even he is always up by 6 and in bed by 9. J is a creature of habit, sliding into routine easily.

I think that's the thing. We slide in and out of different routines - school routine, home routine, camping routine. None of these are schedules though. There are timetables when I'm at school and I'm sure the AC will have a timetable, but the rest is routine. If it changes, it changes, it's no big deal.

I've got his kit ready for his new school. For the first time, he'll be at a place where I am not, and he'll be there day after day. We are both looking forward to, and nervous about, it. We are ready for him to have routines that are not governed by me, and for me to have time that is not all about him.

It's why this summer has been so important, why we've packed so much in before he goes to school and changes in a good way, grows up, taking his education and his school life seriously. He'll have homework and after school clubs and all that kind of thing to do. He'll have different friends, different socialising, jokes that I am not a part of.

It's the last days of summer, before my little boy starts to become a man, with all the new routines it will involve to get him there.


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so don't mock the spelling and I'll be back later to sort the layout!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

#LightsOut and betrayal

Last night I took the boys down to the local war memorial for the Act of Remembrance.

My beloved son stood it for as long as he could, and then the Last Post sounded, and his heart broke. We held each other, quietly crying together, loving each other in a way that excluded the crowd around us. Our shared grief blocked out everything else and for those 2 minutes we were able to let go of our game faces and be us.

I have said before that both of us love J, and we do. Even the AC took the risk and put his heart on the line again, knowing what it would mean if anything happened to J.

I believe that our shared grief comes from a lack of closure. 5 years on, and I can now bring myself to talk about it. I am not bitter, I have tried so hard to understand, and from my point of view I have days when I am there. The AC does not. He hates with a burning passion that I have tried to help him calm, and slowly we are getting there, but so slowly.

In the days approaching Rich's celebrations, I told the child that this was our public time, and that we would have a private goodbye when his ashes were scattered later. I told him crying was ok, but our time of sadness would come. Why did I tell him this? Because it was what was supposed to be happening.

On the day of Rich's celebrations, I was asked if 1030 the next morning would be ok for me to be collected, and we would go and get the ashes from the crematorium and make decisions as to what would happen, where and when. I went to the wake as happy as I could be, trusting the words that had been said. How foolish was I.

By 1015 I was ready. By 1030 I was pacing. Eventually, I phoned Rich's brother who was due to pick me up to collect the ashes. He had already collected them he said, at 9am, and was on his way back with them. I was not having anything to do with them.

I begged. I pleaded. But to no avail. The ashes were miles away and not coming back, and I had to explain to the boy child that our private goodbye would never happen.

The person who had the ashes then went on holiday, to get over the stressful time. I carried on muddling through, comforting a child who kept saying to me "Richard did love me. That horrible old woman didn't know us."

A week later I had an email to say the deed was being done. Again I begged and pleaded for the child and I to be able to go. I had friends who would take us to whenever we needed to be, but I was not to be told any location.

And then an email to say it was done. Eventually, weeks later there were pictures on fb that show the place, apparently.

The question then, was did I believe him? The answer, five years on, is that I want to, but I don't. How can I believe someone who would lie to a grieving six year old and a widow? Who would behave in such a way?

From this grief and betrayal came A Year and a Day, where we scattered the ashes of his bike kit that he was wearing, his blood soaked helmet and t-shirt, all burned together with high flames until all that was left was ashes. With family and friends they were scattered in a forest, as befits a Druid of his nature. His brother and family were invited, but chose not to come, not to that, not to St Clement Danes, not to the inquest. (For the first I had family, for the latter I had the lovely boys of the armoury) Because of a Year and a Day, we have somewhere to go if we need to, but I know the child feels the lack of a grave, a marker, something tangible that he can go to and talk to.

He wants his ashes put with Rich's, and I've had to explain so many times that that just is not possible, that we don't know for certain where Rich is.

I never hear from any of Rich's family now. The child and I, those 5 years, have been whitewashed away, I believe. All the talk of emotional support and financial help was just talk. I am left, no place to visit, still with the finances to cover, still dealing with the post.

If this comes across as bitter I am sorry. I know how few people read this blog, and so I am trying writing it out to see if I can expel the sense of betrayal from me that way. I am not bitter, I am accepting that grief makes people do strange things. (There were other things done that were stranger.)

And now I don't know how to end this, so I'm going to make a cup of tea. Quietly.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone so don't mock the spelling and I'll be back later to sort the layout!

Monday, July 7, 2014

And he returned......

Of course he did.

Why wouldn't he?  (Don't answer that, this is my paranoia)

He had a good time, of sorts.  The activities were great, the people in his dorm were mostly great but there was, as he termed it 'a couple of fools'.  I am glad that he doesn't think like they do, even though he has a wider cursing vocabulary than them, he chooses not to use it.

However, he said that there were times when he missed me 'so hard it hurt'.  Like he was never going to see me again, he said.

We both agreed it was different to last year.  We also both agreed that we didn't know why.  It just was.


(and no,  he hadn't used all of his clean clothes.  Boys will be boys.....)

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

De ja Vu?

On Monday I said goodbye to a very excited Adorable Child off to a weeks residential at the local outdoors place with school.  I got a hug (in front of his mates!) but no kiss (we were in front of his mates) and and "I love you, see you Friday!" and he was off.

Monday was ok.  I automatically looked for him in assembly, but there was a massive gap where the Y6 should be, so I wasn't surprised that he wasn't there.

I had a lift home from M, and then walked into my empty house, alone, and *wham* there it was.  His headphones were lying on the sofa, and suddenly I was taken back emotionally to a time almost 5 years ago, when I'd walked in after everyone had gone, and Rich's coffee cup was on the table.  Just left, with the obvious thought of return.  On that day though, Rich wasn't coming back for a coffee.  Suddenly, I could feel the normal-ness of my life disintegrating, and the horror of what had happened slapped me in the head.  I could only see his face, on the bed in the hospital where I'd gone to identify him.  I could only feel the hardness of his chest, the coldness of his hands, hear the voice of the policeman telling me to try not to touch him and the fear in his voice when I tucked the hospital gown down, away from his neck.  He knew, and I didn't, how badly Rich was injured, and how he was held together by skin.  Thank goodness for one piece riding gear, or he wouldn't have been in one piece, nor looking so presentable.

On Monday, I could feel that same old fear rising, that the AC wasn't going to come back and shift the headphones, that they would just stay there until I eventually swallowed my hope and moved them.

Sometimes, you can know that what you are feeling isn't right, but you can't stop, it has you in a firm grip and you just have to ride the coaster until it stops.  I did.  I rode that thing until I had finished being consumed by it, until I had absorbed it and recognised it and then told it that it was wrong, the child was on a beach walk and that I would know by now if anything bad had happened.  There wouldn't be the delay that there was before, because I was at home.

I had a cup of tea, I was calmed, I focused on what I have now and how it is goodly different.

It always amazes me how grief waits for the most obscure moments to rise again.  We are nearly at the 5 year marker.  This one makes it official - I have been without him longer than with him, no matter how I stretch the moments.

We shall see what happens.

Monday, June 30, 2014

It's happening again.

The beloved and Adorable Child is going off to residential today.  He did this last year.  It's fine.  He goes to his father's house every other weekend, he's just spent Saturday night at my brother's house having a great time with his lovely cousins and fab aunty and uncle and it's fine.  People do this.  People go to places and they come back.


And yet today, from nowhere, is the 'what if' feeling.  Right now, I've been awake since about 3am, thinking, worrying, head and stomach churning, because what if he doesn't come back?  The thing is, I know who he is going with, they teach at my school, I know all the children, I know their brothers and sisters and families.  I know the teachers, the other adults, I know their favourite tv programmes and whether they have sandwiches or hot lunch or whatever,  I know the coach firm - we're going with them ourselves on a trip in 18 days time.  I know the evolve forms have been done, the risk assessments are complete, the activity leaders are qualified, the place itself is lovely.  I know he had a fabulous time last year.


But here it is.  My reality, is that people go off on ordinary things and they do not come back.

Being truly honest, my reality is that Rich left for work and did not come back and I saw him again to identify him.

I gave myself a good talking to about 4am, discussing how many places so many people have been to and returned safely.  How I felt like this when J and the Adorable Child went to Manchester, to Cardiff, to Hampton Court Palace, and they came back just fine.  How he had come back last year, just fine.  How I go away to places and I come back fine.  How we travel thousands of miles a year (literally) and we come back just fine.

I know that this is ridiculous.  I know.  I spent from 3am to 4 am recognising the feeling, allowing myself to feel, telling myself it was ok to feel this way.  Then I felt indulgent, and spent from 4am to 5am telling myself to get a damn grip and get over myself.  Then I got up.

Maybe I just need a cup of tea and a calm down quietly.  God has this, I know.  He has the AC right where He needs him to be.  He has a plan. (Ok, so His plan for Rich sucked, but maybe the alternative was something horrible like cancer or something debilitating.  Maybe the swift, painless death he had was the best of a bad choice. I don't know that one.....)

It's going to be a long week of me pretending that this feeling isn't there and that him being away is totally fine.  I cannot, willnot smother him and make him a mummy's boy just because I fear losing him.  That would be rubbish parenting.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wednesday Words - Dear Mr Gove

Recently,  a poet called Jess Green made *this*, a video poem to Mr Gove.  Whilst she isn't a teacher, she works with children in schools in her role as poet, and she is from a family of poets.  My point is, she's not just jumping on the band wagon - she knows. (For anyone reading who doesn't know, Mr Michael Gove is the chap in charge of Education in the UK.)

And of course there is always Michael Rosen and the Mr Men, who each have their own response to Mr Gove and his outlandish education policies, and his attitude towards children and schools.  I had to have a go at this.  I had to try and explain to Mr Gove exactly what is going on in my classroom.

Written as a primary teacher's view of things, following Jess Green’s Dear Mr Gove, which was secondary based and with a hefty nod towards Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, a book that EVERYONE should read because we are going that way.


Dear Mr Gove,

I didn’t strike, the other day.
It wasn’t me early in the morning with frozen fingers, 
Glaring at those going in to work,
Because even though I know who Arthur Scargill and Emily Pankhurst were,
I remember the miners strike.
And what it did and how it played right into government hands.
Instead I was that scab, smugly telling myself I’d put the children first.
Taking thanks off the parents the night before for doing their childcare.
I’m sure even Cameron appreciated not having to deploy the Mum’s Army to do my 'easy' job.

Instead, I dragged my son out of bed at 6am,
(I’d been working since 5)
Marked some books whilst he ate his breakfast,
Checked my planning whilst he brushed his teeth,
Quickly listened to him read,
And we were in school by 7:30.
This is all he has ever known.  

I photocopied, and laid out handwriting, so that the second my class walk through the door
They are learning.
We have no time to waste - not when there are 4 points available in KeyStage1 SATs for neat writing.
There’s a set style - no individuality here.

I checked that we had all the learning objectives and success criteria available for the day.
3 lessons, 3 pieces of paper, 3 sets of books, 3 sets of gluing.
It should be five of everything but we have SATs and PE today.
I am torn between the neatness of my books incase your spies come in
and wanting my class to be independent,
but have you ever seen 30 6 and 7 year olds gluing together?
Government ministers don’t do real classrooms, real children, real life.  
There isn’t an assessment criteria matrix for neat cutting and sticking,
which is a good job, or I’d never get paid.

I went through the boxes, made sure I had the papers
Ready for the hoop jumping that we have to do today.
Has it ever occured to you that my children might learn better if I had more time to teach,
And spent less time on testing, and proving that my assessments were correct?
If you trusted me to do a professional job?
But no.  
Why do that when there are numbers and statistics to create?

I finished marking one of the sets of books from the day before,
Grabbed a cup of tea,
And then the bell went.
I dumped my tea,
And I went.

Morning, morning, morning! Come on in my children, library books on the table please, reading books into the reading book box and straight to handwriting! Georgina, remember your manners. That’s Alice’s dinner money? Brilliant. Can you take it to the office? Right.  I’ll sort it if you don’t have time. That’s fine. Jack is tired because of what? Yes, it’s a good film.  Well I’m sure you didn’t realise it was on til 10.  Thanks for wishing me luck.  Andrew hasn’t got his spelling book because he didn’t want to bring it.  He needs it for tomorrow, it’s a different test today.  Lovely.  What’s this? Natasha’s medicine.  Did you fill in the form on Friday for us to give it to her? I’m afraid you do have to or we can’t take it. I appreciate you don’t have time, but it’s a legal requirement for prescribed medicine.  Jack, put your lunch box on the rack carefully please. Now pick all the other ones up.  Ben will help you. Ilona, what do you need?  Tell me again.  Tell me again but slowly please. You need….a pack?  Which pack poppet?  Not a pack? You have……… you’ve hurt your back? Right!  Ok, well you be careful today, we’ll see how you get on in PE. No kit? Oh well. We’ll sort something out.

I give out more pencils - what do they do with them?
I help James go over his handwriting again.  
Show him how to go over and back again.
Hold his hand so he can feel me moving the pencil.

Come in… oh dear, trouble with the car again? Well you are here now!  Come on then. I’m afraid I don’t have any change to give you for Jenna’s dinner money right this minute.

I go back to James.
I go over his handwriting again.
He smiles because his looks a bit like the pattern this time.
I smile, because he’s smiling.
I walk around the classroom, checking what they are all doing whilst my TA does the register (the electronic one is broken again)

We stop.
We gather on the carpet.
We go through the day ahead.

Whilst I’m doing that, the TA separates the tables.
I look at the children’s faces looking up at me.
They trust me, Mr Gove.  
They trust me and you make me a liar.
We’re going to do some special work,
I tell them.
It is so special that it comes in a brightly coloured booklet.
There’s a story!  We love stories, don’t we.
We’ll like this one.  
It looks exciting.
Let’s look at the poster.
We find the characters.
We read the first page together.
We look at the practice questions and I tell them how to do them.
We talk about what I can and can’t do to help.
I sit them down, at opposite ends of their tables,
Tall books between them.
Silence reigns.
We write our names.
I correct a couple.
Shush, I say.  Shush.
Open to page 2.  
Read the story.  I say.
Answer the questions. I say.
Look back at the text as often as you like. I say.

I watch as the Emerald table rush into this task with relish,
Proud of my little high achievers.
You’d like them Mr Gove.  
They have parents who read every night.
They have holidays but never in term time.
They are the Alphas of your Brave New World of Education.

I look over the shoulder of a Sapphire child,
watching him go back and forth between the text and the question
and still not seeing the answer,
because he can read,
but he doesn’t think about books or talk about books at home.  
My Sapphires are your favourite children.
They make national average progress.
They follow that green line of perfection that you like.
They fit all your boxes.
They are good little Gammas Mr Gove,
and they will make lovely, obedient little workers,
in whatever little jobs are left for them in 15 years time.

But my Diamonds? Oh my Diamonds.
They aren’t your kind of child.

I make encouraging eye contact with my little Diamonds in the rough.
They are doing this for me, because I asked them to.
I’m doing this because you say I have to.
They trust me to give them ability levelled work.
They think, that because I gave this to them, that they must be able to do it.
They don’t see that everyone has the same paper.
They see their paper.
The one with their name in shaky letters on the front.
They know I don’t give them work they can not do.  
That’s the deal.  
They try their hardest, and I make sure that the work makes them think, pushes them on, and that they achieve at the end of it.

But they can’t achieve in this, can they Mr Gove?
I know it.
I could predict their scores in this reading SATs test and put a £50 bet on it if I had a spare £50,
(which I don’t thanks to the teacher pension contribution increase.
More money paid in for less money paid out.  
Thanks for that.)

I watch my Diamonds.
They are trying so hard.
Their faces fall further with each new page.  
Their fingers get slower and slower as they try to sound out the words using a synthetic phonics method that only works for half of them.

Danny’s eyes meet mine, his are filling up.
I am weeping for him on the inside,
And I am filled with this all-consuming rage towards you Mr Gove.
Look at what you are doing to this child.
I know how hard he works,
How much he wants to please,
And how much he feels he is letting me down because he can’t do this.
I whisper to him, that he can do this.  
Just keep trying.  
Just look again, read again.
He whispers back that his head hurts, his tummy hurts, his legs hurt.
I ask him if his ears hurt, and he smiles.
I ask him if his toenails hurt, and he laughs at me.
He shakes himself, takes a deep breath, just like I’ve taught him, and gets back to it.
That’s bravery Mr Gove, that little boy, right there.
He’s taking on something that makes no sense to him.
We aren’t the kind of school that knows what mangoes are.
My children don’t all have stories in the evening, or trips to the zoo to know what monkeys do.
But your SATs, they assume that all children have the cute story book life.

We don’t.

For 45 minutes, we sit.
I walk.
I encourage.
I smile.
I don’t hint, point, shake my head, or whatever else it is the book says I mustn’t do, and I try not to feel insulted that you feel the need to tell me not to cheat in these tests.

Emeralds read, and write, and reread, and check.
Sapphires read, and write, and look around the room and try to come and tell me they are finished, and I send them back to sit down.
Diamonds struggle on, and on.
And on.

Until finally, it’s playtime.
I send them out, and follow them with a banana in my pocket.
And breakfast.
Little ones come up to show me new shoes,
Tell me about new babies,
Tell me that Zacchary pushed them,
But it might have been an accident, they don’t know.
Big ones,
That were my little ones,
Play football in the never ending game that has no rules,
That has changable sides,
That would take a year of Football Focus to analyse.
When the bell goes, only they know who has won.

(You should recognise this game.  
Your education policies are like a game of playground football,
With the name calling and the changing sides and changing goals.
And at the end of the match,
between the government and the unions,
it's the teachers and the children who are the losers.)

We line up.
We remind ourselves of our behaviour focus to walk sensibly, and we go in.
The desks are still separated.
It’s only spelling, I tell them.
Just a special spelling test.
One so special it has a booklet with a big picture in the middle.
Danny starts to panic,
Chewing on the sides of his fingers,
And I tell him it's ok.
You make me a liar again Mr Gove.

They sit.
I read.
They write.
I reread.
They check.
We finish.
We collect the papers in and come to the carpet.

And suddenly….
Suddenly there is a tangible sense of excitement in the air.
This has been promised since the Met office said today might be sunny.
(Or at least, not raining.)

We look outside to double check the weather - we are green for go!
We talk through the learning objectives for numeracy,
The success criteria.
We think about the equipment we need and check we have it.
We think about what we want to find out.
We think about what good learning will look like.
We think about how we are going to record it.
We think about if we need coats and we think about health and safety.
We go.

We GO!

Outside, we go through the gates, and we are in the Park.

In the sunshine, my children are released from their desks Mr Gove,
From the constraints of the classroom, and they explore the natural habitat.
They run, and they laugh and they talk and at the same time they discover.
Did you know you can’t measure around a tree with a metre ruler?
No.  You have to use a tape measure.
Not a short one that is the same length as a metre ruler.
A long one.
A long winding winding one that trails across the grass and takes three people to hold around the tree.
And did you know Mr Gove? Did you know that you have to hold it really tight?
That you have to find where the tape crosses over it’s own self?
That those numbers, they tell you how big the tree is.
How round the tree is.
I give Marcus a mental tick on my mental chart for being able to say the word circumference.

I watch the EAL TA try and explain what we are doing with her group of children with different levels of English,
DIfferent levels of understanding,
Different levels of trauma,
Different backgrounds,
But all joyously together right now in how to measure a daisy with a ruler.
How to hold the ruler.
How to start from the zero.
You don’t need a long winding winding tape measure for this.
It’s only small.
You need a small ruler.
I give Andrew a mental tick for being able to use the word millimetres in context.

I observe them working Mr Gove.  
I take photographs for evidence for their books, knowing that I then have to transfer them, print them, stick them, annotate them.
I watch them recording their work on a whiteboard, free to rub it out with the back of their hand if it’s all gone wrong, and rewrite it, knowing that those need postit note names  and photocopying, and sticking in and annotating.

And I mustn’t forget to put the learning objectives and success criteria in.
And three stars, and a wish.
And then check it on the APP grids.
And the Assessment Mentoring Objective Sheet.
I know that the days of me being trusted to have taken my children out to do something useful are over.
I know it would be easier and less hassle to give them a worksheet Mr Gove.
I know you’d say I’m bringing all this work on myself.
That there are plenty of ways to learn this safely indoors.
Measuring lines and pictures.
Talking about the big things, never seeing or touching them.
But look at them man!
Look at the enjoyment of discovery, the embedded learning that is going on,
Listen to the talking, the teamwork, the partnerships.
Look at Danny smile when he gets the same answer as the others.
Listen to the girls trying to find three things that are 5cm long.

And then
I hear a child shouting...

“Miss, Miss, Miss, Look!
Look at the number.  
That tree has a number. 55034.”
And Jenna shouts
“Amy, look!  Look! This tree is 55035.
What does it mean?”

What does it mean Mr Gove?
It’s judgement call time.
This is not in my lesson plan.
I did not know that they would notice the trees had numbers.  
I don’t think I’d ever noticed that these trees had numbers.
It’s a judgement though isn’t it Mr Gove.
There is no planned learning objective for this.
No success criteria.
Just interested children, showing an awareness of their environment and wanting to know something.

I look at eager, expectant faces with shining eyes.

Judgement made.

I smile at them, and put on my face that they know is fake-confused.
Well I have no idea what they mean!  How confusing!  Why would you number a tree?
Do they all have a number? Who thinks that they know what that tree right at the end might be have for it’s number?

I watch hands go up, I take answers, and I send them haring down to the end of the line of trees.
I watch them race back, eyes bright, minds busy, faces glowing
As they shout answers before they’ve got anywhere close to me.
Laughing, they tell me the answer again,
Tell me who was right,
We talk about how they worked it out,
Why the numbers are there,
What it all means,
How we can use those numbers to identify which trees we have measured.

And then it’s back to investigating whether the trees with the biggest circumference have the longest leaves.

(Do you know the answer Mr Gove?  
Maybe you should get outside more,
Away from dingy offices and boring meetings.
Find the joy that can be found in spending time with real children in the real outdoors.)

It was at that moment Michael,
Standing in the sunshine,
Facilitating the discovery-work of my class,
Photographing Jack and Matthew measuring around a tree with a winding winding tape measure,
And listening to Andrew tell Ilona about Units of measurement,
That I had one of those moments.
A moment of glorious love for my job, for my class, for my life.
A moment of beautiful serendipity,
That told me that what we were doing was right.
That *this* was worth the hours of work I had ahead of me,
Filling in spots on various lists of learning objectives.
The hours of work that will be in my time, Mr Gove.
My time that I give to my children, to my vocation.
You pay me from 8:30-3:30.  
You don’t even pay the lunch that I run choir and recorder club in.
You don’t pay the time I do before school at home.
You don’t pay the time I will spend tonight.
Or at the weekends.
Or in the holidays.
But I don’t do it for you, Mr Gove,
It may be a shock, but you aren’t the centre of my world.
You and your stats and your numbers and your levels.
I do it for them, Michael.

I do it for Matthew and Sean and James and Georgina and Jenna and the hundreds of other children I have taught over the last 16 years.
Especially for my Diamond Danny's,
Who don't fit your boxes, because they are people, not just a number.

I didn’t strike last time.
I spent the day with my class.
I don’t know how much longer I can make that choice though.
You are choosing to erode
My professional standing,
My freedom of thought,
My vocation,
My pension,
My future.

Worse though, much worse, is that you are damaging my children.
Taking their independent thought,
Their imagination,
Their freedom.
Making them Delta's in your World.

I can’t let you do that.


Crazy With Twins