Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Learning and Growing

That's it! Reception year is finished...

School is finally out for summer...  

Wow, that year went fast. The once pristine book bag is now looking well used, the hem on her dresses are much shorter and I've been praying for a while now that the velcro on her scuffed and tattered shoes would make it to the end of term (it has...just).  

The summer holidays seem to have been a long time coming and this past week I've seen so many children and families already enjoying their time off.  As we had a two week May half term break, we have finished later for summer and get a 5 week break instead of 6.  I am sure the weeks will fly by (they will once I've planned lots of things to fill the days with them!).

The children have had a more relaxed last week at school and yesterday, their penultimate day as the youngest year group in the school, they had a party day.  They were allowed to wear their own party clothes, played party games and the day ended with all the parents coming in to see the children presented with their end of year certificates.  

We arrived to find the children all sat outside in the sun playing pass the parcel.  After their game had finished we all piled into one of the classrooms for the certificates.  It was very packed - they apparently haven't had so many parents attend before - some of us got the pleasure of sitting on the tiny plastic chairs and for others it was standing room only.  

As each child's name was read out, they were asked to stand as their certificate was awarded to them.  There were awards for being a special friend, for helping in the classroom, being happy, making their friends laugh, for improving the most during the year and for working the hardest.  A lovely way of acknowledging each child's non-academic attributes (not every child excels academically) and their uniqueness.  There was a lovely atmosphere in the room (and lots of proud tears from mums and dads) as each child was individually celebrated and their special contribution during the year recognised.  I did wonder what Ella would be awarded and when it came to it my hunch was correct...


She was given a certificate for her lovely artwork and drawings - very appropriate as that is her most favourite thing to do and is something she has definitely improved in over the course of the year.  A lovely end of year gift from the teachers to each child - something for them to be proud of and take with them into year 1.

And with the end of term, comes the giving of gifts from the class to the class teacher or, in our case, teachers.  

When there is more than one teacher to buy for (job share, long term supply, classroom assistant) or your child has had support from a Teaching Assistant (TA) or Learning Support Assistant (LSA) then it can very easily become a costly business.  

I started pondering this a while ago and trying to find a way to give meaningful and useful tokens of thanks without it becoming too expensive. For Ella, there were presents to buy for her class teacher - Mrs G, classroom assistant Mrs A, two TA's Mrs S & Miss P and Mrs L the SEN teacher. Six presents in total.  Even with a budget of £5-£10 per present that would mean spending between £30-£60.

I was also aware that Ella is only one child of 30 in the class.  I knew from consulting a good friend and reception teacher that firstly no teacher expects anything and after that, there is only so many personalised mugs/keyrings they can find use for.  Her favourite gifts over the years have been 'as dull as it sounds' (her words!) wine, plant/flowers or book/coffee shop tokens. All good starting points. 

Thankfully one of the mums in each reception class started a collection for each class teacher so I gave some money to that for Mrs G.  The collection has managed to provide a present for her, her classroom assistant plus a little gift for the TA's.  

Mrs L is a Special Educational Needs Teacher who works with the reception teachers and provides support to the 7 children in the year who have additional needs.  I thought a collection for her too would be well received and managed to collect a good amount from some of the other 6 parents.  

I liked my friends idea of a plant/flowers as a gift and the associated theme of helping the children to grow over the year. I also wanted something homemade that we could personalise and the children could add their own mark to.  After a quick search online, I found enough ideas to turn the theme into a present, which consists of:

  • A terracotta plant pot (the size I used cost me £1.50)
  • Blackboard paint (already had)
  • pack of white chalk (already had)
  • Packet of seeds £2.20
  • online printables - free - see here
  • chocolates £3
  • special teacher hanging ornament £4
  • £25 gift voucher
  • card and bag £3.50
Total: £36.20 


And this was the finished product...

                   



Following on with the plant/flower theme, I gave each child a printed flower template to colour in/write their name on/personalise and make their own for the card (unfortunately I sealed the card before I thought to take a picture but will hopefully be able to add a picture in soon).

I also wanted to get a little something just from Ella for the 2 TA's who have worked so closely with her over the course of the year.  I loved how well the plant pot had come out that I went and got 2 more and added in the seeds, chalk and bags of chocolate.  Ella has written her name on the note for them.  Theirs worked out at £4.70 per present.  Can't argue with that. Hopefully they will like them and find them useful and meaningful gifts.


We will be back, before we know it, for another year of learning and growing in September...

                        September 2015

                             July 2016

School Is Out!!

Friday, 15 July 2016

Our Little Butterfly In The Wind...

I can't believe that Ella only has two more weeks left in her reception year at school. This time last year I was so full of anticipation, hope and worry at the thought of sending her to school... 


Anticipation of her happiness and achievements, hope for the friends she would make and the things she would learn. And worry that she was slowly making her way into the big wide world, less protected by me, experiencing her day to day life on her own and learning where she fits in and belongs.  

I mostly and above all else, just wanted for her to be happy and settled in her new school. Everything else would just be a bonus.

In the last couple of weeks, we've had her review meeting and her first sports day, shes met her new teacher and spent time in her new classroom. In the next couple of weeks we will be saying goodbye to some of the staff who have made her first year at school a happy one full of fun, friends, learning and achievements.  

At home time today, the children streamed out of school, each proudly carrying a large white envelope containing their first ever school report.  

I've had mixed feelings about getting her report.  I knew it would be hard to see in black and white what Ella's current level of achievement is for each part of the curriculum.  There are no ticks in the 'expected' or 'exceeding' columns, just a consistent 'emerging' throughout. And even though it's exactly what I was expecting, it's still difficult to have to accept that the gap between her and her peers is there, represented by the ticks on the page.  I know if there was a section on overcoming challenges, producing the most volume of art work or working harder than her peers to achieve similar outcomes she would 'exceed' in all of them. 

However, I am just as proud as any parent who opened their child's report this evening to find ticks in every 'exceeding' box.  

Ella has made huge leaps this year, in her speech, in making friends, in knowing her letters and phonics and in her understanding.  Yes, her progress isn't at the same level as a typical 5 year old but that's all that matters - PROGRESS.  No matter how big or small it may seem, she is still moving forward, learning and consolidating.  She's loved her time in reception and I am just as excited about what she will achieve and the progress she will make in the next school year.  

For what it's worth, I do like the word 'emerging'.  It promises that there is more to come, we haven't seen the best yet and to keep our expectations high. The growing, learning caterpillars are emerging into each individuals butterfly of potential. For some, being able to fly in each area of the curriculum comes easily but for others it takes them longer to get there. 

As I read Ella's report, I was reminded of this quote...


The best part of the report wasn't the comments from the teacher and headteacher or suggested next steps, it was this self report page that Ella has filled in herself. It speaks volumes...


As Ella's first term in reception came to an end, I wrote this post featuring Ella attempting to write 'mummy'.  And then she came home from Rainbows one Tuesday evening having done this, all by herself...


And there will always be moments like today when I am reminded that life for Ella is different and more challenging.  And as a mum, it's hard to accept that. But from day one she has taught me that she will get there in her own way and in her own time. 

And as always, her achievements, no matter how small, mean the world.


Our little butterfly in the wind, Ella bean xx

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