Making A River #THISislearning

So it had been raining all week; that awful, hyperthermic, very wet rain that forces you to turn Cbeebies onto the Smartboard every playtime so the teachers can make a mad dash to the toilet and the kettle. Everyone was crabby, bored and twitchy. So what did we do the minute the rain stopped and the sun shone? Obviously we donned our wellingtons and our waterproofs, filled up the watering cans, grabbed some washing up liquid and headed outside to make some puddles to splash in.

Puddle jumping isn’t an unfamiliar activity. We regularly venture outside to jump and splash. We fill puddles with soap and food colouring so the children can have physical access to the science involved. They comment on the effect jumping has to the volume of bubbles, observe colour mixing, create different effects with footprints, brooms and large paint brushes. More to the point, they absolutely love the exuberant experience of running and jumping and testing their physical limits and risk taking with outdoor water play. This time was no different and we had to return the watering cans to the taps time and time again; until one child carried a large heavy watering can to a part of the playground with a slope.

As this child poured the water onto the slope, some other children gathered around. They spent a very long time observing the flow of the water as it meandered in a snaking pathway down the playground and under the gate at the bottom and into the road. They were completely fascinated and lots of discussion ensued. They filled and re-filled the watering can to repeat the process time and time again. The children walked the pathway of the water as it flowed, they observed that it was ‘running’ down ‘a hill’; they were fascinated that it could escape under the gate when they could not. One child suddenly announced, “look it’s a river”- cue a quick dash to the classroom to collect boats, ducks, fish and nets. The children collectively then played ‘rivers’, were fishermen and pirates and mermaids. They sang ‘6 little Ducks’ and ‘Row Your Boat’.

The outcomes from this unprepared (desperate bid for fresh air) activity were enormous. The children took back into the classroom a whole host of questions about rivers, the traveling of water and inclines. This was then developed within further investigations using cars and marbles down tubes. We measured speed and distance and the children observed the difference in their own bodies by walking up and down hills and stairs.

Planning in the moment within the EYFS during ‘incidental’ activities often generates the best outcomes. 

And illustrated fantastically by Maddy



Knock, Knock.

The black hooded grip of a creeper is skulking,

whispering venom, 

Sneaking and stalking .

And into your stomach it’s pincers are 


twisting and


devouring and 


From pockets of hope 

it claims what it’s stealing; 

declaring it’s master of all you are feeling;

to pillage your dreams,

and pick-pocket pleasure;

while smearing the sparkle 

of unexplored treasure. 

It crawls uninvited;

while you are sleeping;

skilfully looting,

and craftily creeping;

and into your slumber it’s wilfully catching; 

whilst you are dreaming;

calm breathing snatching.

And into your waking thoughts, 

clarity blurred;

memory becomes tangled and 

thoughts become slurred.

Sucking out smiles then it feeds off your fear;

and injecting it’s poison

in what you hold dear;

it holds you its captive;

you’re trapped in its bind;

it’s gained all your trust 

and infected your mind.

So when it comes knocking 

then lock that door fast;

don’t let it in,

don’t let it past.

It’s a guest uninvited and not welcome here;

that Grim Reaper called Doubt 

and it’s friend we call Fear.


For Sale

We outgrew our house two children ago, it is a lovely house but it’s been time to move on for at least the last five years. We have dithered and we haven’t dithered particularly pragmatically- I have been focused entirely on the shortcomings in our home; my husband, more sensibly, on the practical things we needed to achieve with it before we could move. It has been a bit of a sporadically unsettling experience. But now, finally, we are ready; it’s time to move!




For sixteen years we have lived here; our entire relationship spent within these walls. We planned our wedding from the kitchen table and came home here from our honeymoon and into our marriage. Into this house we have bought home four newborn babies and watched them grow. We have renovated, decorated, re-decorated, extended and painted. We have lived, laughed and loved; planned each new adventure, argued and cried. This house; a haven of both celebration- and occasional grief, has been where we have battened down the hatches and weathered all the emotional storms of family living; every inch of every wall contains a memory or an anecdote; our children have known no other home, our family has lived in no other house. 

As we, very slowly, wade through the mammoth task that is ‘the big sort out’; inevitably this is unleashing an enormous stock of whimsical nostalgia- memories that will always be part of the bricks and mortar of this house. We are the only family to have ever lived in it; it’s memory is entirely about the life it has seen us live together- I cannot imagine another family sleeping in our bedrooms and watching TV in our lounge. How many different children will learn to walk on these floors in years to come? Will they ride their bikes in the field next to our house like our children do, buy their milk at the shop at the end of the road? Will they fill the loft with outgrown memories over the years just as we have done? It’s a very strange thought that this house, our HOME, will one day,  in the near future,  have that same symbolic resonance for strangers that we are yet to meet. I can’t quite get my head round it.

But for now,


it is still where we live.

And the walls will always keep our memories protected; the sound of my babies crying and their feet thumping on the stairs; the countless happy birthdays sung and all the noisy Christmases; they aren’t quite echoes yet.

It will always have been our home first, 

it will always have been our first home!

I love this house.

Angels of Silence


The quiet of the evening  

sets free the inner voice that lives within her.


in and out

and thinking;

the types of thoughts that have no words.

Just dreaming,

of what could be and what might be;

her inner voice kept company

with freedom thoughts and sanctuary.

For just a little while,

it kept her warm and made her smile;

in silence,

in that moment,

of the evening.


#HaikuTeacher(What teachers are secretly thinking… In haiku poetry)

I have decided that my new hobby will be to annotate my secret teachery thoughts in haiku and tweet them with an appropriate silly image. Here are a few to whet the appetite. Feel free to join in should you so desire.

Don’t forget to hashtag #HaikuTeacher.

Staff Room  

Must sit on same chair,

Must drink tea out of same cup,

Must ignore the bell.

The Photocopier


Run out of toner,

Roller jammed with paper,

What can I teach now?



Not another one,

If I do a cut and paste

Will anyone notice?

Staff Meetings   Why on a Monday?

Open eyes and look engaged, 

Want to go to bed.

School Trips


Scared I might lose one,

Spend all day counting children,

BP off the scale.

Last Day Of Term  

They made a poster,

And watched a film, so shoot me,

We all deserved it.



What on earth is that?

No one ever taught me that!

Thank God for Google.

I am not just ‘teacher’


So I signed up for without having much of clue about what I was doing. I had no ‘project’; still don’t really. But, in an effort to plug away at writing, I had a rare spur of the moment fit of spontaneity and thought what the hell. I named my project with the lovely vague title of, ‘writing a collection of mainstream poetry’, and commenced.

Camp NaNoWriMo (for those who are as clueless as I was a few days ago) is a world wide online writing community. During the month of April it challenges you to write every single day and record your progress (in a word count). Some people have set themselves a challenge of writing a whole novel, or a screen play; some have a word-count challenge of 50,000 words. Many people ‘camping’ there are proper authors, bonefide writers. They call themselves writers- because that’s what they are. I tried not to allow this to intimidate me; I shuffled into the camp, lurked behind a little tree and hoped no one would notice me. I haven’t (and won’t) call myself a ‘writer’; I have no commissions- I don’t even have a project or a plan. But, I do enjoy writing! I decided to be brave enough to hang out unobtrusively; I would pitch my tent far enough away from the buzz of ‘proper writers’ and try to absorb knowledge from the experts. I set myself a word challenge of 5,000 words- it’s doubtful I will achieve that; and I began to write. So far I have written two poems (442 words in total- not that I’m feeling the pressure or anything).

I have realized recently just how important writing is to me. It has become more than a hobby. I have always written cathartically, without much discipline, and usually in direct response to whatever I am feeling at the time. My writing; in particular the writing I have kept private; reflects this; it’s a rather narcissistic purge- much of it now makes me cringe when I read it. But, at the time of writing it; the process of organising those words into poetry, prose, shouty statements and sentimental metaphors; was as necessary to me as my first cup of coffee every morning- it restored my equilibrium. I love that writing does this for me, that it makes sense of my head; that it almost has its own brain. Sometimes when I finish something, and then read it back for the first time, I don’t recognise it; it’s like someone else has written it- how amazing is that?

Anyway, I digress; back to Camp NaNoWriMo. You might be wondering how I managed to sign up for something that I knew nothing about. Well, this process has partly evolved organically, and partly out of a little tentative productiveness on my part. I began writing my blog a few months ago; my initial plan was to blog about education issues from the personal perspective of being both a teacher and a parent- I enjoyed doing this and still do. I knew nothing about blog writing, it was a huge learning curve! I suddenly found myself in the ‘whole new world’ that is Twitter- this platform has been a mixed blessing (mainly positive)- the education community on Twitter are exceptionally knowledgeable, the debates are fiercely passionate. Twitter has prompted me to research these debated issues privately and develop my own subject knowledge; to think outside the box that is my own little classroom. I am grateful for that! Education, like many professions, is ever evolving; I don’t want to rest on my laurels, I have no problems with challenging my thinking.


and here’s the thing…

When your entire cohort of Twitter followers/following comrades are ALL teachers and educationalists fiercely debating education (all day and all night) , the politics of education and the many, many different theories of education; it can become absolutely, relentlessly, and all consumingly exhausting. I found myself becoming increasingly overwhelmed by the brilliance of others, worried about joining conversations, wary if my opinion contradicted the debate. I fell into a couple of ‘Twitter-Traps’ and became devoured by the wolf-pack which I found more stressful than I care to admit. This isn’t me, it’s not who I am; politician, freedom-fighter, revolutionary, academic- these are not tags I associate with myself. I’m much more a wallflower than a player. Eavesdropping the debate and learning from it is far more my thing than joining in with the collective shout; and taking what I learn (or discarding it) back into the classroom is, for me, far more meaningful. 

So what of my blog? 

Well interestingly that has changed as my relationship with Twitter has moved on. As I felt myself withdraw from engaging (eavesdropping) with the big education debates being conducted from all angles I also stopped writing about my own personal experience as teacher. I started to be more selective about what I wanted to ‘learn’ from Twitter; I started to know which lead professionals I identified with, and spoke sense in my professional language, and who to avoid. Part of the rationale behind reducing what I post about education is a loss of confidence on my part- and the reality that what I write is actually being read by (not that many, let’s face it- but, read nonetheless) people. I questioned the validity and relevance of it. My posts on education are a personal reflection; not theoretical or academic, not big and certainly not clever. There are no references to science, it contains no statistics, it hasn’t really got a point to prove. So instead, I cosied up with my likeminded few, (#napchat, #OptimisticEd- you all know who you are), continued to tap into conversation that interests me about education and I started to fill the rest of my Twitter feed with conversation that interests me about the rest of my life. I am, after all, not just ‘teacher’- sometimes I like to pretend I am a writer too! 

(And this post is 1004 words- pressure is off for today’s Camp NaNoWriMo count! Whoop)




Her self-image had become skewed and off centre. The voices that had, for a lifetime, driven and motivated her with a loud and clanging criticism, with impossible rules and demanding, procrastinating idealism had warped whatever perception she had of herself. The person that she had become was in broken pieces; a smashed reflection with each shard of jagged glass threatening to damage, draw blood and cause pain. In each splintered piece she kept a piece of her identity preserved and trapped and staring back at her with pleading eyes blurred and in shadows. Each tiny shard was a captured image of her own self over the years and decades, lost in time, but forever there. An evocative memory, a self-portrait torn and frayed by time. The woman became submerged in each tiny particle and disfigured by the broken lines that meshed the image together, but, as she stared into her memories, a new reflection slowly began to materialise and become superimposed over the top. Shaky lines and a layer of new truth blended past and present together as she painfully began the slow reconstruction of reinvention.

Her new self-portrait began life as a combination of suppressed emotions and aspirations clinging to her subconscious tenuously, but fed voraciously by the freedom that came with finally climbing out of her childhood. The pencil that bravely made the first shaky markings of an amateur sketch had much to learn but was guided by testimonies of skilled teachers, loyal friends, genuine achievements. It was fed by the soft looks of love and the wet kisses of children. Each of these blessings gave credence to the dormant spirit of a person who needed to understand herself, but the image was hazy, the likeness unclear. It’s features retained a wooden stiffness that didn’t quite ring true.

But the pencil, chewed at the end and splintered through much sharpening, was wise enough to rebel against the hand that was guiding it. The pencil had its own memory and was an honest artist, it knew the contours of her face, the blemishes and the flaws; it knew the parts of her she liked to hide and it had scrutinised the lines and furrows. It knew the secrets she kept hidden there and the crevices to search in. 

 The pencil’s path was lazy and meandering and in no great hurry to arrive at its conclusion. It took a seductive and gentle journey across the paper, taking time to explore the tiniest details of her reflection and expose its image in soft charcoal greys using light and shadows to inject life into her eyes and creases into her smile. The soft hues of black and white told a story of many questions as the pencil caressed a longing into her eyes with a sweeping stroke that was so compelling that those eyes seemed to beg for someone to notice them and dared for someone to care. When the pencil added light and tone to them there was a clinging defiance looking out from the back that no one could ignore. Her eyes spoke of battles fought; loss and victory, submission and accomplishment. The woman, who looked on at the progress of the portrait that the pencil was slowly carving, was startled;  barely recognised her own familiar features. She turned away from it to hide behind the familiar shards of her broken mirror. 

As the pencil worked hard to breathe life into her face it added shading to soften the sharp lines of the outline. Working tirelessly,  the pencil scratched into the portrait furrows of age, with moles and  creases that spoke of experience  The picture slowly took on a tone of maturity with layers of shadow and light and dark that reflected  an ever more prominent look of defiance. Ridges drawn into her brow and over her eyebrows spoke of untold secrets; heavy  eyelids suddenly appeared blinking through tousled hair sketched over an unfinished face that was still blank and expressionless. Eyes peeked cautiously, as if hiding, and seemed to be clinging on to a forgotten desire for acceptance, protection and affirmation. And the woman; still hiding behind the fragments of splintered glass from her broken mirror; chose to remain hidden in these shattered, disjointed and broken pieces of her own face. She looked away from the new portrait disdainfully and rejected what she saw.

The pencil, working with meticulous care, and with slow careful strokes, continued to gently caress the face with carbon and charcoal. The shape of the ear and the cleft of the chin came alive under its watch. The woman’s unique features became visible and real as a few magical sweeps included a half-smile that gave off a faint suggestion of anticipation and rebellion, a clinging promise of hope. Lines added to the corners of the mouth, that were the dents and the creases of a hundred smiles,  gave balance to the sadness still lingering in the back of her eyes. The innocence of her children’s love, the generosity of true friendship, a look of mutual adoration from a loving union began to soften the lines of cynicism and mistrust that were threatening to harden her mouth and dull the light in her eyes. There was a movement and colour worked into her hair that offered a notion of freedom and independence.

As the pencil cleverly breathed life into the picture, sculpting it with careful smudging of light and dark, an image recognisable to everyone but the woman herself became visible. The woman in the picture was both tangible and deeply human. Neither beautiful or perfect; she wore her own scarred skin with a look of pride that seemed to transcend the pain she had endured along the way. The defiance in the lines sketched around her eyes, the stubbornness finely crafted into the subtle tilt of her chin she seemed to own as unique evidence of her own life’s journey; not her definition, or even her description;  but rather a distinct feature of her completed self. The face on the paper also claimed its own joy and laughter, hope and unity and these were captured in a soft open smile that sang its own testimony. These bountious, promising gifts were as much a part of her face as the scars themselves and complimented each other; the pencil had blended the two together until they were entwined and conjoined. So, separation from joy and sadness, love and loss appeared impossible and futile; such was the relationship they had with eachother. 

And, all this while, the woman, lost in the pieces of her shattered reflection, looked into the countless, timeless eyes staring up from the broken pieces of glass and wondered who she was and who she is and who she will become. The lines between memory and experience, past, present and future became as blurred as the smudges of grey around the eyes of her drawing. She turned to her portrait and looked far into those eyes on the charcoal face and, for the very first time, a hint of recognition danced across her own. The haunting eyes in her broken mirror were also looking back from the picture and were the same eyes as the ones on her own face. They looked at her with love, and spoke of solidarity and acceptance. They spoke an understanding and a truth that she was able, at last, to register. The memories of the child she once was helped her grow into the woman she had become; her choices were her own and she belonged only to herself. She realised that her portrait was no longer a reinvention but that she was learning, finally, to become herself.