Sunday, June 4, 2017

Weighing the pigs....

Many years ago when I worked as a Deputy in Stockwell, London, one of my colleagues was an utterly charming year 2 teacher called Adrian.  Despite being intelligent, witty, thoughtful and possessing a wonderfully cheerful disposition, all essential attributes for a teacher, I always found myself thinking Adrian seemed slightly out of place in that setting.  Looking back I was wrong......Adrian is exactly the type of mildly eccentric character that makes working in an inner city primary school so enjoyable.  I had many a cheery conversation with him as we passed in the corridor leading to the photocopier room.... often initiated by me asking what his day had in store and he'd reply...."weighing the pigs Hugh, weighing the pigs" as he rushed passed carefully balancing a pile of photocopied SATs papers!  He of course was not describing his Year Two children as pigs but passing judgement on the process he found himself embroiled in every year. Namely giving 6/7 year olds practice SATs papers to see what progress they had made.

Thankfully the approach of most schools has moved on since the turn of the century (you have no idea how wonderful it feels to be able to use that phrase in my own writing) although we do find ourselves deep into testing season again. Our Year Six children took their Key Stage Two SATs earlier last term and Year Two's assessment window has also now finished.  It will soon be time for the Year One phonics screening and EYFS end of stage assessments.  Whether or not you agree with the current levels of assessment primary aged children experience we can all agree that the better our children perform in such assessments, the better our school will be judged to be performing.  For that reason, this time of year is vital to the future success of the school and my mind often recalls the charismatic Adrian, frantically preparing himself for another day of testing.  Now is the time for nervous waiting.  The results will soon come back.  I know how hard staff have worked with the children to ensure that they are able to do themselves honest justice and so we count down the days until all is revealed.  The term ended with a fun staff gathering for prosecco and pizza.....a small gesture of gratitude for how incredibly hard they have again worked this term.


I would love to be able to say that my colleagues at the coal face have spent the last week relaxing in the glorious early summer sunshine but in truth I know this will not be the case for so many of them.  May Bank is perhaps the only holiday that most dedicated teachers don't actually look forward to.  It is a week spent either writing school reports, or worrying about writing them or feeling guilty for putting of writing them whilst you sound time with your loved ones.  I on the other hand have managed to have a fairly full week with my family and friends. 

Friday night I popped up to London to take a friend round the Tate Britain to see the Hockney exhibition before it closes.  I have seen it a couple of times and thoroughly enjoyed it both times.....but got more out of it the second time.  It's often the way as things can sink in and you seem to have the time too notice and appreciate things more.

Saturday brought the nervousness that is Cup Final day to our house.  Gone our those childhood days of getting up early to go round to your mates house to then watch every single TV minute until the cup was lifted... including the road to Wembley, Cup Final it's a Knockout and even breakfast with the wives.  However, much to my delight and utter astonishment my boys rose like salmon to the occasion and shattered the double dreams of Chelsea....savoured in the local with the girls of course!

 On the first Sunday of the holiday I spent a lovely afternoon enjoying the sunshine and dappled shade of Knole Park in Sevenoaks.  I first discovered this charming setting about three years ago and have gone several times.  The house itself would warrant the journey alone, but the true magic of the place is in it's setting, an extensive Deer Park and the fact that it is located just yards from a busy town centre.  It was one of those early summer days of hot sunshine punctuated by the occasional passing cloud that has typified this half-term.

On Monday I went to Welling to visit my oldest brother and our wider family.  It was a day for true celebration as four weeks ago he was on a life support machine and not expected to pull through following a heart attack and suspected brain damage.  On the day my twin and I should have been celebrating our birthdays we were in Kings College Hospital paying what we suspected were our last respects to our big brother.  His recovery has been remarkable and has had a rejuvenating effect on our family.  So yes, a splendid day.  So many happy faces, hugs and genuine affection mixed with visible relief.  He faces a long period of recovery and an uncertain future level of self-determination but at least he is on that journey. 

Tuesday started with a pop into school to catch up on finances with Mel our School Business Manager and then home for dog walks and a visit to the Bay.  We had planned a bbq but forgot the metal tray thingy with the burnt things in had to settle for a stroll along the tide and a fish & chips supper.

Wednesday I managed to dodge the showers and catch up with an old friend for a round of golf.  Lovely company and the old swing didn't let me down too badly.  Actually I was rather pleased with my performance in a typical non-competitive, non-bragging male way :)

Thursday we visited Hever Castle on another hot day.  We have made a conscious decision this holiday to try to take Yinka with us everywhere....except for on the golf course......naturellement.  She was really well behaved and definitely added to the ambiance in that chewing, lead pulling, face licking way that dogs do!  

Friday was again busy....returning to Welling to do some gardening for my brother on his allotment in the sun.  It ended with a very giggly BBQ on the Bay at dusk with Chloe, her bestie and our occasionally faithful hound.....great fun. 

Saturday started with the usual run throughout the fields with the hairy alligator....some lovely wild flowers on view.....

I then spent the day with a friend who showed me an amazing field of if plucked from Provence...and we had a lovely afternoon and evening chatting and laughing. 

I drove home to the horrors of London Bridge on the radio and woke this morning to the details.  It's a desperately sad time for society but London, just like Manchester and other great european cities before it, has risen to the challenge, dusted itself down, vowed to not be bowed and carried on being the wonderful, exciting, diverse and tolerant place we all love.  I couldn't imagine letting such acts change my life for one moment.  The last few weeks have only reaffirmed my resolve to enjoy life, celebrate life and as the saying goes......learn to dance in the rain.  

Today itself has been a return to dog walks and domestic duties....I hope you have all enjoyed your week as much as I have.

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