the school dance show

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Lights down as curtains swish

As parents hush each other, rustling

Their programmes handed out

By eager twelve year olds, at the entrance

Smiles and welcomes to the show

And then the music starts, as lines

Of leotarded girls step out

With canes and top hats in their hands,

A Year 11 sings New York New York

And parents tap along to trumpet sounds

The final notes and jazz hands wave

While parents jump to tired feet

Applauding all the smiling kids.

We had a school dance show today and the kids were so excited to tell me all about it. I didn’t stay to watch but I was leaving the school just as they were all coming in at about 6ish.

A girl has already showed me a video from last night’s performance and it was bloody brilliant. She allowed me to watch their rendition of New York New York, complete with top hats and canes and a full live band.

I knew that they were also doing a number from the Matilda musical and a Bollywood dance and it was lovely to see them all so excited about performing. Kids can sometimes lack any motivation to do anything so I feel all warm and fuzzy when I see those that have put all that effort in and are really putting themselves out there and getting involved.

I bumped into three of my favourite Year 7s in the car park as I was leaving, and they were all dressed up in their scruffy school uniforms and their hair was all back combed. They came running up to me and asked if they looked like Revolting Children as that was the song from Matilda that they were dancing to.

I told them they looked like the kind of children I would never want to teach and they ran off laughing, satisfied with my answer.

Well done to all the kids out there who just give it a go. You rock.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the pe lesson outside my window, may thirteenth

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I hear the teenage girls screeching

And the thwack of the ball hitting the bat,

The team cheers as she scores a rounder,

Firing up my projector and wishing

For a sunshiney afternoon on the field,

Fresh cut grass and sunglasses on

As the boys play dodgeball and someone screams

So angry that another boy cheated,

My books go out onto plastic top desks

Print out materials flutter to the floor

Catching the light and the cries of gulls,

I wish that I could be out there too

As I stack up the novels and dream

Of netball or running or a swimming pool hour

I listen intently to the PE class sounds

Outside my window on May the thirteenth.

the surprise visit

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The man at the back of the room

With the briefcase and the suit

Looking important and taking notes

Totally unexpected, like an unwanted gift

Sent to judge and assess,

And no one quite knows the result,

Hoping for answers to come in the morning

For the scary inspection that came with no warning.

I am not very good at being watched when I work, because I always feel as though I am being judged so that the company can use their findings to get me fired. So, when I have an unplanned observation, I go into panic mode.

When I got to my room this afternoon there was a man in a dark suit with a briefcase and a notebook waiting for me. He was one of the school governors and he assured me that he just wanted to see the school’s new behaviour policy in action, but that wasn’t enough to push down my irrational fears.

To make matters worse, the headteacher then walked in as I think she was concerned about what the governor was seeing in a new teacher’s classroom – after all, I guess her job depends on him being happy.

I think it all went fine, given that I was teaching a class of low ability boys whose behaviour is never normally all that great.

Now I just need to wait until the morning to see if I have a note from the headteacher on my desk, asking me to come up and see her for a serious chat. Keep your fingers crossed for me guys!

Much Love

Rachel xx

criticism is hard to give

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You know your words are barbed with poison,

Ready to explode, a hot grenade,

Ripping through the gentle souls

And yet you’re forced to utter them,

Cringing, crying, craving some release

And all the while we’re realising that

It must be hard to dish that out from day to day.

As a first year teacher, I am at the bottom of the pecking order, so I tend to just go into work, keep my head down and then go home when the day is done. But yesterday, I had to use my words and I found it really difficult.

We had a department meeting and the senior member of staff who was running the meeting was trying to get all of us to practice ‘radical candour’. I had never heard of this term before, but lots of leaders try to use it to give criticism, but deliver it woth love.

Being always on the bottom rung, I realise that I don’t have much confidence in myself, so the idea of giving criticism to people above me was terrifying.

At the end of the session we had to write on a post it, what we want management to stop that could make our life easier. It was anonymous, but the ideas were read out to the group.

I think that it was writing the words ‘I want you to stop’ that was the most difficult thing because that involves creating boundaries and I am so bad at that. So, telling my boss what they should not do in order to make me enjoy my job more felt so uncomfortable I wanted to be sick.

It was an interesting exercise and if you are in a leadership role, I really advise that you give that kind of thing a go, because I think everyone walked out feeling a bit lighter.

I just have to deal with my guilt now, because every time I look at my boss I can’t help but think that I might have hurt her yesterday…

Much Love

Rachel xx

taking a little responsibility

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Take a look at the things you do,

The rings that spread outwards

And ask what effect you have

On the shores of the lake

And how could you change

Yourself for the better

In a selfish world?

I’m struggling with a few students at the moment, because they just don’t seem able to control their behaviour. And I am left wondering if these students have the ability to control their impulses.

When I first got sober, one of the most important steps was to acknowledge that there were issues and that I had to learn to control my behaviour. I could have just continued the way I was because it was easy, but I really wanted a better life and so that involved taking responsibility for my actions.

Some of the children I teach, seem unable to accept that their behaviour is unacceptable and they seem willing to blame everyone and everything else, rather than take a deep look at themselves.

Perhaps they are too young to understand and as they mature, they will learn that it’s not fair on the people around them. But I hope that this does happen because I strongly disagree with giving people an out because they have ADHD or anxiety or whatever other issue they have.

The only way to live a full life is to learn to control those impulses, and sometimes that can be really bloody uncomfortable. But it must be done.

Much Love

Rachel xx

the list of things i wanted to achieve when i was seven

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To be a scientist and to work in a zoo,

To make it to the Olympics as a pole vaulter

And to maybe end up in space

Or in the middle of the Atlantic

In a rowing boat, dreaming of nights

On my luxury yacht, with my movie star man,

Drinking bottle of Moet

And laughing at how lucky I am.

Like a lot of people, I had big dreams when I was seven and I had a checklist of things that I wanted to achieve. I actually wrote them down and put them in a little purse and I would often look at them and sometimes add so I still remember a lot of what was in the list.

The funny thing is that I have achieved nearly all of the big things but not in the way I expected. And it makes me think that actually the universe or God or whatever you believe is controlling things, has quite a sense of humour.

I wanted to swim the channel and hold a world record and I did that in my own right. But I also said that I wanted to have something I’d written printed in a national newspaper. I ended up working for a company that sold living aids for old people and I wrote the copy for the adverts. I remember buying the paper and just staring at the advert, knowing I had written those words. Alas, I never got my own opinion column, but there is still time.

I also promised myself I would go to the Olympics, but I didn’t specify that I wanted to compete. I was lucky enough to get a ticket to see the swimming when we hosted the Olympics in London – a once in a lifetime opportunity, if ever there was one.

I’m sure we all have those childhood dreams that we still hang onto and I’d love to hear what other people have actually carried out. I wonder if anyone reading this has actually made it to space yet?

Much Love

Rachel xx

the audition that brings chills

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She steps out on the stage

Looking sheepish, in jeans

And a crazy tie dye shirt,

They all think she will be

A little non-descript, a bore

And then the music starts,

The audience all hold her their breath

And out comes magic, bringing chills

Until the final note and then,

They roar, on their feet,

Something otherworldly happened here.

There are talent contests the world over and everybody loves them, if only to vegetate in front of on a Saturday night when you don’t have the energy to turn the channel over.

But on nearly every episode of those programmes, there is always one contestant who always manages to blow away the whole audience and probably everyone else watching at home.

For me it is always a singer, just because you can never tell what voice is going to come out of any given body. On BGT tonight, there was a nine year old who sang like she was thirty and when she hit that high note you could feel the goosebumps coming up on your arms.

I’m not even one who gets all that sentimental over those programmes because I think that they are full of sob stories that just aim to play with the emotions of people who have had too many pinots on a Saturday night. But secretly, deep down, I really love that moment when the whole audience stands up as one. It’s magical.

Much Love

Rachel xx

in the smoking section

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The hostess asks so timidly, holding menus,

‘smoking or non?’ and we go for smoking,

A murky corner where the air is thick

And the coolest kids gather round tables

Tapping ash into chunky ashtrays

While other diners sniff the air

Longing for an open window

Or a warm summer day at picnic tables,

Shaded underneath the parasols.

Such a strange time, looking back,

Where social norms would shock us now,

The pungent smell in smoky hair

And clothes ingrained with unfresh air.

I have seen quite a few films recently where one of the characters is smoking in a restaurant. None of these films feel all that old to me, but it feels shocking to see somebody daring to smoke inside.

It has made me think about how the world can change and how attitudes can change so quickly. And I don’t like the smell of smoke or the thought of breathing in second hand smoke, but I still fondly remember that time when the waitress used to ask ‘smoking or non-smoking?’

I guess it’s that feeling of nostalgia, but I do find it intriguing that I miss something that’s actually a bit disgusting.

When I first left home, I went to London and I worked and lived in a really busy city pub. This was in 2003 and so the pub would be packed with smokers and I just loved that smoky atmosphere and the smell of the cigars that the old men who drank there would puff away on.

My hair and clothes would stink after a long Friday or Saturday night shift and yet I miss that smell. I don’t want them to bring back indoor smoking, but perhaps somebody could invent a car air freshener that smells of pre-2005 pub?

Much Love

Rachel xx

at the hands of the mean girls

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They stand at the edge of the field

Sniggering sharply, behind hiding hands,

Not willing to shout, but too cool to cheer.

One day they’ll grow, and know how it feels

To suffer their dagger and barbed little words.

For now I will dance to the beat of my drum,

No letting girls in their sour teenage years

Pull me to pieces in the prime of my life.

So, during my first year of teaching I have found that I really struggle with older students (those of around fourteen to fifteen). It’s surprised me that I gel with the younger ones, while I tend to bring out the worst in a Year 10.

There was one group of girls that particularly upset me early on, and the class was taken off me because they were really being nasty. However, I still have to see these girls around school so I’ve really had to grow a slightly thicker skin for when I pass them in corridors and they give me withering looks.

Today, I took part in the school triathlon, and I’m not exactly a sprinter so I was bringing up the back of the pack during the run. It was done at lunchtime and we ran straight through the middle of the school grounds so that we could have a marathon vibe as we competed.

Of course, these girls were at the side of the route and I saw them laughing at me as I passed. But you know what? I kept on running and waving at all the students who were cheering me on.

I know that 15 is a tough age and I really hope that in a couple of years they will look back at their Mean Girls ways and cringe a little bit. I just hope that my little Year 7s stay nice and I never have to feel embarrassed running past them.

Much Love

Rachel xx

slightly confused introvert

photo of people gathering in room
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Rest

From people

Constant chatter

Draining inner batteries

But sometimes I

Surprise myself

And prove

That I am wrong

Confused.

I am an out and out introvert and I often tell people that I hate being around people – they just drain me. I can feel physically sick and tired if I have to socialise, and work, and take part in clubs etc. I sometimes feel that I need to sit in a dark room with headphones on.

But the strangest thing happens every so often – I actually enjoy company and maybe even thrive on it.

Today I had my first ever face- to- face parents’ evening and I was pretty nervous for it. But once I got into my groove and started working through each family, I started to find it really enjoyable.

It helped that I have top set Year 7, so their parents were lovely to talk to and really receptive to everything I said. But the fact was that I was having a blast just talking about books and writing with people who really cared about it.

It just goes to prove that even the most die hard introvert, who actually makes herself sick thinking about social events, can have moments when people are beautiful.

Much Love

Rachel xx