Well, 2020 has been nothing if not unpredictable! As you may have read in our previous blog post, Anita has ended up working for Sainsburys and, as for me, I was shielding for 4 months. That, is a different story I guess, but as many of you would have been doing, while I was working from home, one of my jobs was our transition into school for our new starters.
Normally, we would have at least one 'Stay and Play' session, we would visit our local nurseries and preschools, invite the children starting from our on-site preschool to come for story and/or play sessions, have a parent's information evening, offer home visits (in September) and have a staggered start to school.
This year we had to think a little differently...
Firstly, we started by writing a letter that introduced the school, complete with some photos of the staff. We explained a few of the processes going forward and our transition plans. This letter was mailed to our parents, along with some of the other important registration information.
I then started to contact all of our parents directly. I phoned all of them over the course of a week or so in April/May. I don't know if you're like me but I don't really like phoning people - sort of a hang up from when I was younger I think. Wrong numbers and having to speak to 'strangers' makes me anxious! But actually, it was a really good experience (apart from one long, rambling answerphone message where I lost my marbles completely - I think that parent has forgiven me though!). It was lovely to chat with everyone, see how they were doing during lockdown, ask if they thought they might be sending their child in for some final sessions (by this point we knew we were reopening preschools) and check to see if they had received our letters. Parents were also able to ask any questions or let me know of any concerns, which meant I could start to try and put things in place if necessary.
During this time I had also started to create a special page on the school website. It had a lot of information on it that I hoped the new parents, and children, would find interesting. I put copies of the letters and information we had sent out. I explained organisational things like lunches, uniform and the start dates for terms etc. I included information about the EYFS profile, along with photographs of our existing children during their learning, I even made little profiles about the staff - their likes, dislikes and what they felt they needed help with. Also on the website I included a couple of documents about 'school readiness' and some activities that children might lie to have a go at doing with their parents.
My next job was to contact all of the preschools and nurseries that were sending on their children to us. I enjoyed the general catch up of course (How odd has everything been? Have you coped? Have you had many children back in?!) but it's always invaluable listening to professionals who know the children we are going to receive and can pass on information about their progress but also their likes and dislikes and what works for them.
I contacted all of the parents again a few weeks later to catch up, see how things were and check that they had all of the information they needed. Once again it was good to be able to answer questions, make parents feel more at ease and also learn a little about all of our families.
At our school we use ClassDojo to communicate with our parents and because our on-site preschool also uses it, I was able to contact parents through this if necessary. It has also helped the transition no end because it has meant that parents can message me with questions about uniform etc.
We also made a video that was a little walk round the classroom and outside area. This gave us a change to introduce ourselves to our families and also give everyone an insight into what the school looks like.
In September we begin our school term with 2 INSET days. On the afternoon of the second INSET day, all of the families have been invited in for a very short 'Welcome to School' session. Parents will not be allowed into the classroom (as per the government guidance) but we hope it will give children a chance to experience their journey to school, find out where to go once they are here, find things such as the toilets and their pegs and just to introduce the school environment in a very relaxed way.
For the first 2 days children will be attending school for 2 hours. This will extend until before lunchtime for the rest of the week. For the following week the children will be staying the entire morning, this time including lunch. They will then start attending full time the following week.
During the afternoons when the children are not attending,, we have offered 'Garden Visits'. My TA and I will be visiting families in their garden to say hello and to get to know everyone a little big better in their own environment. Our home visits are usually a great way of getting to know families and offers parents a chance to ask questions or express concerns. The children often enjoy showing us their toys and find it very exciting! Fingers crossed for good weather!
So that's pretty much our transition for 2020. What are you all doing? Whatever it is, I hope everyone stays safe and well and has a fantastic Autumn term!
The final few days of August are upon us and I know there is something missing- school uniform?Nope my kids aren’t school age anymore, Holiday photos ordered? Nope didn’t have a holiday.....then it hit me!
It’s a feeling that never leaves you even after you’ve left that situation! It’s the return of a new school year, the hustle and bustle of purchasing cheeky items from your travels to add to your new provision , it’s the excitement of going into school and setting up your room, touching base with your team and going out and treating yourself to new work wear or shoes or maybe even a new diary/bag! See I know...I’ve been there for the last 2 decades!
It’s the loss for me of not having a school to return to, I feel I am missing something. The whole COVID-19 pandemic was the most utterly shattering experience of my 46 years on this planet.
It’s seen me virtually written off - sadly my teacher trainer position was stopped due to schools closing, my regular supply teacher position disappeared and for many weeks I was tentatively kept dangling with no income or furlough money for my family until that was eventually sorted after an emotionally, desperate and agonising 15 weeks. I went from being a 2 income household to one, with no government support or help for various reasons beyond my control. Life as I’d known it just literally halted overnight. Tears, anger, uncontrollably loss seeped in and for a while I felt an utter failure then a stern talk with myself and a renewed wave of strength saw me applying for teaching and non teaching jobs to avoid having to go cap in hand to my parents asking for a bail out option - that was NOT going to happen- I refused!
Applying for jobs was much harder than I thought. I’ve always been so lucky in getting what I want first time round - a couple of failed attempts of securing a teaching position pushed me over the edge for a couple of weeks- feeling a failure, losing confidence and feeling worthless as a teacher and that my experience/expertise counted for nothing over the last 23 years it didn’t stop there....in the ‘real’ world (non education) applying takes hours of filling in applications that feel like you’re applying for a role in the SAS! taking online tests, that if you don’t answer even one question correctly you’re booted out!! It’s the not hearing back following submitting an application or receiving standard generated responses saying ‘Due to high standard of applications...blah blah blah’ really, truly dents your pride, confidence and makes you question who you are and if you will ever move forward in this nightmare?!
One organisation actually gave me a chance- they could not have been more welcoming and understanding of my current situation or the profession I was coming from. They were prepared to take a chance and take me on for as long as I needed pending a return to education... they were Sainsburys!
A totally different ball game, I mean a real game changer - uniform given with all the tools that I needed in order to work (that’s a rare things ) interactive online paid training which was actually enjoyable even though it was 4 hours long! I was given someone to shadow for my first shift and then I was off, on my own, contributing to the pandemic effort and introduced to my area..Aisle 6- biscuits and crackers! to say it was easy would be a massive big untruth- I hurt all over experiencing muscles crying out that I never knew I had , I was a walking zombie for the first few weeks - did I mention it’s a night shift role so I start work 9pm at night and I didn’t know if I would last past the end of the month!
Fast forward 10 weeks and I’ve been asked to stay on until my former life returns and the team I work with have become great friends, we champion each other on and work hard to get a huge amount of deliveries out before the online pickers arrive and the store opens at 7am. I can get 2-3 pallets plus 2-3 rollers out per shift and leave in the early hours of the morning feeling a sense of accomplishment - I’ve been introduced to ‘huddles’, NDI, DU’s plus other little catchphrases that have simply replaced the education terms
This isn’t my forever job, it’s a period of time that I needed to step up and support /contribute to my family and feel involved. I do envy the return to school feelings and love looking at posts and social media classroom tours and ideas wishing that my life pre 2020 returns and I can once again do what I love, rekindle my passion and get stuck in!
Have a great start to the term- I truly admire each and every teacher, leader, support staff that have had to jump through ever moving hoops, change ways of working and continue to provide educational experiences through this pandemic. Go forth and be the amazing, brilliant, nurturing people that you’ve trained to be - you’ve got this and those children will be so excited to see you again! Here’s to the academic year 2020-21 I shall catch up with you all soon!