A new term begins

Today was one of those days that remind me how much I love my job. I wasn’t looking forward to an early start after two weeks of Easter holidays, but the smiles and laughter as the children piled into my classroom this morning more than made up for it.

I was greeted with hugs and cries of “I missed you”, and the children’s excitement at seeing the new layout of our classroom and finding where they were to sit was infectious.

We started the morning with a whole class guided reading session and, because the IWB was moved during the holiday, all the children could see the electronic version of ‘The Iron Man’ on the screen. It’s the small things like that that make all the difference!

We then had a morning of English. We are going to write adventure stories this half term and, to help me plan next steps for each child, I thought I’d throw them in at the deep-end and ask them to write a story at the beginning of the unit. The children watched the introduction to ‘Jamie and the magic torch’; drew pictures of the imaginary land they thought Jamie might visit; used a planning frame and then launched themselves into their stories. I may have a huge pile of marking to plough through tonight as a result, but the fact that every child has made such evident progress in their writing makes the task worth it.

After lunch we examined plants using magnifying glasses; looked at roots; ate carrots and radishes; re-potted pot-bound plants and “planted” carrot tops in saucers of water to watch over the coming weeks. Huge progress in learning behaviours was evident: my class have become responsible, willing, engaged and conscientious pupils who are a pleasure to teach.

We had a few minutes of outside golden time to reward the fantastic learning behaviours shown all day before I showed the children their first ever blogging challenge. I’m not sure who was more excited: them or me!

We finished off the day by starting our new whole-class story, ‘The Jungle Book’. The children sat enraptured as the story transported them to a world of man-cubs and fearsome tigers and there were many cries of, “Awwww” when it was time to get ready for home.

Finally, happy parents greeted me and the smiling children at the door. I had several positive comments and a group of children who ran back to give me a goodbye hug before leaving the playground.

What a lovely start to a new term! And, even better, I get to do it all again tomorrow.

2B or not 2B?

I’ve spent a lot of time over the last couple of days thinking about a very timely and, as usual, beautifully written blog post by @nancygedge: “Testing Times“. From the perspective of a parent, I completely agree with the sentiments behind this. When my child was at primary, I wanted him to have good friends; be happy; enjoy going to school and behave well. I wanted that more than I wanted him to leave as a Level 5 in reading, writing and maths. Now he’s in sixth form, I still want the same (although I’d rather he got A*s than Level 5s). Of course I want him to achieve and work hard, but first and foremost I want him to be happy.

From a teacher’s perspective, though, things are a little different. I teach Y2/3, so end of Y2 levels are looming. I have very challenging targets to meet for my PM, including 100% of children making at least “good” progress. Of course I want all the children in my class to make good progress, but what I do not want to do is set them up to fail later on.

Last year, my first time in Y2, I had a small group of very able pupils who comfortably achieved 3Bs. I had some that were not so comfortably at that level but who, with lots of hard work and a following wind (and tracking grids ever present), achieved Level 3. With the system as it is, that means they were recorded as working at 3B.

Those Y2s are now my Y3s, and in order for them to have made the required amount of progress, they now need to be working at level 4C, and by the end of Y6, if they have continued making the same good to outstanding levels of progress they should be working at L6.

Some of them will, but I know that there are some who won’t. The ones who scraped a level 3 in Y2 by the skin of their teeth: the ones who now, at the end of Y3, are working as hard as they can but are struggling to tip into level 4. Level 4, at the end of Y3.

And now, it’s that time of year again when I’m looking to end of Key Stage assessment: when my pupils are working as hard as they can and when I simply can’t work any harder to help them achieve the levels they deserve. Again, I have a couple of able Y2s looking at 3Bs, but again, I have those less comfortable few who I am pushing hard. Am I setting them up to fail later? Am I doing my colleagues a disservice by setting these children on an achievement trajectory that is so steep it can’t be maintained?

Yes, I want all the pupils in my class to achieve their very best. But, ultimately, I want them to be happy children, not numbers.