It was a lot of ‘firsts’ for me…
- First time with SLD/PMLD pupils – having only worked with MLD before (Had never worked with lower than a P5 previously).
- First time in KS1 (other than placements) and first time with EYFS.
- First time with a mixed class (2 key stages/year groups).
- First time with more than one assistant.
The first term was a difficult time for me – I’d never had children that refused to sit on a chair, or refused to ‘do’ lessons. I spent a lot of time stressing that not all of them were taking part in lessons. It took a LONG time (and sometimes I’m still not quite there) to realise that the world doesn’t end if ‘John’ doesn’t sit in the group for music etc. However, I did have my first observation and got a ‘Good’.
It took me a while to adapt my curriculum/timetable to include my EYFS children – plus my ‘refusers’ in a sense that ‘ok, they’re not doing “Maths” but what are they doing?’ … walking around and opening cupboards and crying isn’t ok! So, I set up free flow activities that (very) loosely link to Maths/English (Ideas for these would be welcome, at the moment it usually ends up being plastic numbers or letters in sand, or shape sorters, or inset puzzles – very samey).
In Spring, I began my ‘free flow’ setting and whilst it’s not perfect (although, probably only in my eyes), it works. However… is it ok that (sometimes) an assistant leads the ‘English’ lesson on a 1:1 basis? I had my second observation, this time from the head and got ‘Outstanding’. However, my most difficult ASD pupil was off that day.
Moving into Summer, not much changed except a lot of staffing issues – so my ‘stress’ (not real stress, only my own OCD panic!) was increased as we dealt with transitions/different staff etc. The relaxation of the timetable occurred towards the end of the second half and I began to look back and wonder…
My biggest wonder is whether I’m getting it right… and how do you know for SLD/PMLD children? The free-flow worked, but is that ok when, next year, I won’t have any EYFS children? Perhaps I just think to much/worry too much about things. In the end, all of the children in my class met their targets… which yes is great, but I set them… so is that really an achievement?
I’m not sure what I expected from this year, but I came from a setting where I was an AST and very well established as a strong member of the team… big fish, small pond. Now I feel like a tiny weeny tiddler of a fish in a massive pond and I’m not sure if its because I’m not getting things right, or because I’m not confident in my ability yet.
Next year, same children different planning. So it will be interesting to see if:
a) I have better authority over my assistants. Working with 3 adults is challenging (more challenging than the kids imo!) and my biggest struggle this year was that they already knew the children, so I felt myself letting them take the lead a lot.
b) I ‘let things go’ easier – I have got better at that as the year as gone on (for example if ‘John’ doesn’t do art how the plan says and does 3 blobs of paint HOH…it’s not the end of the world) but we relaxed the timetable a lot, I will be interested to see if next year when we’re back in full learning mode, that I accept it as easily. (I’d be interested to hear how other teachers deal with similar children in their own setting… my assistants used to say if he’d done 3 blobs (or similar) that he’s done now and ‘We’ve won’ (their words not mine) but surely there’s better ways?
I am looking for other jobs… not particularly sure I want to move but as I said I’m questioning whether this is the right place for me. Trouble is, I know the right place for me is an MLD setting and they’re very few and far between!