Monthly Archives: March 2014

Getting children to do stuff

It’s not the enthusiastic people pleasers you ever have to worry about as a teacher.  Those ones will do as you ask pretty much all of the time, because that’s who they are.  They are interested, curious, they like school and the things we do in there.  No, the ones we have those endless, circular discussions about in the staffroom (or wherever) are the ones who are the exact opposite.  For whatever reason, they are the ones who don’t want to write things down.  They don’t want to stop talking when I am talking.  They don’t want to sit still in their chairs.  They just don’t want to.

I’ve always been quite good at these ones.  I’ve never found it particularly difficult to turn them around, to get them ready to learn.  I think this is why I have spent so much time teaching in the middle years of primary school.  Years 4 and 5 are my favourite.  They aren’t infants, so I’m not worried about all the self-care stuff, and they aren’t the top of the tree either, so I don’t have to open the windows even when it’s mid-winter and they aren’t ‘going out’ with each other (if they think they are in my class, they soon find out that they are Not Allowed).

The thing is, though, I’ve never really thought much about what it is I do, that makes me good with difficult classes.  I don’t always get it right, I have to say, but in general, when I look back on my career, such as it is, the classes, and the children, who have made the biggest impression on me, and not in a negative way, are the ones with challenging behaviour at their heart.

It was only when I was faced with the challenge of my own little conundrum that I really had to settle down and try to analyse what it is I do.  For a long time I thought I might be veering on the  authoritative side in my parenting.  Little children, and by that I mean the very little ones, are always getting themselves into life threatening situations.  Those three little holes on the wall are just the perfect size for tiny fingers.  The funny stuff in the bin looks like just the sort of thing that needs a taste.  It’s so much fun being chased, and look!  Don’t I get an interesting response when I run towards the road?!   Even today, thanks to a certain lack of awareness of the consequences of their actions, and I’m not just talking about Sam here, I have moments where I expect them to do as I say, no questions asked.

There are times when you  have to do as you are told, no question.
There are times when you have to do as you are told, no question.

But the older they get, the more I find that I am taking time to explain why I am requiring them to do particular things.  Tonight, for example, they have all gone to bed early (leaving me time to write this).  They have had a run of late nights, they are tired, and they need to be up early for school in the morning.  If they want bedtime stories, or time to read, they need to be snuggled under the duvet with the beside light on rather than sitting down here, talking over the telly.  They know that I am going to insist they eat all of their breakfast and have a good drink in the morning because it will be a long time ‘til lunch.  They know that I won’t be saying yes to sweets because I am respectful of their adult teeth.

When I think about my classroom practise, I know that I am doing something very similar.  No, we may not all shout out, because we need to give everyone a chance to ask their question, or say their piece.  We may not disturb other people when we have finished our work, because that isn’t giving them the same chance that they have given us.  We won’t talk over, or make silly noises, or laugh at someone else’s answers, because that is not how we would like other people to treat us.  We want people to be able to ask their questions, to say when they don’t understand, because it is my job to help them to do those very things.  We will sit up nicely and listen and say please and thank you, because that is showing other people respect.

Sometimes I have to admit that it is a little wearing to have to repeat oneself so many times, and there are moments when I wonder if my life is imitating my art a little too closely.  Sometimes, the Down Syndrome means that we are treading the same old paths for longer than we ever thought possible.  Sometimes I admit that I just want them to do what I want them to do because I want them to do it and that is that.

But the thing is, I am not in the business of bringing up unthinking automatons.  When I watch Sam cross the road I get the heebie jeebies.  He knows to stop.  He knows to look.  I think he might even know to listen.  He certainly goes through the motions.  But when he has stopped, looked and listened, he steps out into the road regardless.  He has not yet understood the importance of the why rather than the what.

Sometimes I think that life would be an awful lot easier if my children weren’t that little bit more compliant, a little bit more obedient, because my life would be so much easier if they were.  But then I remind myself of my disquiet when I hear these terms describing children in celebration.  And I think about my son with Down Syndrome, and I think about my daughter.  I think about people trapped into abusive relationships, at the bottom of the heap because they were compliant and obedient.  I think of people who make life changing decisions that in later years represent opportunities lost, dreams sacrificed because they were compliant and obedient.  I think of the damage done to countless generations because they were submissive.

So when I look at the children around me, both at home and at school, I know that the very last thing I want for them is blind obedience.  I especially don’t want it when it is coupled with compliance.  And I certainly don’t want to see those qualities celebrated in end-of-term assemblies.  Yes, they need to do as they are told, yes, there are times when they need to do it straight away, no questions asked; but as they grow, as they turn from the children they are into adults, I want them to turn from obedience to discipline.

And that’s why, when I am getting children to do stuff, I will continue to explain, until I am blue in the face, the why as well as the what.

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It’s time to bust some myths. Time to break some barriers. Here’s how it really is living with a thirteen year old boy who has 3 copies of chromosome 21.

  • His hair is too long.  He won’t have it cut.
  • When he does cut it, it’s too short.
  • He goes into his room, and disappears for hours.
  • He never tidies his room.  I dread to think what is under the bed.
  • Dirty washing never goes to where it is supposed to (I suspect it is under the bed).
  • He plays music too loud.
  • And what is he listening to?
  • I can’t get him off the blasted iPad.
  • He teases his brother and makes him cry.
  • He teases his sister and makes her cry.
  • Why does he eat so much?
  • He won’t go to bed at night.
  • He won’t get up in the morning.
  • He won’t do his homework unless I insist.
  • He only seems to grunt, and talks to me in monosyllables.

I mean, really, you have to feel sorry for me.  Poor little Nancy with her disabled son.  Look at what she has to put up with.

*I may have exaggerated slightly to make a point 😉

Down Syndrome Awareness

I find it utterly shocking, the horrible little statistic I read this week, that told me of the women who find they are carrying a baby with a little extra something in the form of an extra chromosome, 95% have a termination.


I find that so sad.  I find it so sad because it speaks to me of fear.  Of the fear we feel of the unknown, the fear we feel of difference, or disability.  Fear of a label we don’t understand.

So, here is part of my little part to show you that there is nothing much to be scared of (other than the normal paralysing fear that all parents feel when they realise that the baby they bring home from the hospital is their responsibility, and theirs alone).

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Liebster Award – thank you!

Like many bloggers before me, I check my site stats almost obsessively.  It’s not so much the numbers (although I get one hell of a kick thinking about all those people reading my words) but I am particularly interested in where those beguiling little figures have come from.  How did they find it?  What search terms did they use?  Usually, if someone reblogs one of my posts I get a notification, but imagine my surprise when, all of a sudden, there was a trickle of visitors from Now I love this blog.  The writer is so funny, so honest, she is American, so, for me, she offers me a window into a world I feel like I know from television and films, but I know that in reality I don’t; she always raises a smile and often a snort of a guffaw, but I couldn’t understand how visitors could be clicking through from her blog to mine.

Turns out she has been nominated for a Liebster Award (not sure what that is, I shall have to do some furtive googling), and in her turn, has nominated me.  Wow!  Thanks!

These are, she tells me, the Liebster Award rules:

  1. Thank the blogger who nominated you.
  2. Answer the 11 questions given to you.
  3. Nominate 11 other blogs with less than 500 followers.
  4. Post 11 questions for your nominees to answer.
  5. Tag your nominees & post a comment on their blog to let them know you nominated them.


Questions for me to answer:

1. Last good book you read?  Make My Wish Come True by Fiona Harper.  For a while there I aspired to be a writer of Mills and Boons, and I met Fiona at an RNA party about four or five years ago.  As doing my homework required me reading libraries worth of romantic novels, Fiona’s impressed me with how she managed to write something emotionally ‘true’ and funny within the confines of an extremely tight genre.  I probably impressed her as a completely bonkers wannabe romantic novelist, but there we go.  This Christmas I was tired, feeling a bit low and in possession of a brand, spanking new Kindle.  What the heck, I thought.  Frothy sweet stuff from Fiona is just what this girl needs.  What a surprise!  It wasn’t really an M&B at all.  It was about sisters, and how they misunderstand each other.  It was about mothers, and how they set the bar so high that they struggle to reach it.  I cried, and it was lovely.

2. Quick! Name one favorite from your Ipod or whatever device you prefer for music. Can I name two?  Please?  Current listening faves are Young Blood by Sophie Ellis Bextor and My Lighthouse by the Rend Collective.  I should have been a singer.  I should have been in a folk/rock band.  In the mean time, I rack up the volume in the kitchen and sing away the washing up.

3. On that subject, what’s your favorite mobile device and why? Oh, my iPhone.   I love my iPhone.  I never thought I’d have one.

4. Describe a favourite toy of your childhood.  My Sindy doll horse and carriage.  I used to spend ages whizzing it along in an attempt to get the wheels to look as if they were going backwards like they do in films.  Make of that what you will.

5. If you’re a parent (and I think you all are), describe a time you were especially proud of one of your kids.  My middle son is a heartbreaker.  He started school with such self-confidence, and slowly but surely, over the last seven years, he has had a great deal of it squashed out of him.  He’s a musical little chap, so when we had a letter about learning to play an instrument, we took him to a music shop and let him chose the one he liked.  He chose a violin.  Last summer, his teacher had him up in fron of the school to play a piece that he will play for his Grade 1 in a couple of weeks.  And he played!  I don’t mean that he played just the notes; he actually played it.  The whole school sat up and listened, he stood there in his diffident way, looking at the floor, and I nearly burst with love for him.

6. What’s the best post you’ve ever written, in your opinion? Ooops! Nearly forgot this one. It’s called ‘I never thought it would be me’. It’s where my journey with Down Syndrome started. I gave it a page of its own, which you can find at the top of this website. I hope you enjoy it.

7. What outfit are you most likely to wear on a Saturday?  Jeans.   Actually, so long as I’m not working I am most likely to be wearing jeans most of the time.

8. What’s your favourite television series?  Battlestar Galactica (the new series, not the ‘70s one).

9. What are you most likely to order if you find yourself at a really good coffeehouse?  Diet Coke.  Hate hot drinks.  Yuck.

10. Who was the last person to take out the trash at your house?  My husband.  I don’t do it unless there is no alternative (ie. he is away).  I do not consider it to be part of my job description.

11. If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be and why?  Oh, my goodness!  I’m not very sure about this one, even though I have a History degree!  I think my main problem is that I studied women’s history, which is dominated by themes and social history, rather than personalities.  Somebody like Jane Austen would be interesting, or maybe Ada Nield Chew, a woman from the early Twentieth Century, a talented woman no less, even though she was a working class girl working in a cotton mill, who got involved in the suffrage movement and lived the sort of principled life and wrote the sort of things that inspired me when I was a young student, discovering how much hard work had gone into my easy acceptance of my vote and my right to an education.  Husband says he would like to meet Neil Armstrong, Frank Whittle and the Wright brothers.  You will have to guess his obsession.


OK.   So that’s enough about me.  Romance reading, jeans wearing, sci-fi watching soft-hearted mother of violin playing child.  Here is my list of blogs that I really enjoy reading.  I’m not sure that I can make 11, but here goes.  In no particular order:

  1.  Splogs
  2. Freeing the Angel
  3. Jonnywalkerteaching
  4. Stack of marking
  5. Mom Goes On
  6. Reflecting English
  7. SENtinel
  8. IQM blog
  9. Orange juice flavour sky
  10. Classroom Truths
  11. Secret Teacher6

Just made it to 11!  I dot about so much!  These blogs are interesting to the teacher part of me, the writer part of me, and the mother-of-a-child-with-down-syndrome part of me.  If you are interested in these things, I heartily recommend them.

Here are my questions.

  1.  Why do you write your blog?
  2. What did you want to do/be when you were a child?
  3. What was the last meal you ate?
  4. Favourite book (I will allow you to have up to ten, I’m kind that way).
  5. Favourite TV show.
  6. TV or radio?
  7. Theatre or cinema?
  8. E-book or real book?
  9. Live to work or work to live?
  10. Owl or lark?
  11. Husband wants to know if you think that space travel is worth the investment.


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