My three half-days in Learning Support are done. I've been in such lessons before of course (SEN governor) but it was more concentrated than usual and, in addition, I was asked to fill in an observation sheet for each lesson as well as the sheet for the governors' records. If you've noticed a certain distraction the past couple of nights, it's been because that has taken ages, and much thought.
I sent a cheerily friendly email to a friend yesterday whom I haven't seen for months. He and I are really good friends but rarely bump into each other and, now not being on the same committee (we've both left it), we haven't got any particular reason to phone or email each other. I had a short reply (saying 'to be continued', however) describing the Burns Night party he and his wife went to last night. Everyone was expected to sing or recite something appropriate. I do know some Burns by heart, but I'd so not do that. Really. Goodness. What for? A few would enjoy it, the rest would find it an ordeal at best, totally appalling at worst. I'd be in the "what for" brigade of refuseniks.
No, actually, I've just thought, I wouldn't. I'd quote Rudyard Kipling's brief, twelve line poem about James I/VI. Which I should know. Not googling, so may not have it word perfect -
"The child of Mary Queen of Scots
A shifty mother's shiftless son
Bred up amid intrigue and plots
Learnèd in all things, wise in none.
Ungainly, babbling, wasteful, weak,
Shrewd, clever, cowardly, pedantic.
The sight of steel would blanch his cheek,
The smell of baccy drive him frantic.
He was the author of his line.
He wrote that witches should be burnt.
He wrote that monarchs were divine,
And left a son who - proved they weren't."*
Yup, a good antidote to all things Scottish. Not that I've a thing against them. My middle name is Buchanan.
Regrettably, that's true. If I'd been a boy, I'd have gone to school at Glenalmond.
* I learned this, years ago, while the Sage drove me to Wells Next The Sea. It was the year I decided to learn a poem. It was the shortest I could find.
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The shortest poem I know is called:- 'On the nature and proclivities of a recently encountered cairn terrier.'
The Poem :
Well, it rhymes and scans.
And it described the dog as well as Kipling described the king. Splendid, Mike!
As a former teacher (and of course pupil) the shortest poem I knew, and had little trouble in committing to memory, was perfect in its economy of expression, rhyme and metre. In addition to this technical excellence it was redolent of, indeed pregnant with, forebodings of evil, bespeaking nameless terrors and fearsome nemeses, a ready source of nightmares and trauma, especially when written in red ink:
Ah, how well I remember that little verse from the distant past (although, at the time, the poetry of it rather escaped me).
Well done for remembering an adult poem. The only one I could ever quote is "The Owl and the pussycat" which I learned as a child.
I never had such a message, Chris. My school assumed good behaviour and I was careful to keep a low profile. Once, I was given lines. I thought that was silly, so ignored the instruction. They were never asked for.
I know "The Owl and the Pussycat" too, Sandy. And I used to be sound on "The Walrus and the Carpenter" (having been the walrus) but it's slipped a bit since I was eleven. Although not much, I could be word perfect in a couple of hours, if I needed to be.
I observe, sadly, that no one has asked if I like Kipling. No matter, it's an old joke.
Is it? I wouldn't know. I've never Kippled.
Is that better?
Have you ever tried to Rider Haggard, though?
I'd be interested in your perceptions of the changing nature of SEN/LS in schools...
It certainly has changed hugely since I became a governor in 1988, and even since I became SEN governor here, about 12 years ago. Yes, that is too long, by the way, I should let someone else take it on.
What aspects are you interested in my take on?
All of it actually... particularly whether you think today's SEN pupils leave school better 'educated' and with more of a future (ie opportunities open to them and networks/links made for them to carry on) than those of the past.
Well in short, from our school, I think they do. Certainly, over the last decade or two, problems have been picked up much earlier. Not so long ago, it wasn't unusual for a child to be in high school before dyslexia, for instance, was even diagnosed. Last year, we were very surprised to have as many as one, a pupil who'd moved here from outside the area.
The matter about whether alternative qualifications, such as aBTech in Outdoor Education, which was one of the classes I went to last week, are the equivalent of GCSEs - well no, they aren't, certainly not an academic one. However, when you take into account that some pupils have never succeeded at anything at all, that it teaches them various useful knowledge ability and that some of them, with the knowledge of having a couple of Cs or better under their belt, then work hard enough to do better in their Maths and English, I'm not going to knock them.
My knowledge of what they go on to in the future (and prospects of school leavers a decade or more ago) is limited. I am friends with a couple of young women who have very limited ability, but who went on to college and have decent jobs now, and I'm quite sure their success is partly because of the support they got at school. It's all very expensive, however.
We put in a lot of work, and are given huge support by local businesses, in getting work experience, training and apprenticeships and do our very best to help less-able students to get started in a decent job when they leave school Some don't, of course, but some come from really difficult backgrounds and don't have the abilities to rise above.
I also, by the way, know a number of people, mostly women, who have been sent on training courses from work and have certificates in various qualifications which might seem fairly basic to us, but which are the first that they have ever achieved and have given them pride in and 'ownership' of their jobs.
I used to Dorothy Parker.
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