International Women and Children in Science Day

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11th February saw the International Women and Girls in Science day celebrated. I thought it would be a great opportunity to have a delve into the books that are out there who celebrate these women and to leave a little inspiration (hopefully) for the next generation of women and girls who want to venture into the world of science. I have picked just 5 books that I feel are worthy of note in regards to this topic. Enjoy!

1. Women In Science – 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

Women in Science – 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World

What a beautiful looking book. This is definitely one I need to acquire and add to my heaving bookshelf. With pages about such women as Mary Anning, Ada Lovelace and Marie Curie, this books hits the big hitters straight off, but there’s more. There are 50 (yes 50) amazing women in this book to discover. Women, who quite ashamedly, I’ve never heard of. The pages are beautifully illustrated and describe each woman and their achievements in a really accessible way. What I love even more, is that this book was written by a woman as well.

Just look how beautiful the pages are!

2. Black Women in Science: A Black History Book for Kids

This book looks great. This year I am trying to diversify my reading a little more and especially get into more black literature and culture. It’s just so fascinating and definitely an area I think myself and others need to pay more attention to. So this seems like the perfect book to start with! I’m all about celebrating diversity and difference and this book definitely does that. Although it isn’t as beautifully presented as the previous book, there is much more information inside from what I can see, and it looks great! Another to add to my ‘to buy’ pile which seems to be growing ever longer!

3. The Bluest of Blues – Anna Atkins and the First Book of Photographs

Oh my goodness, this is a beautiful book, and one that I actually own and have used in the classroom! It is gorgeous. It tells the story of Anna Atkins and how she developed the first book of photographs using the Cyanotype Photographic process. Each page is blue (from the cyan) but there are hints of other colours dotted throughout, which are usually red or yellow. I love this book so much and can’t wait to use it again, mainly because then I get to read it again! Anna Atkins was someone who I’d not come across before and it was lovely to read about such an inspiring woman who’s life spanned 72 years.

4. Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women

Again, this is another book that I hadn’t come across until I started my research for this blog, but who wouldn’t want to find out which of the inventions that we use today have been invented by women?! I certainly do, and I’ll hazard a guess that they were perhaps ones that have been invented in order to make our lives a little easier and more ‘manageable’? Just reading the blurb of the book on Amazon and seeing that women have invented things such as windscreen wipers and chocolate chip cookies means that this has piqued my interest straight away! I can’t imagine having to drive without windscreen wipers and having recently found an amazing double chocolate chip cookie recipe that has very quickly become a firm favourite in our family and may or may not have been baked twice in the last month, I am forever thankful to the woman who invented them in the first place. Another book to seek out I fear!

5. Nobel Prize Women in Science: Their Lives, Struggles and Momentous Discoveries

Well this book just looks fascinating. Did you know that since 1901 there have been over three hundred recipients of the Nobel Prize in the sciences and only ten of them, which is around 3% have been women. This shocked me when I read this fact. Well, I like to think it shocked me, I think it actually saddened me more than anything. This book is an updated version of a previous book which examines the lives of 15 women scientists who have either won a Nobel Prize or played a crucial role in a prize-winning project. It covers women who have faced gender discrimination, those who have raised families, become political and religious leaders, mountain climbers, musicians, seamstresses and gourmet cooks. The one thing they all had in common though; they were passionate about Science and discovery. A bit more of a meatier book compared to the previous books which are aimed more at children, but I just couldn’t not add this one to the list!

So there you have it. My 5 picks of books related to women in science in order to celebrate (albeit a little late) International Women and Children in Science Day. I hope you have enjoyed reading this and maybe, just perhaps, you have also been inspired to go and seek these books out as I have!

The best ‘tools’ I’ve used in my classroom

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I thought I’d share some of the ‘tools’ that I have found to be the most helpful in my teaching. Some of these are conventional, some less-so, but they have been fantastic for me and I have really enjoyed using them with the children I have taught.


General –
Whiteboard tape; this stuff is amazing. I picked it up on Amazon and it was brilliant. Essentially it is duck tape that is writeable on one side like a whiteboard – meaning you can write on it, wipe it off and use it over and over again. I used this to best effect when I was teaching Year 6. Each child had a small piece stuck to the table in front of them and we used it in so many different ways. My favourite way was to use it when the children were writing. I would be circulating the room and when I noticed something that a certain child had possibly missed or needed to remember to focus on, I could jot it down on the tape. For example, I had a child who would always forget their capital letters so I used to just write a capital ‘c’ on their tape. For others it might have been a specific piece of punctuation I wanted them to try and include or a spelling word. This was brilliant as it was a reminder for them in that moment, but could be removed as soon as they had included it, or simply at the end of the lesson.
I also used the tape for changing seats. On a Monday morning I would go around the room and write the children’s names on the tape so they knew where to sit. It was a great start to the day as the children came in and searched for their new seat for the week. (I still do this with my Year 3 children every week, but they have to look for their books which I have put out on the table ready for them instead.)
We also used it if a child was in need of support during a lesson. They would simply put a sad face on their piece of tape and then as myself and my TA were circulating we could spot it and support where necessary. This really worked for those of my class who weren’t confident at asking for help in front of their peers.

English-based
– Ikea frames with statutory spellings; I love this as it was so simple and yet it works so well. Thanks to Twinkl I printed off the statutory spellings for the year group I was teaching and slotted them into the Ikea picture frames. Twinkl had designed the document so they fitted perfectly. This meant that when it came to extended pieces of writing I was able to put the frames out on the desks for the children to refer to easily and quickly, without having to flick through their organisers. That meant they could have their organisers open on a different page to support them, and the spellings on the table at the same time. Time-saver!
– Ball pit balls; this is a great fun activity when you need to get children to write sentences. It can be really difficult to think about what to write your sentence about, so I give them a box full of ball pit balls, which I have written words onto. Some of these words might be the statutory spelling words, some might be related to the subject or topic we’re currently focusing on, some might just be pure random words I thought of. The children select a specific amount and then form their sentence around them. Fun, active and engaging.
– Border paper; This is great for rearranging sentences, particularly complex and compound, to show children how the same words and ideas can be structured in different ways. Write the sentence, rip it up and rearrange it. Brilliant.

Maths based
– Base 10; Oh my goodness, where would I be without my class box of base 10? The BEST invention for classroom manipulatives ever. Shows children so clearly how numbers are constructed and what happens to them when we increase and decrease them. I use this for ALL of my calculation methods and it really helps to understand the method. (Look out for a later post on the different methods we teach and why they are necessary to follow!)
– Numicon; I love Numicon and I am saddened by the fact that my current school doesn’t have much stock of this. Again it is a great resource for showing children the relationship between numbers. I used it for number bonds to 10, symmetry, patterns, sequencing, adding odds and evens and discovering generalisations, the list could go on and on!
– Beach ball; This was so much fun. I wrote numbers on the ball and then as a class we threw it to each other and when the child caught the ball, depending on the number a chosen hand landed on or nearest to, they had to multiply that number by the selected times table. Great fun, active and lots of thinking (and maybe a few giggles when I couldn’t throw the ball properly!)

I’d love to know what ‘tools’ you’ve used to great effect, so let me know in the comments below.

Why teaching is one of the hardest, yet most rewarding jobs in the world

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Warning – this is a long post! Sit down, settle in, put your feet up and enjoy!

I went for a run the other night with my friend and the whole way round our 7.5 miles I talked about work. I love my job and I am passionate about it and this became evident as we ran and I talked and talked and talked.

I’m not even at work at the moment as I am still on maternity leave. I have less than a month to go until I return, but I still love the job that I do. I have always wanted to be a teacher and I have now taught for the last 12 years. There have definitely been ups and downs and moments where I’ve wondered whether this is the job for me, but the fact that I am still teaching after 12 years, I am still passionate about education and changing children’s lives, tells me that this is definitely the job for me. Don’t get me wrong, it is by far one of the hardest jobs in the world, but it is also one of the most rewarding, in my opinion. Where else can you hold conversations with people that not only challenge them, but also you, on a daily basis? Where the work you are doing will have a direct impact on the people you work with, for the rest of their lives?

So I thought I’d take this post to explain just a few of the reasons why I love my job so much, even though it is so mentally and physically draining, all-consuming and exhausting!

The children. It’s as simple as that. If you don’t enjoy children, being with them, talking to them and learning about their little personalities, then teaching really isn’t the job for you! I’ve always loved children and being around them. I was always one of the oldest when me and my sister used to play out, so used to love ‘mothering’ and ‘teaching’ the younger ones in our group. It’s always been that innate part of me I guess! They will completely take over your world and for the year or so that they are in your class, they are so much more than that. My class become my children. I come home and worry about them, I think about them and how best to help them in that next lesson in the weirdest of moments (like cooking dinner or when I’m running), and you really begin to build connections with them. I count myself very lucky to have been there for the children I’ve worked with through some of their toughest and equally happiest moments.
I remember talking with a child as her parents were going through a separation. Just listening to her and discussing how things made her feel. Years later when I bumped into her when she was working as a waitress in a pub where I was having a meal, she reminded me of this and how much it meant to her.
I remember children when I had year 6, thinking that they couldn’t achieve in their Maths SATs. One girl wasn’t even going to sit it, but through my encouragement she did, and came out with a level 4 (back when we used to have grades – showing my age now!), she cried with happiness when I told her, and in the same class, two lads who had always worked hard, but never really over achieved, received level 5s. I will never forget the pure happiness on their faces as they leapt into each others arms and jumped up and down as I told them.
I have worked with children from looked after families who have found it difficult to connect with school and learning – I’m not saying that I was a miracle cure for them, but I like to think I made their lives a little easier and I still think about them regularly and wonder how they are and what they’re up to. One of these fosters parents had not always seen eye-to-eye with the school and had struggled to build relationships with the child’s teachers previously so I worked extra hard to make these links with her and to build that missing relationship. Again, I’m not saying I am Wonder Woman and that I was amazing, but I like to think that the conversations we had were in earnest and they meant something to her.
I’ve had parents come to me asking me to give their children extra support outside of school (tutoring if you will) because they can see the value in what I have bought to their child’s education and they want to get the very best for them.
I have been there when a child has needed to offload about home life, siblings, parents, friends, happy events, sad events. I have sat and held a child’s hand while they cried and cried because their pet had died, or their best friend had moved away. I have jumped for joy with a child when she was accepted onto the football team she’d had a try-out for. I have taken time out of my weekend to go and support a child in my class who was doing a walk to raise money for charity and been introduced to extended family members.
I’ve had parents connect with me via social media once their child is no longer in my class as they have wanted to continue to relationship that we had built up over the year and this has meant so much to me. I have had past pupils connect with me, once they have become much older I might add, and one of these pupil’s mum I know from working with her. She sent me the loveliest message over Christmas I believe when I had liked some photos on Instagram stating that her child had commented when a certain song had come on that he remembered me teaching them a dance to it in PE, probably 9 or 10 years previously. Things like that will never cease to amaze me. That something I have taught a child has stayed with the, for all this time. But then again, why shouldn’t it? I remember my teachers, the ones who inspired me to teach. Mrs. Dovey, my amazing Year 4 teacher. Probably wasn’t actually amazing by today’s teaching standards, but she gave me a love for learning and taught me to love education. Mrs. Bishop and Mr. Coslett in Year 6, because of them I continued with my love of learning and overcame barriers to my own learning that had previously been missed and mismanaged by other teachers. I can still recall my squared-times table today because of a lesson I vividly remember with Mr Coslett in maths. These are the things that have stuck with me and I wish I had had the chance to go back to these teachers and say thank you. I have no idea where they are now, so this is my way of thanking them.

The feeling of accomplishing something. This is a really simple one. For me I am all about the reward. Now that might sound a little silly, but I am the sort of person that likes, probably needs, to be thanked or recognised for doing something. Not always, I hasten to add, but it helps me. So teaching is really good for me. I work hard, like really hard, to produce lessons for my children that I think will inspire them and engage them in ways that they haven’t before necessarily. I want all children I teach to have that love for learning and education that I have been very lucky to have all my life. So when I plan a lesson, or a series of lessons and I see children engaging, or enjoying their learning, that is the feeling of accomplishment. When I overhear children talking about things that we’ve done or parents tell me they came home and talked non-stop about something they did in school, I am over the moon. I had a TA I was working with come excitedly into the classroom once because she’d been walking behind two of our class members on the way to school and they whole way they had been discussing things from the previous day’s lessons. That is just the most amazing feeling. Something I have spent time over, thought endlessly about, has had an impact. My work here is done!

Being able to share my loves and passions on a daily basis. This again is a simple one. I love learning and education and reading predominantly. I get to share these passions with children, and other adults, every single day. I get to try and inspire them, to discuss things that fire me up, things that have inspired me, things that I have loved and will always love, every single day. There aren’t many other jobs that I can think of, where you genuinely can share the things that you love the most with people (children) who are so susceptible to soaking it all up and getting something out of it. That is pure joy right there. Reading is my biggest passion in teaching, reading has always been something I have enjoyed, I always remember there being books, I’ve always received them as gifts, always bought them as gifts, been read to, read to others, essentially books have always been a part of my life. So to get the chance to lead reading across our school and to share this love and passion of mine with the children and staff every day is just something incredible as far as I’m concerned. I’ve engaged children with books they would have previously not considered looking at. I’ve encouraged children to read new authors, genres, more challenging texts. I’ve introduced a new way of teaching reading to the school and enthused children and adults to involve themselves in this process. I’ve run book clubs where children can come and just listen to a story, be read to and enjoy being read to without having to worry about what the words on the page mean and say and what the author might be thinking or trying to convey with a certain vocabulary choice. I’ve pushed children to develop their love and understanding of books and texts and to strive to be the best readers they can be. And I’ve done all this with the most passion and enthusiasm I can muster, because it’s what I truly believe in. That counts for everything.

So there you go, just three of the main reasons why I love my job so much. There’s so much more I could have gone into in each section, but this is just a taster. If you’re in teaching, I’d love to hear your favourite things about the most amazing job ever, and if you’re not, maybe I’ve inspired you to consider it as a career? Who knows!

When is reading not productive?

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So I volunteered to answer some questions for a member of a Facebook group’s dissertation and one of the questions got me thinking. Is it ok to read below your ability?

The answer quite simply, I believe, is of course.
However, this needs to be taken with a pinch of salt. If you always read below your ability, are you doing yourself a disservice? Are you stifling yourself for an easy read?

Now don’t get me wrong, reading is all about enjoyment, so if you enjoy what you’re reading, go for it. But be aware that it is also good to stretch and challenge ourselves through our reading. If we always read below are ability, our ability becomes that level. Reading then can become counter-productive.

This is particularly relevant if you have, or work with, children. Take my daughter for example. She is a bright almost-13 year old who likes reading. However, she likes reading Dork Diaries. There’s nothing wrong with them. I bought her the whole set. BUT, I would like her to stretch herself every now and then, so she alternates. She reads a challenging book and then an easier book. She has the challenge of the harder book (currently it’s Noughts and Crosses – the amazing book by Malorie Blackman) and then the relaxation of an easy read for pure pleasure. This seems to work for her and I get the satisfaction of knowing she’s enjoying her reading.

An insight into the planning of an English unit of work

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So, I have a lot of posts in draft form at the moment as they are not quite ready for publishing just yet, but I thought I’d share today what I hope will be helpful for some people. How I plan an English unit of work. Now, I work with 7-11 year olds, but I can’t see how this couldn’t work with other age groups too. And for anyone reading this who isn’t in teaching, this is the amount of work that a teacher puts into just one subject that they teach! An insight into the inner workings of planning a unit of work!

First and foremost I decide what it is that I need the outcome to be. If it is a narrative unit, do I want the children to write a whole story, or part of a story? Are they re-writing a story that has already been told, changing the perspective, the ending or are they inventing something new to add to an existing story? If it is a non-fiction unit, what is the purpose of the chosen text? Are they reporting, sharing information or persuading? Once I know what this is going to be, I can begin to work backwards thinking about the skills they will need in order to achieve this final outcome. I usually work a unit around three weeks so this is going to take up my last few sessions.

Then I really begin to think about what the children are going to actually ‘learn’ in each session. What is the aim of each session going to be? There will then be sub-goals for different groups of children (differentiation) based on their abilities and their levels of attainment. I aim to have all the children working towards the same over-arching ‘goal’ in each lesson, this just might look slightly different in their outcomes or levels of support.
For each lesson I then look specifically at the targets which this lesson will cover. At our school, as we are part of a MAT, we have target sheets in the children’s books which come from the National Curriculum and which have been broken down into chunks. Some of these chunks need to be taught several times over in order for the children to really grasp and understand what they mean, others are much easier to cover. So for each lesson I will pick at least one target that has the ability to be achieved in the session. When I am marking the work, I can then assess whether I feel that target has been met and it is much easier for me to keep on top of recording their achievements than having to keep looking targets and dates up! This then also forms the lesson objective for the lesson (adapted into child-speak where necessary) and the first thing that the children will usually be told at the start of that session.

Once I have worked out what they children will be learning in the lesson and which target they will hopefully be meeting, I can then get to the fun part which is actually constructing the session. What am I actually going to get them to ‘do’ in the lesson? This is really important as what they are learning and what they are doing are often two completely different things. For example, they might be writing the description of a character who is to be introduced (doing), but through this they are selecting suitable adjectives and descriptive phrases and using specifically chosen sentence structures and language choices for effect (learning). This is really important when planning as many teachers, myself included in the past, have gotten confused between the learning and the doing. It is really clear to make that distinction with yourself at this stage and to regularly check back over your plans to ensure that your lesson outcomes are focussed on the learning not the doing.

I have devised a grid to help me plan this stage, before I begin planning each lesson in depth. It helps me and my teaching partner have an overview of the whole unit, plus it means that we can both see from the beginning where the unit is heading, even though the in-depth weekly plan will only be produced a week at a time. This means that before we have even begun week 1 of teaching, I can give my teaching partner the overview and they can see what the outcome is going to be, how we are going to get there and which targets we are going to cover on the way. As this tends to only be 1 or 2 sides of A4 paper, it is also handy to have when marking as it allows for easy reference for the assessment of targets!

Here is an example of the first week of a narrative unit that I planned for Year 3.

Where possible, I always try to include examples of the Next Steps we could use when marking as this also helps to speed up the marking process. It is not by any means a ‘one size fits all’, but it does help!

There, that is how I begin to plan a unit of work in English. The weekly plan will then be much more detailed with the lesson broken down into its required parts, example questions that can be used, differentiated activities for the children to carry out and plenaries to round off the session. There will be clear guidance for the adults used within the classroom as to the expectations of them during each session as well as indications of when heavier, more in depth marking and assessments are required.

I hope this has been helpful, or at least an interesting read! I’d love to know your thoughts, so please leave a comment below!

Is it ok to give up on a book?

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I feel really down when I just can’t get on with a book. Who else feels like this? I’m sure I’m not the only one. Why do we torment ourselves with the fact that the book just isn’t great? It’s absolutely ok for us to not like a book, particularly if it is one that everyone seems to be reading or raving about online.

“I’ve read a lot of bad books. I used to review books for a living, and when you’re a reviewer you read tons of terrible books.”

John Green

I can probably count the number of books I’ve disliked or given up on, on my fingers, which I class as very lucky. I’m quite versatile when it comes to reading material and will pretty much give anything a go. However, when a book has really enticed me and then it lets me down, I feel awful. And that’s ridiculous! Think about how many music genres and films there are in the world. Do we all like the same ones? No, of course we don’t. There are a myriad of personalities and things we revel in out there, which is why we are so lucky to have the variety and breadth of choice that we do. So it stands to reason that there will be books out there that we just don’t click with, that we just don’t ‘get’, no matter the hype around them. Yes, it is disappointing, especially when that book has been calling out to you from the shelf to be read, you’ve invested your time in it (and money!) and you just can’t get along with it. But, move on. There are hundreds, no, millions of books out there to be read. Don’t dwell on the sadness of a failed relationship with that particular book. Unfortunately, it is life and we will all encounter a book that isn’t us at some point.

I’d love to know the books that you’ve given up on or were most disappointed by. Let’s use this as a platform to get that books off our chest, get some closure on it and move on. For me, the most disappointing one recently was I Am Clay, by Markus Zusak. One of my favourite authors and The Book Thief will forever be one of my most treasured books, but I Am Clay just did not hit the mark for me. I found it clunky and the story didn’t capture me in the same way. Will it put me off reading more of his work, absolutely not. Will I let it get me down? Not any more!

What is reading?

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To me reading is about escapism, but at its purest, basest form it is simply the interpretation of squiggles on a page. (I say squiggles over letters, because in some languages they are characters rather than letters and reading is inclusive of all languages and cultures.)

Once you are past the decoding and deciphering of what the squiggles and combinations actually mean, then a whole new world, in fact a whole new range of worlds, opens up to you. That isn’t to say that we never have to use the skills of decoding and deciphering again, but it becomes far fewer and the reading itself becomes more fluid and enjoyable.

Reading is particularly difficult for children who are still at the decoding stage as they have to work out every word before they can begin to string the ideas together and form a complete idea. Imagine picking up a book and each word being a struggle for you to read, a word where you have to break down the sounds and squiggle formations. You have to do this over and over again. Do you follow what the sentence is about, or do you then have to re-read the sentence again to join the words together? Imagine how time consuming and exhausting that must be. This is why young children’s books are repetitive and often use rhyme; where they might not be able to work out every single word they can use the rhyming pattern to work out and essentially predict what the next word will be. This because less easy to do as we grow older and as we progress into reading longer stories and novels, we lose the use of rhyme to tell stories. If we were still at the stage of having to decode every word in each sentence I’m sure we’d switch off from reading pretty quickly.

So how can we help children (and others) get beyond this decoding and deciphering stage so that they can embrace reading and develop a love of it that we have? Simple; reading, repetition and rhyme. The more we read to them and with them, the more they will identify which formation of squiggles equates to which word. The same stories read repeatedly (although boring for us as adults) helps cement these words, sentence structures and essentially story structures. Themes, how good usually triumphs over evil and how the underdog usually comes out on top, how there are main characters and sub characters, how descriptions are predominately shown through pictures in young children’s books and then through words as we get older and how stories usually follow a beginning, middle and end structure at is basest form.

From the earliest moment with your child(ren) fill their lives with words, with books and with stories. Show them how to use dictionaries to discover what words mean and thesauruses to find synonyms of these words. Share, laugh and cry together where necessary. Fall in love with heroes and heroines and feel nothing but contempt for the baddies. Immerse yourself in the wonders that books can show you and visit places you never thought you could.

Time out

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Tuesday’s food for thought; Giving yourself and each other time out

Home-support learning is hard work! Juggling being a parent, working yourself and supporting your child(ren) with their learning takes its toll on us all. Trust me. So what can you do about it?

It is really really important that you ALL make time for yourselves. I know how tiring it is being with a 10 month old all day, plus my 12 year old is home this week doing her home learning and the other half works from home in the home office. It can feel like we never get a break or a chance to unwind. (Especially if like me you have a demanding little one who refuses to nap most of the time and is an early riser!) However, it is really important that you all make time for yourselves. We are a family of runners so running is our escapism and downtime. We take it in turns to get our runs in (the other half goes before work, I go in the evening), we share the bath and bedtime routine where possible and understand that the 12 year old also needs time to herself. I’d love her to spend more time reading and less time on her phone, but realistically that’s unlikely to happen. She needs downtime and if that’s how she relaxes, so be it. As long as it’s not completely taking over her free time I’m happy. (Plus, we have the rule that during the ‘school day’ she has no access to it as she wouldn’t while she’s at school.) She helps me cook and eats dinner with us, which is a no-phone zone, so we have conversations and spend quality time together.

Essentially; find what helps you to relax and unwind and make time for it in your day. For me it’s reading, puzzles, running and cooking. For others I know it’s crocheting, sewing, learning a new language, walking the dog, cleaning (I have a friend who loves to clean), painting, watching films or colouring. Whatever it is, make time for it. And essentially, understand that others in your household need that time to do their thing too. We’re not all the same and we all have different needs and things that help us to unwind so we need to be respectful of others needs at the same time.

Time away from your workspace will make the world of difference to your day.

Restarting

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So I set up a page on Facebook offering help to those who might be struggling with the challenges of home schooling their children during this third lockdown.

Then it got me thinking, I really enjoy writing so I’ve restarted this blog that I began years ago. I’ve deleted the previous posts and added in the posts from my Facebook page. I’d love to connect with more people and use this as a platform to help others and to develop my own strategies of coping with the pandemic.

Here I go… watch this space for further updates.

The fear of not knowing

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Let’s all be honest here. How many times in our lives have we not known something? The answer to a question on the quiz show you watched last night, the thing your boss asked you to do, but you had no idea what they meant, what our baby or pets are trying to say to us, or simply what you wanted for dinner or where you wanted to go at the weekend. How easy is it for us to say “I don’t know” in these situations? We ask for clarification from our boss, we listen for the answer on the quiz show, we google endlessly about what signs, signals and sounds mean from babies and pets, we browse cookbooks and turn to google and Instagram for inspiration on places to visit and things to do. So why is it different with our children?

So many people are in the situation currently where they are trying to juggle work (usually from home) and helping their child(ren) with their home learning. This pandemic is definitely stretching us in ways we didn’t even know we could be stretched! But I am seeing lots and lots of social media posts of parents saying that they can’t do it, it’s too hard, they don’t understand the work and ultimately, they feel stupid themselves. If you have fallen into this category, stop. Ask yourself this simple question; what did you do when you didn’t know what to do? When you’re there in that situation, your child is looking to you for help or an answer and you didn’t know how to help. How many of you panicked, felt stressed, felt stupid and left it? How many of you ended up in an argument with your child about what to do? How many of you were brave enough to hold your hands up and admit you didn’t know? This is by far the hardest, and yet at the same time, the easiest thing to do. Let me explain.

I am a teacher. I am trained as a teacher. I am trained to teach and to educate and essentially to answer questions. However, I DO NOT know the answer to everything and the minute I admitted this to myself and to the children I teach, my job became a lot easier. There are always questions that I don’t know the answer to, so what do I do? I tell the children that I don’t know and that it is ok to not know. What is not ok is to not do anything about it. Then, depending on the question, the situation and the time available I either; tell them I’ll look it up and get back to them, we look it up together or I tell them that I’ll ask someone who I know might/will know the answer. Problem solved. Children are naturally curious and inquisitive, they want to know the answers to things, so we should be empowering them to find out and in the process empowering ourselves to be ok with not knowing. I remember always asking my dad what certain words meant and his answer was always the same “go and look in the dictionary” as infuriating it may have been at the time, he was empowering me. He wasn’t giving me the easy option by just telling me, he was teaching me skills; how to use a dictionary, how to go and find the answer to something I didn’t know and how it was ok to not know, as long as I did something about it. I really should thank him.

So what I’m trying to say in this very long-winded post is it is absolutely 100% ok to not know, it’s what you’re then going to do about it that matters. With small children (EYFS to early KS2) tell them that you don’t know, but that you will find out when you can and you will go through it again. (I am always here to help if you don’t have time to spend hours on google deciphering what things mean) and with other children (late KS2 to secondary) try setting them the challenge of finding out before you, or with you. Can you park it for a while and then when you have the time can you research or work it out together? Empower them to solve these problems in a logical and safe way and in doing so empower yourself to be ok with not knowing. This is not a test of your abilities and by no means are any of you failing.