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  • Writer's pictureEliza

A Teaching Post: Upper

My last teaching related post was a downer. The darker side of teaching in the UK system as it currently stands.

In the interests of balance...

Today worked. It totally worked. We vibed, we learnt and at home to me the class said to me 'we've had the best day.' It is not always the case by a long shot but today it was amazing! Quick...reflection. What worked? How to recreate? The panic to remember what didn't work is as great as the panic of recording what did!

For context: I have worked today with my small group of gorgeous children with additional needs including autism, ADHD, PDD, trauma and attachment disorder. All amazing inspiring superstars but throw lots of fizz and fire into the small classroom and sometimes the fireworks go off. There have been very challenging days. I have needed lots of support and it has been a dramatic learning curve.

For my and I hope other's benefit - here were the winners today...

  1. Technology is your friend. My class are used to constant stimulation - TV/tablets, lights, music, noise. Quiet feels uncomfortable. Today we had a quiet Cirque de Soleil video running in the background. Low level lighting, real people not cartoons, an experience many will not have experienced before. Interestingly very few watched for very long but the learning in continuous provision was far quieter and more engaged. I am not sure why but I suspect it is because they did not need to create the noise themselves to meet their sensory need for noise in the environment.

  2. Reel them in. Carpet time and any input is a challenge. Rounding up people with different agendas, struggling with transition and refusing any demands can take time and it often doesn't seem worth it. Go Noodle has been a saving grace this week. We do ten minute, five minute and 1 minute verbal warning explaining what is coming next. Then a Go Noodle plays. They came. They all came. We danced, we sat and watched our creature to see if it was upgrading. Then quick as a flash we whip out the maths input.

  3. We love to move it, move it. Today we have moved multiple times as a unit. In fact every five minutes or so. We lose our focus if we don't and that is when we often see behaviour which does not help us to have a happy classroom. We read our class story and acted it out. We lay down with our heads in the middle and read a book together cosy style. We got outside and played What's the Time Mr Wolf to practise our counting. Later we did the bear hunt and crawled under the tables on our travels around the classroom.

  4. Connect. You live and die by your relationships in the classroom. These kids are used to being manipulated into behaviours which placate adults, they are used to all the usual parenting techniques of old. If they don't like you, you don't stand a chance. The little moments really count. Build rapor, build trust, build genuine care and don't abuse it. Ask, offer choice, be kind. Children who are living with additional needs are likely to experience higher levels of criticism. Your voice and the things you say they are contribute to their internal voice about themselves. As a trusted caregiver, you, literally, have the power to speak into them what they will become. The more we speak positivity, notice the brilliance of the children, the greater their self-value becomes the more their confidence grows. They will need this strong positive internal working model as they grow. It protects against mental health, poor relationships and so much more. Enough soapbox. I got carried away.

  5. Take the small wins. Today one of the children spent my phonics sessions repeating that they didn't like phonics and weren't going to do it. By the end they had joined in. The did three letters. It wasn't much but for the first time that child had stayed in the room for the whole session. It was a win. It was progress. I can keep going if there is progress.

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