Time to Shine!

I love writing a blog that has a happy ending and this one does 😉……

Almost three years ago when my middle baby started prep she was shy, quiet, reserved and suffered separation anxiety. Sienna (aka Sie Sie) was the little girl who never caused any harm, never caused any commotion and was the one who would always be the peace keeper to make everyone else happy. She was the little girl who was too shy to talk to strangers. She was the little girl who hid behind my leg if someone tried to engage in a conversation. She was the little girl who would be pushed around in the toddler area of a play ground but would never make waves and would go to another area to play. She’s always been bright but lacked confidence in her own ability, and her chance to shine was always crippled by that. But that was then…..

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Over the past few years while she’s been at school, she has been so very lucky to have the most amazing educators who have not only nurtured her learning, but have never given up on her when it comes to her being confident. From prep to now (end of grade 2), her walls that she has built so strong around her, have been chipped away and knocked down bit by bit, layer by layer. I’m so happy to now say that my daughter who I’ve always worried about where all of this would end up, is on top of her world! She now oozes with confidence, challenges herself at school with new concepts and tasks and is reaping the rewards.

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Only a few weeks ago Sie Sie received an award for moving up 6 levels in her reading just in a couple of months. To say I’m proud is an understatement. I knew she had it in her, but she has always lacked confidence with her reading, but now this boost has paved the way for her. Living with a brother that is very confident (almost too confident) has to be hard when you’re battling a lack of confidence yourself and it sure doesn’t help when her little 4-year-old sister corrects her and answers questions for her all the time.

I think it’s safe to say Sienna has found her voice in her home and in her school life. She is no longer the girl who hides behind us, nor is she the girl who is shy and softly spoken. She is funny, charismatic, fearless and very mature. She stands up for herself and is very caring for her peers who struggle with things that other children take for granted. She is CONFIDENT in her own skin.

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This has also been evident with her sporting achievements this year. Sienna started playing basketball at the beginning of this year when she was only 6 and a half. After one match of playing in under 8s, she was asked to play in the under 10 mixed division. She had such a wonderful first season and was asked to play in the under 11 girls this season. This also followed with receiving a place in the under 12 girls rep team, but due to only being 7 and not even playing for a year yet, we thought it would be best to wait for rep basketball until she is a little older. We get so much enjoyment out of watching her shine in her chosen sport and her infectious smiles and giggles on court are beautiful. This girl has come so far it makes my heart beat with pride!

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So to all the mummas out there who worry about their quiet achieves who lack confidence, be patient and try not to worry. This experience for me has shown me that all children develop in their own way and in their own time. The solution to this is TIME. Children shine when they are ready to let down their walls of security. For some it’s easier than others. All we can do is encourage and support them and be there to celebrate their success. This year sure has been my daughter’s time to shine and what a wonderful feeling it’s been for us all! All I can say, there is hope for my littlest girl yet lol!

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When I Grow up I want to be……

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It only feels like yesterday I was sitting on the carpet of 1 Green’s floor in front of Mrs Brown listening to a story. I was 6 years old, as fresh as a daisy ready to embrace the world of learning. I was shy, reserved (I know shocking lol), apprehensive about what to expect. I cried from one day to the next when mum dropped me off, for at least the first couple of weeks. Eventually I learnt to trust the situation I was in. I loved my teacher. I loved my friends and before long I loved school. That little shy, reserved 6 year, who would enjoy playing make-believe teachers always asked herself the question….when I grow up, what do I want to be? I remember saying a hairdresser, medical receptionist, a nurse and a teacher was commonly spoken about!

It seriously felt within a blink of an eye, I was being asked that very same question by my high school’s Guidance Officer! This time it wasn’t a hypothetical question. I had to respond. I had a Qtac form to fill out! It’s such a huge time of life completing high school and then being faced with the big bad world. Where to from there? It’s been 16 years now since I answered my Guidance Officer’s question. I didn’t originally put teaching first, I actually preferenced nursing first and it wasn’t until I changed my Qtac form to primary education before second round offers were handed out, that my teaching journey was to start!

Going from a year 12 student, where I was school captain, everyone knew me I knew everyone to a university campus with many different age groups of people, was so daunting to begin with, but I was lucky enough to have a few friends from high school studying the same degree, which helped with some of the nerves. The first semester was the hardest. Learning the way of university life. Learning the expectations of assignment writing, research techniques, exam procedures….it was a whole new world which became a part of my everyday life for the next four years! I remember stepping in a classroom for the first time. I was only to observe and I had butterflies. Then in my third year it was my turn to teach for the first time. I was up to my ears in lesson plans, resources and activities and I loved it all! It was in my third year where I sincerely knew I made the right decision to become a teacher!

My final year at Uni was brilliant! I loved every minute of it! As each month passed by, the puzzle to this big picture was closer to being complete! I had a fantastic experience for my final prac, which I believe was the making of the teacher that I became and still am to this day! And if I thought I had butterflies in my stomach when I first stepped into a classroom as an observing prac student, they were nothing like the night before my very first day of teaching! I hardly slept a wink! I couldn’t stop thinking about everything. What was my class going to be like? Will I be able to cope? Am I organised enough? My very first day of teaching was nothing short of fantastic!!!! I was finally doing what I loved. A teacher with my very own class….who to this day will always hold a special place in my heart!

That day was 12 years ago now! My gosh how things have changed since then. For the first four years of my career, teaching was my everything! I lived breathed and ate it every chance I got…I didn’t have a choice at first, that’s usually what happens when you first start a job! The students became like my own and I had such a wonderful relationship with my fellow staff members, admin, students and parents of the community! From year to year I built on my skills, confidence and ability as a teacher. I took on roles and responsibilities that suited my strengths and always loved the challenge! Then I bought a house, then I got married, then I had my first baby, then I had my second baby, which took me to 7 years of teaching!

Like I said I loved being a classroom teacher. I loved educating, helping and supporting kids and challenging and extending the gifted. The bond between a teacher and their students really is something so special and I’m so grateful that I’ve been able to experience that time and time again. But at 7 years I was faced with teaching special ed. Like anything it was a bit daunting at first, but within a few weeks, I knew this would become my new passion. I was ready for my career to take a path change and the flexibility when having little ones at home yourself, really came in handy. In such a short space of time I went from a class special ed teacher to a TAEA which in plain English meant I was at a small school 2 days a week and ran their special ed program. This job was brilliant! It allowed me to challenge not only myself as a professional, but it has given me many leadership skills that I still use to this day. It also helped me in the next role that I took on which was a behaviour teacher.

Being a Behaviour Advisory Teacher (BAT – teachers called me Nat the Bat lol) gave me a great opportunity to experience a different field to special ed, although dealing with a lot of the behaviour was very similar, the processes of each job is quite different. In this role I was also given several opportunities to experience a Deputy Principal role which I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt at this point in my career I was at the crossroads of deciding what I wanted to pursue….a Head of Special ed role or a Deputy Principal role….then I fell pregnant with my Mimi girl! Didn’t this throw a spanner in the works. We were all but convinced that we weren’t able to have any more children due to a thyroid problem that I had, turns out once I had half my thyroid removed, that completely fixed any problems conceiving!!!

Something changed in me having my third baby. My whole perspective on life, my attitude, it just all changed. I know that being diagnosed with a heart condition while pregnant had a lot to do with this. My focus changed. I always loved being a mum and being a mum was the most important job, but once I became a mum of three it was my only role in my eyes! When I had to return to work after my third baby, after having 13 months off, I didn’t want to be there. I’d lost my ‘teaching’ focus, my passion went missing and I really didn’t see it coming back anytime soon! But then I was placed back in a special ed role, with wonderful people and although it took quite a few months, I eventually found my way back on the right track again!

I’ve been back to work for 12 months now and I’m happy to say that my passion for teaching and learning is as strong as it’s ever been. I absolutely love my special ed role. I’ve gone from a middle to upper school teacher to a prep/1/2 special ed teacher and no matter what I’ve experienced so far as a teacher, I’ve loved every minute of it. Like anything there has been many lows which I’ve reflected on and learnt from, but a mountain of highs that I’ve been able to share and celebrate with many. Am I still the same teacher I was 12 years ago, hell no way! I’ve grown up, I’ve become a mother! I still have the same beliefs and philosophy, but I’m more compassionate than ever, more patient then ever and I have a better understanding of children, their parents and the world in which they come from. So many people are still pondering and reluctant to finish the sentence – when I grow up I want to be…..I’m happy to say that I’ve made a great career choice in becoming a teacher and wouldn’t have it any other way!

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“Somebody please talk to me!”

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When we first enter the unfamiliar world of parenting so many people are quick to give us advice on feeding, changing, sleeping, dummies, bottles and the like, but where is the advice on simple things and extremely important things like how important it is to speak to our children! I’ve been teaching just over a decade now and one common deficiency I’m seeing more and more is the number of children who are coming to prep with a lack of oral language skills!

Whether it be their lack of ability to ask a question, respond to a question, follow an instruction, speak in simple sentences or being able to be understood, are all problems little people are facing when entering the school system. From the second our babies are born into this world, their little ears are responding to noise and the most precious gift a mother can give to her baby is her voice!
I think the problem is we forget to talk to our babies until they start responding first with a noise or a word, but a babies first response without noise is eye contact and listening to what is being said to them! We know ourselves if we are unable to use our voice we use eye contact as a way to communicate and we attain information by listening and that is what a baby does.

I can’t help myself, from the time my babies take their first breath I’m in their face talking to them. Between a nappy change, feeding, bathing, burping and playing, these are all perfect opportunities to bond with our babies and expose them to language. I’ve always taken these opportunities to sing a nursery rhyme, tell them about the wonderful things of the world or simply explain what I’m doing – “mummy is going to change your nappy”, “it’s bedtime now” right from birth my babies have heard cues like this. Our babies are like sponges and they are learning from a newborn. It’s amazing as they get older you see the benefit of talking to your baby. My youngest is almost 18 months and her language is evolving everyday! Not only is she communicating clearly through a variety of words, her receptive language (understanding what we say) is fantastic! Last year when my son was in prep, one thing his teacher always complimented him on was his oral language and my daughter’s preschool teacher just recently said how well she holds a conversation.

It makes me think that so many wonderful mothers, who if educated properly on this subject, would take it on board more. It’s common knowledge that reading to our babies as early as in utero is so important for our children, but very rarely do you read a lot of information about just generally talking to our babies. We are already a part of a world where speaking is becoming less and less due to an abundance of technology compared to even 10 years ago! It’s so easy to forget to do something so simple especially when life is so busy all the time, but if we made a habit of it and integrated talking to our children into our day to day chores and routines, it wouldn’t seem like work then.

It makes me sad to think that there are so many babies being born who spend their first five years with very little exposure to a wide variety of language and that all they needed from day one was someone to consistently engage with them. Our babies need to learn how to communicate orally as god knows by the time they are 10 and discover all the ins and outs of technology, talking becomes less and less. I always wondered when my babies were little babies and would look up at me, what they were thinking….I’m sure they were saying in their head “somebody please talk to me!” and that is what I’ve always done!

Mia only days old listening to me…….she doesn’t seem very interested in what I’m saying, but she will thank me one day for all the stories and bits of information I’ve told her:)

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Teacher By Profession….Mother For Life!

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I’ve been a teacher for almost 11 years now…longer than I’ve been a mum! Before I had children of my own, my life was teaching and my children per say were my students! Pre-children I loved being a teacher! I would go to the ends of the earth to create a unit of work or innovating activity for my students to gain a learning experience from! I would spend my days being not only a teacher but a surrogate parent to some, nurse, psychologist and the like! I planned excursions, camps, multicultural events, coached netball and made many a phone call to parents regarding their child’s well being!

Then I became a mum. My love of teaching never left me, but something did change and that is the way I think now! I’m not for one second trying to imply teachers who are mums are better than teachers who aren’t, but since becoming a mum, I look at things differently now and am quite a different teacher than I use to be! Pre-children I was such a control freak really when I think about it, but it worked and I always got the best results out of my students academically and behaviourally! I would ring a parent or refer a student for a problem and it didn’t affect me as bad as it does it does now!

For the past few years I’ve been teaching in special Ed or behaviour positions so I’ve found myself in many situations where my heart has ached for a child…I’ve become such a softy and even though I’ve always been an empathetic person, now I’m a mum my empathy has changed if that makes sense?? I always think now imagine if that was my child or me receiving the phone call! I tread so lighting around parents now and how I approach a subject as the child in discussion is their baby just like I have babies!

Being a teacher can be a good thing and a bad thing when you are a mum! We have a good knowledge of so many areas that can benefit our own children, but then we know too much about other things and the worst thing a teaching mum does is diagnose their own child! We spend so much of our time hoping and praying that our children aren’t going to struggle at school, when provided we allow a safe and supportive environment from the day they were born, we sometimes just have to realise we don’t always have control over this!

Then that day finally arrives for your own child to start school and your professional role has to take a back seat while your mummy role takes precedent! It was weird at first being a school mum. You feel as the ‘teacher’s’ child, they should always be the best role model and doing the best in the class! I soon let all those feelings go because I didn’t want to put my child under anymore pressure than what kids are already under these days!

My son is in grade one now and up until last month I haven’t been in the position that I as a teacher have had to corner a parent during drop off or pick up! It was those handful of words that you dread to hear from your child’s teacher….”I need to speak with you!” I’ve been waiting for this moment though. You see my son Bailey has always presented a lot of behaviours on the spectrum and although he is perfect at school and leaves those behaviours and melt downs for home, I’ve been waiting for the call to let me know those behaviours have been presenting at school.

Of course I expected the worst and any experience of being a teacher didn’t matter at all, as this time I was the mum being delivered the information. Thankfully it wasn’t anything relating to his behaviour. This one moment that a teacher took to speak to me though has led to a chain of events. She was concerned about his hearing and understanding what she was saying, we had a meeting with Bailey about this and things improved a little. I then took him to my GP to see if he needed an auditory processing assessment done, he noticed Bailey’s ears are full of fluid again and after having a hearing test, we found out that Bailey has a complete blocked ear and one that isn’t very flash! A trip then to our ENT ended in us now having to wait to see if the fluid will drain otherwise he will end up with his fourth set of grommets!

My poor boy has obviously been sitting in class and not hearing things as clearly as he should. The mum in me wants to hug him tight and wrap him up in cotton wool, but the teacher in me is working hard to make sure he is in a learning environment that can cater to his needs at the moment! Thankfully Bailey goes to a wonderful school with a very supportive admin and his teacher is just fantastic! This situation has highlighted even more to me how important a teacher is in our children’s lives and more importantly how important it is a parent and teacher work together!

We have been through so much with Bailey and even though my professional job deals with children like Bailey all the time, nothing prepares you for when things happen to your own child and the shoes on the other foot. I am so
proud of his achievements so far and as I read his first report card yesterday it brought a tear to my eye how awesome our son really is! I am a teacher by profession, but I’m a mother for life and I try everyday to make sure I distinguish between the two roles as best as I possibly can!

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