Praise Be! (to school)

If you’re a parent of a school aged child, then naturally, school will be a massive part of your family’s life. Last year, we became one of those families when our little girl started full time school.

I’ve come to learn that as an adoptive parent, choosing the right school for your child will affect every day, and usually every hour of each day. So, getting it right is essential. Getting is wrong could spell disaster. We chose our school really for proximity to where we live, and where we work. To be honest we didn’t really know what to look for in a ‘good school’, but have friends who’s children go there and had good things to say. When we looked around we got a really good impression, and there was no reason that we could see that would mean we wouldn’t want to send our daughter there. It wasn’t rated ‘outstanding’ by Ofsted, but for us this didn’t matter, we know that league tables arnt everything, and what was more important to us was that it would meet our daughter’s needs as much as possible.

I hear a lot about how schools have not delivered, or not supported adopted children. All children deserve to have a positive school experience, and all children should feel safe in school. Sadly, some children do not have a good school experience, and that’s not acceptable whatever. However, I do also feel for the teachers who work in schools. Theirs is an incredibly hard job, and most of the time they are trying their absolute best to support each and every child. I think we as parents sometimes forget that teacher have many children to support each day, not just our own. Their day does not end when the children go home. They have their own lives to live too, and as we know, everyone’s live have their own challenges to navigate too. Sometimes I think we’re too quick to criticise and complain about teachers, and sometimes we need to try harder to find something nice and encouraging to say too. I do have to admit though, we have been very lucky and have had an excellent experience so far, so I guess if we’d not, maybe I wouldn’t be able to say the above so easily.

This post was really just to show some gratitude and thanks to our daughter’s school and teachers. I really wish I could name it, as it really has been great. But for now, you’ll just have to believe me…

There is a number of reasons why school has been a great experience for us this year. Firstly, it seems a very gentle and nurturing school. They have a lot of pastoral support available, and really celebrate and champion the children. Obviously they do care about results and targets, but from what I can gather, they equally care about the children’s well-being and social/emotional development. They have ‘keeping-in-touch’ days for certain children in the holidays. These days give these children a chance to do activities such as cinema, meal out that most other children take for granted. They use their pupil premium money (not PP+) to run a free breakfast club. This means that children get to have a good breakfast, which sets them up for the day of learning. The times I have been into school, I’ve been really impressed how well the staff know the children by their names, and they talk to them as they walk round the school. When we went to buy our little girl’s uniform before she even started school, I told the reception ladies her name, and they knew who she was even then. It’s the little, personal touches that make a difference.

I hear of lots of schools who have numerous dress up days, and other special days that are out of routine. Lots of events and activities. Our school has very few of these sorts of days, which I think is just fine. it keeps the routine predictable, and helps regulate everyone. If events happen, they seem pretty low key and relaxed. Sports day was lovely, the focus was on taking part, having fun and learning that faster doesn’t always mean winning.

Our daughter’s teacher has been amazing, I don’t think I can thank her enough. She has meant that the first year of school has been a really positive one. It’s been a fantastic base for which our little girl can build her experience on. She has firm foundations, and these will help to shape the rest of her time in school I’m sure. Her teacher is very experienced, firm, but fair and kind. I don’t know if she’s taught adopted children before, but she has always made us feel reassured and confident that our daughter is well looked after. I emailed her long before our daughter started at school, so that communication was well established. She always replies to emails promptly. Sometimes late at night, bless her. She has made an effort to understand our situation, and is keen to help as much as she can. She listens, and validates what we have to say. She understands the importance of good transition, and has provided some extra bits where requested. For example she hand delivered a photo book for the Little One so that she could become familiar with the new school and staff before she started there. She visited us at home, and the Little One at nursery. They don’t actually seem to do much formal work around transition to new classes, but I’m sure her teacher would provide extra if requested. They seem to drip feed new information, and I know they’ve been talking about what life will be like in year one for a few weeks now. Little One seems to cope ok with new things at the moment, but I have every faith that if she struggled there would be no problem getting some support. I’m told the children don’t really notice the transition to the formal learning in year one as it’s very gradual. The year one teachers already spend time with the children weekly, so they know each other well anyway.

We have been having some Theraplay and life story work the last few months, which means taking the Little One out of school for 1/2 a day each time. This obviously means she’s missed quite a bit of school, which is not ideal. However, her teacher does totally understand why it’s needed, and really supports it. When I told her about this initially, she immediately offered time or space in school to support it. We decided not to meet in school as we wanted it to be independent, but it was good to know that would have been an option should we need it. Her teacher ‘get’s it’, this I know because she once told me that it was really good for us to be able to have some quality time with Little One. She had also spoken to the head teacher, and explained on our behalf why it was an authorised absence. Her teacher also told me how she was really moved when the Little One had told her class about her life story book, and about when we went to the judge, and he said ‘that Mummy and Daddy could keep her forever’. The teacher had said that we could bring the book into school if wanted, but I think we’ll not go there at the moment….However, I don’t doubt that if it was taken into school, Little One would be fully supported to share it with her classmates. The fact that she wanted to talk about it at school just shows how safe and supported she feels there. We are very grateful to her teacher for telling us about this, it really helps to know what’s been happening, and we can make sure we talk to our daughter about it too.

Earlier this week Little One told me it was Teacher’s Day, and she wanted to buy her teachers some chocolate to say thank you for teaching her. Teacher’s Day does exist, just not this week. However, I let her carry on with her plan, so she she chose some chocolates (her favourite of course), and she wrote a thank you card. She took it to school, and the teachers were so happy. I think it was a wonderful surprise, and it really came from the heart. It was totally unprompted, and really showed how grateful she is to her teachers. I thought it was nice to do now rather than at just because everyone else is at the end of term. I bumped into her teacher on the way to work this morning, and she thanked me for the card/chocolates. She said Little One has done so well this year, and has achieved so much. She said we must be so proud, and she’s really looking forward to seeing how Little One grows and develops as she moves up the school. She thinks she’ll go far, and I agree.

To conclude, here’s a great big THANK YOU! to school, her teacher and all the other staff who have helped us this year. Their love, care and compassion has made a huge difference to us all. The ‘evidence’ is clear to see in Little One, she is learning, she is thriving, she is happy and she is a joy. Here’s to next year and seeing what that holds….