If I could give you one gift it would be to see yourself through my eyes and then you would see how special you really are.

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Governance

I often toy with stepping away from my school governor duties, especially since I have become a "reluctant" chair. I was Vice Chair earlier this year and when the Chair resigned I had to step into his shoes and funnily enough at the next meeting I was voted in. Not because I am organised, efficient, and able to keep my distance emotionally, no because no one else wanted it! There is quite a lot of work and a huge amount of responsibility involved in school governance, regardless of position and when trying to maintain a healthy work/life balance it is our volunteering roles that get sidelined. However, every time the thought of resigning pops into my head something happens to stop me in my tracks.
I am not a school governor because I am generous with my time, no I want to be involved in the education of my children and all those other children that need someone in their corner. So at a Chairs meeting when we were informed that there has been a worrying increase in fixed and permenant exclusions of children from school, I decided to attend the next exclusions training session.
Many counties are moving the responsibility of fixed term (more than 5 days) and permenant exclusions from the Headteacher to the exclusion panel, (school governors) This is to ensure that the school behaviour policy has been followed and that each child is being treated fairly. There is a definite trend in schools not providing the right support that some of the pupils need. Not because they don't want too but because they can't afford too. With budgets being cut, less CAHMS available and SEND funds being reduced, I have to say that I do have some sympathy with school staff. Classes are getting bigger, getting children a place on the SEND register is harder and County are running on limited resources. All theses things will effect our children, my child in particular. So when a child becomes to big a drain on resources, finances and other children's education, exclusion is seen as an easy way out. Our trainer even said that permanent exclusions are a good thing for the child and their family because In many cases it forces County and the support agencies to up their game and put more support in place, but for the child the damage is done.

Being a Governor means that I am involved in policy making decisions, ensuring that the panels are made up of people who aren't afraid to question the status quo, who will ensure that decsions are fair and school processes are followed. With my involvement in the adoption world I know of attachment training and support and where the school can go for help - this is what our Pupil Premium Plus money should be being spent on. I can ask the questions about progress for all the minority grouping, English as Another Language(EAL), Pupil Premium children (disadvantaged). I remind staff that if we can't support childrens behaviour then the children can't/won't learn.  

I am very lucky, my school is pretty amazing, we work well together and Child 4 is very settled, doing well academically, and loving his sport. Behaviour is monitored and he is supported at lunchtime, which is when struggles the most. They are even having some "Transition" training from County Post Adoption team.  I do wonder though if they would be so open if I wasn't involved as a school governor as well as a parent, which is why when those thoughts about walking away are often ignored as I know that in reality my family are the only people in child 4's corner.


Sunday, 22 October 2017

National Adoption Week 2017

Four years ago I felt part of something special during National Adoption Week, child 4 had just arrived and all was new and shiny, we belonged to a new exciting club. Now, I am not sure that I even like National Adoption Week. In fact this year I've kind of ignored it, well as best you can when our Twitter and Facebook feeds are full of all that is adoption.

I am saddened and angry that siblings are paraded through the media looking for their forever families. Although, I know that adoption is probably the best outcome for them. I am tired of reading stories of adoptive parents desperate for support and help with their traumatised children are not believed, are blamed, ridiculed or ignored by schools, health professionals and those supposedly in charge of our society.

I guess the new and shiny wears off, not that we are having a particularily hard time. Life here is pretty fantastic most of the time. We have our moments of anger and rage but so far we are managing it. For us adoption has brought our immediate family unit closer together. It feels like child 4 has always been here. The bit I struggle with is other people, those that just don't get it and actually don't want to get it. There are those who are unaware of child 4's difficult start in life so don't understand why he reacts to certain situations like he does and then there are those that do know but think that he should be all better now.

Our eldest described her angst about how other people are in a nutshell not so long ago.
"How would they feel if  one night the police and social services arrived at their home, forcibly removed them. Carrying them through the house whilest everyone is screaming and crying. Putting them in a car  and taking them to a new house to live in with a very nice new family, who they will stay with for a little while, whilst others decide where they will end up permanently. So would they recover in a few days, a week, a month, a year. If an adult couldn't cope with what we do to these children how can they expect children too!!"

What we do to these children and how we expect them to be grateful is one of the biggest issues with adoption, if everyone accepted it as a horrific thing to be party to  and  understood that our children needed support, counselling, love and educating, then adoption journeys would be better for all those involved.

For National Adoption Week, would I do it again. YES I would.


Monday, 9 October 2017

Alienation, not as you thought it!

I had my first parent teacher meeting this week to see how child 4 was settling into his new class. I was surprised to receive the "invitation" as we have our termly meeting  booked for just after half term, (the end of the honeymoon period meeting) and I haven't heard of any major issues.

All in all the meeting was just an update, no concerns with his academic achievement, although completing homework, especially his spellings has been a little tricky, his success in class means that we don't have to worry too much. Child 4 is struggling a little with the expectation to sit down and work but nothing unusual for a 6 year old little boy. His teacher is really impressed with his ability to not only recognise the need to apologise after an incident but also the need to put things right, once he has calmed down. We have worked very hard on saying sorry is good but how do you show someone that you mean it, especially if you struggle to not repeat the action. Obviously, the eventual aim is is that child 4 can control his anger but we have to work with what we have got.


When I asked if there had been any major issues, I was relieved to hear that not really.  During the summer term, it had been noticed that 12.30 to 1pm playtime is the time that most incidents involving child 4 occurred, so a TA has been monitoring and supporting him during this time. Sometimes they set up games to play but generally they are just there to step in if child 4 needs support in dealing with a situation. it also means that he isn't being labelled, at least by the school as a naughty boy, and the staff know exactly what is happening, they are not reliant on what the children say. This has helped him hugely and the school are leaving this support in place for the foreseeable future.

However, the teacher did mention that a few parents had been in to see her at the beginning of term asking if their child and child 4 could be kept apart. Her response had been that the school encourages the children to find ways to get along with each other, to be kind and friendly with each other. Not to separate them. I know that there have been some concerns with child 4's behaviour  but what had been picked up pretty quickly was that he tended to hurt other children in retaliation to something they had done. Not that I'm condoning his behaviour, I understand that to throw a rock at the child that has destroyed your tower or to hit someone with the tennis racquet because they have run off with the ball is not acceptable but I do understand why he does it. That is exactly why we have been working on sorry is not always enough. Luckily, the school understands too, so they work with all the children on how to behave.

Understandably, I am upset by the fact that parents are already trying to alienate him. He is 6 years old, he is your stereotypical little boy and he had a crap start in life. My biggest fear has always been that he would be alienated by his school friends, I hadn't thought that it could be parents encouraging the alienation. How on earth do I prepare for that?


Sunday, 17 September 2017

Fresh starts

Interestingly, September always feels like a new beginning to me, it must be because of the new school year. After what is often, these days a very long six week holiday I look forward to a return to the weekly routine of school days and after school clubs.



As its a new start I thought I would try and return to my blogging, life kinda got in the way in the Spring, what with all the exams, revision and stress that comes along. But now things are settling.

Child 1 excelled in her A levels and is looking for work to fund her gap year travelling trip next year before heading of to University to study History and Politics.

Child 2 as expected did not. I have learnt a lot about myself and our education system in dealing with child 2. Child 2 was always expected by his teachers to do well in his exams, throughout his school career he has done reasonably well but he hated secondary school, he never settled. There is so much research now into how being a victim of bullying affects school achievement, and this has definitely been our experience. I knew he was unlikely to do well as you will have read from previous blogs,  so I was prepared with seeing the reality. However, I was not prepared for what to do next. Hind sight being a wonderful thing, I wish I had investigated those options much earlier it would have made things so much easier.

Education is not like it was on my day anymore. Children cannot just retake exams anymore. All schools and colleges have to support children to retake Maths and English until they are 18 but that is all. Our local college allows retaking of Biology and a language but no other subjects. Instead the children do a level 2 Btech, if they achieve a good result they can then go on to study a level 3 Btech or A levels. My suggestion to child 2 is to chose a Btech he fancies, one that looks like fun. So he has chosen Public Service with sports. It's a bit like a grown up version of scouts and so far he is loving it. In fact he is a different child, happier, more content, showing greater independence. Fingers crossed this is a new beginning.

Child 3 has started secondary school and apart form the normal anxiety with an added bit of diva she is settling well. New friends, exciting bus rides and exciting lessons.

Of course we could potentially be in a honeymoon period with child 4, new class, new teacher, new TA and some new children. I think that it says a lot when after his first day he says " I had a good day and I didn't hurt anyone"

So here we are new beginnings, new starts, no doubt new issues to deal with, but at least we are starting positively.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

744 hours

Well I didn't exactly plan my children with examinations in mind. Child 3 has just completed KS2 SATs, child 2 started his GCES's last week and Early June sees the start of child 1's A levels. You can seriously feel the stress and tension as you walk in through the front door. The children deal with pressure in different ways, the girls are weepy and spiteful, child 2 is aggressive and angry. It only needs one to kick off and everyone follows suit, especially child 4 who, with his unsettled background seems to absorb his older siblings angst and go into full melt down. Being in school has meant older children, older language and new experiences. He is threatening to stab and kill and our experience has been that if he says something and has the opportunity he follows through on his threats. So if he says that he is going to throw the book in his hand at you, he will and his hand eye co ordination is good enough that you need to move, quick. We don't leave knives or scissors anywhere not even the sink, because, well just in case.


What we have noticed is that he mirrors the behaviour that he sees and hears, so, the best way to deal with his meltdowns is to be completely calm and quiet. You can imagine how successful that is when everyone in the house is shouting and screaming!

I am struggling with all the button pushing myself and I am an adult, so there is no surprise that everyone is pretty unsettled at the moment. I have reverted to a day by day coping mechanism, (it is only 31 more days to go) I am saying no to all requests of help except where there is no choice, so no additional hours at work, no extra volunteer stuff, except governor stuff as we are seeking a new Headteacher, yeah it never rains but pours. I can't remember the last time that I really checked out Twitter, had a quiet evening to myself or just didn't dread the coming evening. My conservatory is a mess, we can't eat in there as the table and surrounding floor is covered with three different types of revision paraphernalia, I daren't even touch it because if something got lost or moved the fireworks would be off.

This blog is being written whilst I sit at a gymnastic competition with child 3. I know that I have lost many of my coping mechanisms (although we got a night out last night with friends, a few hours escape to talk about holidays, food, gin cruises and just a bit of general gossip) then it's back to our "normal" feeding the children with food to aid brain power, emotional support to keep everything as calm as we can and give them the time they need, I am reading essays, marking science past papers, checking grammer and mathematic revision. Giving a hug when asked and often when not, listening to the ramblings of teenage thought processes, stepping in when an argument is brewing, taking child 4 out and away when his emotions start to overflow I need to find time to look after me but someone always needs something, I am one person, my brain can't cope with all the remembering, my emotions are riding high, it isn't going to take much to push me over the edge, I am exhausted nearly running on empty. Then I think I just need to get through the day, it's not long until bedtime, then it's another day and another day. 744 hours to go.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

When sorry isn't enough

When child 4 arrived it was obvious that he had not joined our family in the traditional manner. I remember walking home from school only a few days after he arrived, he was in his buggy and child 3 who was 8 at the time was chattering on about her day. Behind us was a mum and her similar aged daughter. I could hear their conversation. The little girl was telling her mum that child 3 had a new brother and the mum was laughing gently and indulgently explaining to her daughter that there was no way that I had been pregnant, had a baby and that baby was already a toddler without her knowing. I just stopped and laughed as well and explained that her daughter was right, we had just chosen a different way to add to our family. There were surprised gasps, hugs and congratulations and I felt happy.

In the beginning it was obvious to most that we had adopted and for the most part people were pleased, excited and happy for us. Over time that has changed. We have become a "normal" family unit. Two parents, four children, a dog, a couple of cats and some chickens. Adoption is not something we hide but we don't shout about either. The school staff know as he is in school and they need to be aware, as do those who clubs he attends other than that it really isn't anyone else's business.

Yesterday, I took child 4 to a class mates birthday party, I always stay, life is busy these days and I don't know very many of the parents in his class, many of them are new, their eldest child having just started school. Birthday party's are a great way to meet over a cup of tea and have a chat or just catch up with old friends, whilst our children play.

Child 4 was having a great time running around and then pass the parcel. Then it was time for the entertainer, a magician. All the children were sitting down in front of him vibrating with excitement. When the entertainer announced that he was videoing the show and wanted to check it was ok. Child 4 circumstances are that he cannot have his picture on social media, in the press or on TV. Child 4 was sitting waiting for the show, understanding everything that was said and I was surrounded by parents, many of whom don't  know that child 4 was adopted! I had to ask in front of everyone why it was being video'd. So I could make the decision that was best for my son. Of course the video was for the magicians website. He said that if I wasn't happy I could pull child 4 from his seat at the front and sit him at the back over to the left. In that split second I chose to leave it. Child 4 was watching this whole interaction, confusion marring his face, parents were either frowning with confusion or looking at me with sympathy. I just wanted to hide away and deal with the myriad of emotions that slammed into me. Fury for being placed in this position and what if I wasn't there, sorrow because this isn't how life should be for any child, disappointment in myself for possibly not handling the situation right, embarrassment for having to be that parent. So, I sat at the back, my hands wrapped around a lukewarm cup of tea thinking about how I could have handled the situation better and what was I going to do. Someone came over to check I was ok and of course I said I was fine, I couldn't
 talk yet, I didn't know what would come out of my mouth but, it wouldn't have been kind. In reality it wasn't anyone's fault, people just don't understand the nature of adoption, if they haven't experienced it how can they know. My job as an adoptive parent means that I have to educate those I come into contact with and this magician needed to understand how his ignorance and thoughtlessness has affected us and that for some adoptive parents it could have been worse. I hate these discussions, I don't want a confrontation, I don't want to share my sons story, I don't want to embarrass the person I speak to but sometimes we have to do the right thing. I was calm and kind when I explained our situation and the difficult and embarrassing position he put me in. Of course he was very apologetic, he hadn't thought and next time he will speak to the parents in the days leading up to the party so they can check with parents of the party guests. The parents were very apologetic they hadn't thought either.
Do you know what none of the apologies made me feel any better, it was done, saying sorry doesn't erase what happened. Maybe that's why I am still sad and cross, I will move on, I don't have time to linger over these bumps in the road. I don't think I could have handled it differently I just wish that we hadn't had to handle it at all.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

Our Secret Garden

The tall, gnarled trees bend their branches, reaching out and beckon softly. "Just step through the gate, go on, step through, it will take you to a enchanted garden." A garden where the last minute jam sandwiches, bottle of watered down juice, the last of the grapes and the last packet of cookies from the biscuit tin will change into a feast for kings. There is no wind just the faintest of breezes that whispers through the branches of trees, enticing families, dog walkers and lovers young and old in. The trees have watched generations of children picnic and play and grow up. The children disappear for a while but return with friends and picnics, they stroll with their first loves, sneaking a kiss in secluded sun spots, hidden from prying eyes. Then in years to come they return with their children.

The trees watch from their heights, guardians of this garden as time spins forward, days spill into weeks, the weeks into months, the months paint their seasons and the seasons merge into years blurring as the years continue, but from the day when summer time begins, the world slows in this magical place, it allows us to escape the humdrum of school and bed. The screaming and tantrums of youngsters are subdued, muted by the green flourishing woodlands. A dragonfly, a feather, the bleating of lambs calling to their mothers offers a distraction, enough to stop the rage. There are trees to climb, muddy slopes to traverse and slide down. There are treasures to find, a pine cone, an acorn. If you sit beneath a blossom laden tree as the breeze blows you can be dusted in pink and white confetti. There are bugs to study, butterflies to chase, mole hills to dig, ancient tree stumps to hunt for mini beasts or create dinosaur lands. The gnarled roots of the trees become fairy houses and doors to magical lands.

I can just lie here as I have done every year for the last 16 years, watching the clouds drift overhead, wondering where they are going and from whence they came, I can feel the sun on my face as it warm fingers caress encouraging me to drift away just for a few minutes. I wonder what the guardians think when they watch my children, do they know what the future holds for them, do they know their pasts or do they just enjoy these moments of now. The children are safe, here in our Secret Garden, the walls keep them from straying. They can explore and play, exciting adventures will find them sharing wonderful magical gifts. Gifts they will keep in their hearts and memories that will last them for a lifetime. A little magic I know they will want to share with their children I the future. In this little garden of enchantment I find peace and contentment, even if for just a few hours.