Sometimes, we have to ignore the but…

In school, whenever you think you’ve done well, there is always a but, a could have done that better, if only I’d done that instead. But every now and again, if only for a day, it’s really important to just stop at didn’t I do a good job!

This week, that happened. It was Thursday, and it was, without question, the best day I have ever had in my 10 years as a TA.

I rocked into school at 7.45am, went through the trip risk assessment, collected consent forms, inhalers, and the bag of books for the Primary Book Bout. I made sure everything else I needed to do before I left school for the morning was done, took a moment and said to myself, “Whatever happens, these children are going to have a fabulous morning.”

These children were my Year 3-4 Telling Tales Book Club. A mix of the best readers, reluctant readers and struggling readers, who had been giving up their lunchtimes since October to judge the books in their age group category of the Coventry Inspiration Book Awards. Week after week, they had run from wherever they were on the playground to come into the Library to discover and discuss a new book. From the beginning of January, we worked on our Book Bout presentation two lunchtimes a week.

The children were brilliant, each one shone, each one proud of their part.

The girl who “loves books but doesn’t understand them”, yet explained why the book meant so much to her.

The boy who cried at the mere thought of having to stand up and perform in front of other people, but beamed with pride on stage.

The girl who couldn’t read back the words she had come up with when we wrote the script together, but knew exactly what to say and when.

The boy who forgot that other children struggled to do what he found easy, yet quietly prompted his friend who couldn’t get his words out.

The girl who never speaks in class, yet spoke with clarity and confidence.

The boy who can’t sit still, yet was so focused he knew every single line for the whole performance.

The girl who has so much to say, but doesn’t know how to express it, and helped stage the performance.

The boy who never read, who now, has to be told to stop and go to sleep.

They stood up on stage, in front of strangers and presented the book none of them had wanted to read, because “it’s a picture book,” “it’s too easy,” and I sat and watched, with a heart ready to burst with pride as our script came to life, the audience laughed and applauded, and my children presented our chosen book with a clarity, confidence and passion that made other children want to read it too.

I can only thank the TA who came with me, for giving me the opportunity to turn away and dry my tears when we were awarded best presentation. We’d won. I could not believe it. We had no props, no costumes, no music or PowerPoint. Just a passion and love for the book we were championing. We couldn’t wait to get back to school and tell everyone.

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What I’d forgotten was, that it was also the Reading Managers Meeting Day, being held at our school. Don’t get me wrong, I knew it was happening. I’d made sure the School Library and my Class Library were neat and tidy, but it just hadn’t registered that when we got back to school, Reading Managers from other schools would be there.

I asked if the Headteacher could nip out of a meeting on our return, we had huge news. He beamed. He gave the children Headteacher award stickers. I got them back to class and went back to work.

Then, the Reading Manager asked me into their meeting to discuss my book clubs and my book shelf. She introduced me as her reading champion, her unofficial title for me.

“You run four book clubs?” “How does the after school one work?” “So are you a full time librarian?” Ha, if only! I’m a class based HLTA. Book clubs take up three of my lunchtimes, and the rest of it is mostly done before or after my official hours.

My book shelf was the biggest conundrum. “ Of course teachers can replicate it easily, put some books separately and say they’re ours,” they said. “I’ve read every book, I know which children will be able to access and enjoy each one.” “Oh, that can’t be replicated so easily.”

When I walked in at 7.45 am the next day, and the Reading Manager gushed, “Thank you for coming into the meeting, they all want to poach you,” I laughed. And then I repeated what I’d said the day before. “Thank you for trusting me and letting me do what I feel is right.” What we’re doing is working. We’re creating readers by sharing our passion.

Sometimes, we have to remember that we are professionals, that we do know what we’re doing, and despite knowing that if only there was more time/money/resources, that sometimes we have to ignore the but… and just be proud of what we’ve achieved, even if it’s just for one day.

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