Friday, 1 November 2013

Was this in the Plan? Blog Hop Post

Steph over at "Was this in the Plan" has started a Blog Hop which I am delighted to participate in!

The Power of Coco Pops!

I've taken the liberty of re-hashing a post I wrote in SATS week this year, because for me it speaks volumes. As a Primary school teacher I have many ideas about how "learning" and "education" works. My second son has forced me to revisit and mostly rethink them. Certainly not "In the Plan" when I planned my family, and perhaps most profound is the "learning" I have done along the way alongside him.

This week is SATS week and my quirky second son has defiantly refused to focus on them as they loomed large on the horizon.

Years ago during the first round of SATS he was facing permanent exclusion. Autistic and struggling with ADHD and other complex issues he didn't exactly have the cards stacked in his favour when he started school. Much of his Reception year was spent underneath the table, a convenient position from which to lob books at his teacher's legs as she went past. Even with a dedicated 1:1 support in Year 1 things did not improve much. The school had to devise a Crisis Plan to escort his class to safety if he had what the Powers That Be call a "Meltdown". (Actually it was more of a "Burn-up" as his anger and frustration exploded but that name never caught on.) He would run at any opportunity and a written plan of action was needed - which involved calling the police if necessary - if they could not catch him before he left the school premises. Year 2 was mostly a disaster, with a part time timetable and any time actually spent in the classroom a bonus, learning was never on the agenda as he never reached that point on his IEP.

But in Year 3 things began to turn around. For a start he learned to read and the reciprocal relationship between his brain and the written word was little short of revolutionary for him. He was at that age completely Pokemon obsessed, and I would have to (attempt to) read Pokemon stories each night to him. One night, tired from chronic lack of sleep I couldn't face it any longer so dug my heels in, telling him he would *have* to learn to read if he wanted to know what his cards and books said. Bizarrely and against expectations it worked - within a month he had a reading age above his chronological age as he saw the point in his goal. He hasn't stopped reading since....

The second major turning point was his discovery of YouTube. This began with following endless Pokemon game "walkthrough"s, followed by recording his own - but quickly he realised YouTube was the most amazing encyclopaedia of knowledge from which he could learn. And so began his multi subject "degree" from the University of YouTube.

I would be lying if I said things progressed smoothly from that point, and those of you familiar with my Blog will know just how much of a rollercoaster ride life with H has been, and continues to be. but once he had the tools to progress, there was no stopping him. He wanted to write Minecraft mods - his brother builds the worlds and he wanted "in" too. So he watched YouTube and taught himself to write basic Java Code. He wanted to learn about magic, the conscious mind and lucid dreams, about volcanoes and Dr Who and it's all on there. The possibility he might not be able to achieve something never EVER enters his mind. He just goes for it, winging his way through whichever subject he wishes to master with a quiet confidence we all envy. Apparently his future involves purchasing a hollowed-out volcano in which to live and nurture his evil genius from which he will devise the most amazing Java script and take over the world.... in his spare time he wants to be a magician, on stage with his sidekick (pet cat) Rosie.

But this week has been more bizarre than most, even by our standards.

H has decided he would rather be Irish. Now I have nothing whatsoever against the Irish but even for H this is an odd one. He has done the usual and "gone in deep", researching Irish traditions, language and culture. He's been speaking with a (pretty good) Irish accent for the past few days (was there anything in Monday's SATS paper about Ireland??!) and would appear to be either a) an excellent method actor or b) have totally immersed himself successfully for other purposes. So successful has he been that his younger brother was sobbing this morning as he says he has lost his brother and misses his voice! He's really, really distressed! H meanwhile is in his element and could probably take a GCSE in Irish language and culture by the end of the week, simply because it interests him and he has a purpose - even if the rest of us are yet to discover what that actually is...  He's amazingly consistent too. Calling us "Ma and Pa", saying things are "grand" and  "deadly". He's rediscovered the "The Adventures of Piggly Winks" (makes a change from Tracy Beaker) for accent authenticity and was quoting stats on the Irish Potato famine last night. He detests potatoes much of the time but says he wants potatoes for tea!

If he would put his mind to it he could easily do very, very well in life. I see him in the Footlights Revue at Cambridge in a parallel universe as he has a wicked sense of humour - but in this reality he won't focus on anything for long enough! He gets a good Level 5 on a focussed day or a low Level 4 when not in the mood. Which is where the Coco Pops come in.

His school are offering free breakfasts to Year 6 pupils and Coco Pops are on the menu. Coco Pops are his most favourite breakfast cereal on the planet. But since he has a major sugar addiction I insist on a healthy breakfast and as the day progresses gradually cave on the nutrition front to make it through the day. But this week the Coco Pops were totally inspired, giving him the focus he needed. For a child like H you cannot dangle future carrots and explanations of improved life prospects and expect a response. Even fringe benefits after the event on the condition of good results are meaningless. As I explained before in "A Hamster Called Pudding and "The Bargaining Power of a Fruit Pastille" you have to hit the jackpot of incentives and it has to be relevant. NOW.

My life often seems to be an ongoing quest for the next incentive, the next bargaining tool to make reality relevant, and effort desirable. To be honest I was thinking more of Chocolate Tiffin Cake from Costa as a safe fall-back but that would still mean an after school treat which again, is too late. But the lure of the Coco Pops has seen him bouncing into school each day after an uncharacteristically good start beforehand. I feel positively hungover on unused adrenalin after dropping him off!

So, I've capitalised on this and said if he answers every SATS question rather than just putting a line through any which involve too much writing I will buy him Coco Pops for a month. (Even if I do have to endure the comic take-offs of the Coco Pops adverts. In Irish.) If he does *really* well I might even buy him a leprechaun .....


  1. Brilliant! I love your attitude of striking while the iron is hot ;) he sounds like an amazing boy and I'm glad you're telling me there can be a good point to YouTube :)

  2. Definitely! My cousin's son taught himself to play guitar from lessons (free) on Youtube :) Thank you for your comment. x


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