The boys school does quite a few things that make it part of the wider community, and not just limited to parents and carers, although they do make up the larger part of those targeted by the activities encouraged. The type of things, include at Christmas time, classes go out and about to care homes, and sheltered housing to entertain the residents with carols. There are afternoons at the school where usually the elderly residents of the community are invited in to have tea and cakes, being served by the children.
I think any activity that removes the blinkers from the children is good. By blinkers, I mean, interacting with older people, teaches them something they might not otherwise get the chance to encounter, when they live in such a fast pasted electronic era. I think they learn a form of respect to people who aren’t family and friends.
Another thing that they do is a community café. It is hosted by the children of P7, working in small teams with support workers from the academy. It is a way of the children learning the relationship between produce and money as well as making contact with adults they will be encountering when they move schools in the summer.
Last week was M’s turn. He was in a group with 3 other children, one of them being his longest known peer, so someone who really understands him. He was so excited to be doing this, to the point we have heard nothing but what they have been doing towards preparing, and planning for a week before.
The café is held at the old library, now a youth centre, opposite the school. I was therefore surprised that M was so excited about it, pleasantly so I add, but to be going to an environment that is alien to him, to be with adults he doesn’t know, to potentially encounter people who would be strangers to him. It wasn’t until he started talking to me in more depth about it, that I realised his excitement was about not having to be in the classroom, somewhere he still doesn’t feel relaxed, and that he was doing something practical that he could relate to a start, middle and end of . It’s not a negative comment about the school, but more about the education system as a whole, that sometimes the work being done doesn’t show a natural progression for a child, and therefore they can feel rather disjointed by the learning. I know M has said on several occasions that he doesn’t understand the relevance of a piece of work they are doing, and without that, he finds relating to the work difficult.
Wednesday morning, I received a message from the Mum of M’s friend, asking me what I was baking for the café as she didn’t want to make the same thing. I was honestly confused as M had made no mention of needing to donate cakes. He had though told his group that I would be baking . Amazing in all his excitement he had forgotten to mention something so important. It was of course the day before shopping day so after a quick look what I had in the kitchen, I decided to make a peppermint slice and some cola cupcakes. I had not made the cola cupcakes before, but a friend had given me the recipe and said how lovely they were. I went with a peanut butter frosting as the boys don’t like peanuts and I know they would have insisted on trying them, and not leaving any to go to school. Peppermint slice is quite a long winded process, with needing time to set the peppermint layer. It didn’t have the time to leave it long enough, and so was trying to cover with chocolate while it was still a little soft. I left it over night before trying to cut it, and it didn’t ooze too much, so I deemed it good enough to go.
I can honestly say, that Thursday morning was the easiest day of the academic year for getting him out of the house in the morning. There was a real air of enthusiasm about him that I wish we saw more often, as it is magical. He made sure his Dad and I would be going, and almost skipped out of the door with his boxes of cakes.
By the time we left the house to wander up there, it was tipping with raining, and sleet. It was horrible! When we arrived, it was lovely to get in the warm. M’s face just lit up to see us. He was told to tell us where the money was going – the chosen charities are Cancer research and The Archie foundation which does the extras at the kids hospital, like parent rooms etc. He then asked us what we would like. While he was making my tea, his friend served us cakes – Hubby had a peppermint slice, complaining I hadn’t let him have any at home, while I went for a fairy cake his friend said she had made. There was a class from the school in having their snack – each class goes over at some point during the year, so it was quite busy, but we plonked ourselves on the comfy sofas. There were a few other Mums I knew there. One of them told me she was the classroom helper on the Tuesday when they had been preparing and baking cookies, and she wanted to take M home as he was such a help, and brilliant at washing up! I did say she was welcome to have him, but feel she thought I was joking! Then one of the adults came over and told me M had burned his finger but it was ok, other than he didn’t want to run it under the tap. I said he spends so much time helping in the kitchen, he has learned cuts and burns are just park of it so rarely takes much notice. She then told me how enthusiastic he was. It was so lovely to hear positive feedback about him, as usually the communication with the school is negative because he struggles so much. The teachers then appeared for their morning coffee. The head teacher, who used to be M’s teacher sat with us, and commented how much he looked like he was enjoying himself. I told her that his delight was genuine, and I was worried he would hit a low afterwards because of it. She said she’d see his teacher and make sure he was given something engaging to do. I also had a chat with his support worker who has arranged an extra visit for him to the academy to have a look around without the large crowds who will be going up en mass after Easter. It is good to see the plans being made for his transition.
When it was time to go, M became very clingy saying he wanted me to stay. I told him it was just an hour until lunch so I would see him them. When he got home at lunch time he looked exhausted. I think he had really given it everything he had, and it showed. When time came to head back, he sobbed that he didn’t want to go, and held tight to me. I told him he had to go, as one of the teachers had asked me for the cupcake recipe as so he needed to take it to her. He reluctantly returned.
I am so proud of M. It is so special to see when he does engage with something so fully. It is a pity it doesn’t happen often, but when it does, he shows what he is capable of with the correct motivation.
I hope over the course of the year they make some good donations to their chosen charities. I am sure all the kids work equally as hard when it is their turn, but I do wonder how many are so upset that they only get to do it once as they would love to do it every week.