I was worried about my daughter’s class this year.
I wondered if the change from six pupils to ten would affect her participation level and her confidence. I thought she’d feel swamped and overwhelmed. Yes, yes, I know, those of you with kids at mainstream school in a class of 30 or more may be raising your eyebrows higher than Spock lookeelikees at a Star Trek convention, but you’ll just have to suck it up.
It turns out my fears were unfounded. Yes, she’s had days when random anxieties have surfaced. Yes, she’s had days when one of her classmates has been telling her some tall tales which I have to unpick and unravel. But that could happen in any sized class.
It’s coming up to the end of the school year, and her satellite class, cocooned in their little unit at mainstream secondary, have worked well together. I’ve seen it for myself: I sat at the back of the classroom one morning and watched a lesson, and saw how the teacher and teaching assistants tailored their questions and tasks, whilst keeping them engaged and making them all feel part of the group. This is officially No Mean Feat.
It was sports day today, and I followed them round the field, cheering them on as they took part in different activities. I watched as they bowled at cricket stumps, threw foam javelins, hoofed some penalties, hopped, stumbled and crawled along in the sack race, and displayed all manner of interesting techniques in the long jump (my daughter’s consisting of approaching the sandpit, pulling up like a horse refusing at Becher’s Brook, then hopping an enormous three inches).
They were a gang. An odd, gangling, ambling, endearing, excitable gang. In each activity, before and after they’d taken part, they high-fived, cheered, chatted, giggled, supported, and encouraged eachother. My girl was sometimes on the margins, when she switched off for a day-dream, but that’s just her: it took me many years to realise that the sight of her sitting on her own, just outside a ‘group’ shouldn’t squeeze my heart so much, as she is often quite happy being in her own little bubble. There were times this afternoon when she was in the bubble zone, but mostly, amazingly, she was in the middle of the gang.
She even joined them for a ‘sprint’ race. This involved her lolloping along at a very slightly faster pace than her usual saunter (and coming in last by some distance), but for the girl who consistently, insistently ‘doesn’t do running’, it felt like watching Usain Bolt. Usain Bolt in slow motion, after a career-destroying injury, but hell, you take what you can get, and that’s a good take. She did it because of the gang. I love them. They’re shit at Tug Of War, though.
Song is Candi Staton - I'll Drop Everything And Come Running