A bbc Interview with Carla Reeves

Carla Reeves is a Primary Teacher heading into her 5th year of teaching and first year of teaching Year Six at a Primary school in Stafford. She describes herself as a ´gobbler of children's books´ and find herself bored by real adult life on a regular basis - ´life is too short to be ordinary!´

I´m not sure if that counts as one of your Five-a-day.

What made you become a teacher?
- I became a teacher for much the same reason as anyone else - I wanted to help people. As a child, my twin sister and I would "play teachers" much to her horror (she is now a physiotherapist). As I grew up, I leapt through all of the hoops with the same goal in mind. I wanted to be the person even one child could remember as making a difference. Teaching someone to write their name, to calm themselves down while they're in crisis or even how to use brackets properly is what gets me out of bed in the morning.


What is your favourite part of the job?
- My favourite part of the job is forging the relationships with the children that allow them to learn comfortably and to find the enjoyment in learning. Luckily, I'm taking my own class through to Y6 next year and am so pleased to have developed a fantastic rapport with them. Knowing what makes them tick, learning what they do with their spare time and finding out what they're good at adds a more human and real element to the job. We're helping children create their lives and their identities as much as we are teaching them maths and English!


What has been best thing you have done at work this year?
         - The best thing I've done this year is focused on purpose, especially in writing but across all subjects. My biggest horror is children asking me 'what's the point?' In my planning, thinking about the why rather than just the what and how has given our learning a real drive. We have written to real people about real things, aimed for real outcomes and the work produced and the enjoyment we got out of learning has been far more meaningful than in years previously.

What you are talking about is so powerful. Even little things like posting work on Blogs or putting it up on display makes it more real. I´ve played with sending their work to authors, companies etc. This also makes things more real.


What is the most frustrating thing about teaching at the moment?
- For me, as an upper KS2 teacher, it's the absolute mess that is Primary assessment. I'm by no means anti-SATs, but I feel that we are putting children through the mill for very little gain. The way we are expected to assess writing means that at times we're stifling creativity, insisting on a tick-box approach to creating a narrative. Luckily, the community on twitter have given me much insight into how to jump through those hoops that the government have set for us while still giving children the chance to show what they're truly capable of in less restrictive ways.


What songs would be on your driving to work playlist?
- Ha! Well this is slightly interesting as I literally live a 60 second drive from work. I'm the one who is always texted if a sound system has been left on or if a window needs closing as I live so close! However, when I do drive a bit further it's not unusual to hear the banging tunes of Disney's greatest records blasting out of my Toyota. If I'm feeling remotely cool, I'd stick in my Johnny Cash records.

I think you should check your handbook, not sure putting records in a CD player is the best choice.


What is the funniest thing a child has ever said/written in your class?
- Nothing really really stands out as my kids are usually as mad as a box of frogs at the best of times, but one particular instance always makes me laugh out loud whenever I remember it at random moments. I was in the middle of a particularly interesting lesson about the Benin Empire (which, for anyone that knows me, is my most hated topic I have ever ever ever taught) and I caught a child zoning out. When challenged what he was day dreaming about, he looked me right in the eye and said 'I'm thinking that peepholes are the weirdest invention ever. You must be a proper weirdo to invent those, innit!' Naturally, Benin Obas weren't as interesting after that nugget was thrown into the conversation.

To be fair, he´s not wrong.


What is your guilty pleasure?
- Aside from endless Disney films, my guilty pleasure is watching crime documentaries. My partner regularly tells me that he fears for his life when he signs into Netflix to see my recently watched includes 'WOMEN WHO KILL' or 'WIVES WITH KNIVES' but everyone needs their escapism and for me it's learning about true crime! Quite a juxtaposition to finish watching Moana and moving on to 'Killer Women'.

Have I ever told you how much I like you? *Backs away slowly*


If you weren´t a teacher, what would you be and why?
- If I wasn't a teacher, I'd like to say I'd be doing something really cool like writing books or being an astronaut, but the likelihood is I'd have gone into the Police. Both of my parents has me worked in law enforcement agencies and - despite my fascination with true crime docs - I think I'd enjoy being involved in the investigative side of law. That, or I'd quite like to work in an education branch of a great museum or attraction. Is that cheating?

So basically you want to set-up, and work in, a Museum dedicated to Writing, Astronauts and Crime-fighting and work in the education department?


What are you passionate about (teaching-related or not)?
         - In teaching, I'm passionate about giving children equal opportunities. I'm lucky enough to work in a school and an area where people assume children all have supportive parents and endless resources to improve their learning. Not all children have parents who can spend the time with them at home to improve their learning, or even read to them. As teachers, we have to help them access those opportunities.

Non-teaching and teaching ratted, I am passionate about speaking up about mental health. My wonderful dad is 7 years out from a stroke that gave him extensive brain damage. Added to this, he served in the Falklands and suffered from PTSD. We all know someone, a child or adult, who has struggled with an aspect of mental health and I'm passionate about sharing the idea that it's OK not the be OK, and that mental health should be treated with the same consideration as physical.


Wow. That gives you such a good understanding of that situation, and helps you relate to any children who also might have suffered, or have family who have suffered, similar events.

If you had to pick one subject/topic to teach on a loop forever, what would it be?
- What a question! I know what I'd bin (DT *shudder*) but I think it would have to be reading. Having an understanding of books, different text types and skills like inference and summarising, retrieving information and comparison are so so important for real life. While I LOVE teaching creative writing, it's easy to justify to children how the skills they learn in reading fit in with their lives beyond school, but how to use semi colons within a list is a bit harder!

Sewing? Moving Toys? Bread-making?

All of the above!


What is the most effective resource/technology/app you use in the classroom?
- Without being uber-cheesy, my best resource is a wonderful, dedicated teaching assistant. In a climate where cuts mean more and more of them are being forced out of jobs, it's important to realise that, when utilised effectively, an additional adult in the room is far better than an app or a piece of tech, in my opinion. Heading into Y6 next year, we have the most incredible team who contribute more to the progress of certain groups than literally anyone else. They're worth their weight in gold.

Support in the classroom is so important, it´s such a shame that support is being removed. Massive impact upon our most vulnerable pupils.


What is the most effective routine/method/system you use in the classroom?
- To me, it's about putting everything on the children. I'm lucky enough to have older children who I can train to do pretty much anything. My TA often jokes I have a monitor for everything. Children love a job and often do things in a more no-nonsense fashion. Little practical bits include having a lost property box in my room, where all odds and soda get chucked at the end of the day, be it a jumper or a child's pencil case. It puts the onus of responsibility onto them to search and find - I often say I'm not their mother and won't be chasing them! For anything and everything else, it is the golden nugget of consistency. Establish the expectations early and be consistent and you'll hardly have to lift your finger or raise your voice once.


If you had to pick 4 people (Twitter or otherwise) to invite to a dinner party who
would it be and why?
- What a question. I always thing these reveal so much about people. I'll be awkward and do both...
For twitter, I'd do for @Mr_P_Hillips (we went to uni together and it'd be a great excuse to catch up), @TemplarWilson because I imagine she'd be a great laugh, @MrCYear5 for much the same reason and @MissKhan__ because I would steal her style choices.

Off twitter, in a celebrity living-or-dead scenario, I'd invite Johnny Cash, Michelle Obama, Ronan Keating (boyzone 4 life) and The Cookie Monster.


Boyzone?! And you were doing so well. Not sure Johnny Cash would appreciate Ronan growling in his ear.


What is the best and worst advice you have been given as a teacher?
- The best - be prepared to tweak and change. I proudly spend much of the weeks before my NQT year planning weeks upon weeks of stuff to find out within ten minutes it was essentially useless. Being told it was OK not to be planned to the eyeballs and that sometimes a lesson had to be spent checking learning on whiteboards released the pressure and let me get on with teaching.

The worst was that some children won't ever change and aren't worth bothering with. What an awful signal to send 'we've given up on you'. Whenever anyone tells me anything like that - whether it's to do with behaviour or someone telling me that I won't have time to read to my class for pleasure in year six - I'd like the use the middle-finger emoji on them!



Final Question: What drives you as a teacher?
- As a teacher, what drives me are the young people who come into my classroom each day. They're the reason I'm there, the reason I am on twitter guzzling everyone's ideas like a greedy hippo, the reason I give up my own time to read, reflect and research. We owe it to the children in our charge to give our best selves to them so they can hone their best selves. It's such an exciting position to be in that we mustn't ever become complacent.

If you could choose one person who you´d love to have the bbc interview treatment, who would it be and why?
- As for who should get the treatment, I'd go ahead and say @MissKhan__ as I know she'd have lots to say and as she's currently heading into new responsibilities would be a fab read!

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