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Reading between the lines

Vicki Johnson is forced to face the facts of her advancing years

I was there when Plowden ploughed in. I have seen play flow freely, sandpits come and go, and water trays valued more than blackboards.

I have watched Janet and John help mummy cook tea and daddy wash the car.

Roger Red Hat and I have exchanged many a merry beret, and my how we've laughed over Kipper and his cake recipes.

I have counted Nuffield in, and counted him out.

I still think of London when-ever anyone says Illya, rather than the quirkily named child in Year 4.

I have embraced projects, strategies, partnerships and parenting classes. I have been powered and skilled, audited and appraised. I have invested in people and had critical friendship thrust upon me. I have shared my practice and taken the flak.

I am still eager to learn how I'm doing things wrong, and amazed when someone tells me I'm doing it right.

Now I twist my ageing body into cross-lateral positions to encourage everyone to exercise their brains, and the bizarre hand movements that accompany my every sound are supposed to make phonics jollier.

Chief inspectors are getting younger, and the reception children and I seem to have far more in commonI short-term memory problems, inability to name objects, a need to use the toilet frequently.

That I am approaching the "plenary" of my teaching career is made horribly clear today. My riveting rendering of "Ant on an Apple" (sung to the tune of "Shoo Fly Shoo" and enhanced by kinaesthetic and visual stimuli) is interrupted by Anna.

"Mrs Johnson," she says in a piping tone, "you've got my letter on you."

I look for paint-splatter stains or felt-tipped accidents on my clothes, but find none.

"Not there," she says, peering into my face and gently tracing the outline of an "A" on my wrinkled lip. "There."

Now I understand the true meaning of progression in phonics.

Vicki Johnson is head of Northwood primary school, Cowes, Isle of Wight

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