Special days

21st November 2003 at 00:00
Maria Corby finds time to appreciate the magic moments in her working life Have you ever played "meetings bingo"? It can make the dreariest meeting fun. You just take the most excruciating half-dozen phrases of educational jargon and tick them off as you hear them. You can't go wrong with "value-added", "inclusive setting", "government's agenda", and "ooh, chocolate biscuits".

There's something about working in a school that makes our lives go quickly; from half-term to half-term, from target setting to Panda data, from school development plan to review and revision. As a teenager in Woolworths, the hours I spent in men's socks seemed to go on forever. In 25 years of teaching I have never clock-watched (except for wet-play duty).

The lessons, days, weeks and terms fly by and we're always looking to the next thing.

"What is so terrible about the present moment," asks my meditation teacher, "that you're always longing for the next thing?" Well nothing, really. Life in my special school is full of magic moments that should be treasured but which seem to speed by. "Why not get up an hour earlier," she suggests, "to start each day with a meditation - you'll find it energises you and gives you more time."

More time! Oh good, I'll need that because if I take the hour for meditation, the 30 minutes earlier I get up to exercise (personal trainer), the 20 minutes to eat a nutritious breakfast (diet adviser), 10 minutes to clear the dishes (life coach), and five minutes to do hair and make up (rather despairing beauty instructor), I'll have to get up before I go to bed.

One lovely aspect of working in a special school is that we have children from two to 19. It makes us prey to every strategy going, but it means that if you stay long enough (and people seem to), you can watch the children develop over a decade or two. I've been in my school for 15 years and can remember Harry starting as a two-year-old. A little scrap of humanity, curled up on the floor and not knowing where he ended and the rest of the world began. I now see him walking confidently around school, using a tactile trail, and asking for what he wants using his Pecs (picture exchange communication) book, taking part in school life, and loving every moment. Next time you play meetings bingo, add "magic moment" to your list of phrases. I'm determined to say it at my next meeting.

Maria Corby is the deputy head of a special school for pupils with severe and multiple learning difficulties in the west of England. She writes under a pseudonym

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