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Secret TA: Biting, Books and a bit of Blubbering!

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Bite Marks: 0

Stress Level: 2

Holiday Countdown: It’s here 😊

I can still see the ghost of one of last week’s bite marks, but it’s been at least five days since that lovely little gift, so it doesn’t count. 

It must be an evolutionary thing that makes kids able to source out the most delicate bits of a skin on an adult’s body; and then inflict searing pain upon it!  Last weeks was the underside of the forearm, near the elbow.  We were casually walking along the school corridor and then out of nowhere, CHOMP!

Anyway, I should probably introduce myself - as much as I possibly can anyway.  I am a Teaching Assistant working in a Primary School in Hertfordshire.  I can’t say more than that because if my Headteacher finds out, a bite would be the least of my worries!

None of my friends work in education (seemingly, I’m the only one in the group that prefers to make life intentionally tricky for myself) and when I do find myself able to stop the ‘non-threatening, slowly spoken and very evenly spaced’ Primary School voice and interact with other grown-ups the response to my stories is very often the same…

How do you do it?

The simple answer that every day is different, and every day there is a different answer to that question.  Sometimes it’s the look of sheer relief in Mum’s eyes when she drops her little one off in the morning because her little bundle of joy has been a Tasmanian Devil for the last 12 hours and then other times it’s when that Tasmanian Devil decides entirely on their own that they want to sit down calmly and join in an activity!

But sometimes I absolutely know that I’m in the right place, and last week I had one of those moments…

Since September I have working with a kid that is on the Autistic Spectrum who is only in school for about half of the day, because any more than that is too much (I have to be really careful to not use pronouns or identifying traits so bear with me). Every day we do a lot of what I am sure looks like running around, splashing water and using the little rubber animals to put on an amateur production of The Lion King.  I must stress that I am usually putting on this dynamic production with lots of commands coming from my Key Stage 1 would be Stage Director… An entirely non-verbal Stage Director.

Just when I seemed to be hitting ‘The Half Term Wall of Exhaustion’, we stayed inside for break because it was raining.  I was led to the reading corner by a surprisingly low energy version of a child that would normally be bouncing around outside at this point like a Proton in search of a Neutron.

“No Lion King today?” I asked whilst secretly praying to the god of small mercies that I wasn’t inviting a world of pain into my day.

I dutifully followed the lead and after we had made ourselves comfortable in the bean bags (side note: a bean bag made for a child is NOT comfortable for a grow up man in ANY way). Within minutes, with the back of the book on the child’s knee and the front of it on my own, we started our very familiar journey through Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell.

As they lifted the flap on the first animal I said, as I did every time, “Elephant”.

Then, “Giraffe”.

We turned the page and the little flap hiding the Lion was lifted and I heard, “CAT!”.

For a second I felt suspended from reality, then my neck snapped up to see if it was another kid that had wandered close to us.  We were alone.

Then I locked eyes with the Class Teacher and we both knew it has just happened; this non-verbal little bundle of energy had made the connection between the words ‘Cat’ and the picture of the Lion and had let us know! 

I’m not ashamed to say that both of our eyes welled up visibly.  I put my arm around that little shoulder next to me and with a little squeeze of both recognition and appreciation we carried on with our book.

Next: Back With A Bite!

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