Happy end of term!
The consensus is that none of us can believe that we have reached this stage in the school year, or the school year that wasn’t to be a year! Despite March seeming to be so long ago, who would have thought that the end of the year would come so soon? The end that is only the beginning…the beginning of the next stage and the start of our holidays. Yes, we owe it to ourselves to treat the next stage like a holiday- no more online learning, no more preparation of resources, no more Sunday nights followed by schoolwork on Monday mornings, or feeling we should be doing something educational or school-related. Yes, ‘school’s out for summer’!
The summer break is also a time of transition. Transition may involve a re-training/ re-programming for many staff and pupils over the coming weeks. For those of us who have spent a lot of time indoors or around our own homes, now may be the time to consider small outings at safer times to build up self-confidence, lower anxieties, regain some of the old structure pre-COVID 19… of course, only if it is safe to do so. For those of us who have been busy with school life beyond our homes, it’s a time for resting. For others it is possibly a time to extend our comfort zones- either way we can all do our best to be ready to transition back into Lisanally life at the end of the break.
It now appears to be the case that schools will reopen at the end of August for some pupils and by September for more. What happens over the summer months will confirm the finer detail of all this in due course. A little guidance on what will be involved for Special Schools would also be welcome and when we know what is happening, when it is happening, then we will of course let you all know. As we have come to learn, things can change, and we don’t need to be worrying about plans until they are firmed up. Let’s all just enjoy our summer holidays.
Last Thursday, 18th June, Principals learned that Ministers proposed that a form of Summer Scheme (later renamed Summer Provision) should be offered to pupils in Special Schools. A week before the end of term isn’t a lot of time to plan and deliver a safe, high quality Summer Scheme/ Provision. For Lisanally students, the Governors agreed that the timeframe was too short and too risky to ensure that everyone could be catered for in school safely at this time. Instead, the good news is that we are devising an exciting plan where some of the children’s favourite entertainment will be offered safely, not in school, but online, over a two-week period during the last two weeks in July: Jo Jingles/ Cookery workshops/ Yoga/ Sports activities/ Music/ Magic and lots more. As soon as we finalise the programme, we will let you know. This online Summer Provision will be free of charge to all pupils. (All money already paid to school for 2020 Summer Scheme will be refunded when school reopens). Even though it won’t be our usual Summer Scheme, we are planning that there will be something exciting to suit everyone at some stage.
What better way to conclude the term than with a video of the Prize Giving winners receiving their awards when the school minibus visited them at home. So ends a strange, surreal, weird school year - one we will never forget. But as I’ve said previously, although physically apart, we have journeyed closely together. So many memories of the weekly checking in on the website for online learning or a photo of another little smiling face, or a very busy boy or girl or the comments of staff who have missed you all so much. Our busy website team will now take a well-earned rest over the next few weeks, so save those photos until after the summer. Staff are going to recharge their batteries, spend time with their precious families, as are our mums, dads and boys and girls. Thank you and well done everyone.
Signing off for the Summer… stay well.
Kind regards Sandra
‘Lisanally, Lisanally, it’s the school for me, Lisanally, Lisanally, Best that we can be…’ it seems that this week’s Prize Givings proved there was no limit as to how good everyone can be. At the start of lockdown, there was so much emphasis in the media about what we could and could not do, but this week we proved that in Lisanally everything is possible. It takes more than a pandemic to stop us or to break the Lisanally spirit!
Throughout the time that we have been apart, I have felt that we’ve become closer. There is a shared bond that comes from having time to ‘get to know each other better’. That’s at every level. So much is dependent on trusting each other- feeling that its acceptable to be having that ‘high’, or equally that ‘low’, but confident that we are not strange or odd or alone; others are feeling the same, just at a different time. The big plus for us is our sense of belonging and that belonging has related to being part of the Lisanally family. Some have offered or availed of that support, while others have done so to a lesser extent. Everyone has dealt with this in different ways. We’ve all tried in our own way. It’s a case of doing what is right for ourselves… we can do nothing more than be the best that we can be…
We now head into the last week of the school term, with school finishing on Friday next. This week it was lovely to peep into the back of cars when families collected Learning Packs and Reports from school. Wow- how much everyone has grown! Equally, when the Lisanally minibus headed out on Thursday and Friday to deliver the Prize Giving Awards, there was much excitement from families when it arrived at their homes. We cannot wait for the passengers to include more than just a couple of socially distancing staff, but also excited Lisanally students.
Every year on the night of the Senior Prize Giving, many of the staff take time to stay behind in school after excited families have gone off home. It’s a chance to sit, have a cuppa and another piece of shortbread! It’s a chance to chat, and laugh, and shed the odd tear of pride as we reflect on the years of investment by families and school in shaping our children into the fine young adults they become. No two have the same journey, no two turn out the same way, but no matter what their challenges, we know that together we can make a difference. This week we had the cuppa, we had the laughs, we shed the tears- although we were physically apart, just for that special time we were very much together. Thank you to our boys and girls for making ours the best job in the world.
Tonight, we conclude the week with a video of our clergy who took time to come together via Zoom to send us a message. The SLT take to the floor for a final time this term, this time with ‘Three Little Monkeys’.
Next week we start to sign off June with a few highlights of the year…. A little text will ping on your mobile next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings to remind you of whose turn it is to shine…!
‘Lisanally, Lisanally, it’s the school for me, Lisanally, Lisanally, Best that we can be…’ Team Lisanally #BestTogether
Until next Friday… stay well. Kind regards Sandra
Well now that June is starting to move along, it seems to be doing so at speed. This week restrictions have eased a little, bringing hope to us all returning to a bit of normality. Takeaways are now available from famous fast food outlets (no doubt a big hit with some of the Lisanally folk- children and adults!), takeaway coffees (that’s my fix covered!) and most shops can now reopen (so everyone should have found something to please them!) … But it still isn’t normal… we still need to look out for each other, to look after each other. At this stage in the pandemic, I think that we now recognize that to make a difference in someone’s life, we do not have to be brilliant, rich, beautiful, or perfect. We just have to care… let’s keep caring, caring for ourselves and caring for others.
With June now moving at speed, I thought I might need to declare some of what is planned for the website- not all, just some. Last Monday saw the last download of online learning resources for this term. Staff have worked this week on preparing Learning Packs which will be available next Monday 15th or Tuesday 16th June between 1.00-3.00pm for collection from school. PE clothing and other clothing items are also available for collection. School Reports have been finalized and will be given out at the same time. Of course, all the Reports are excellent- that’s because all our boys and girls have been so good.
No big surprises there.
Tonight, just to continue with the June feeling, the SLT take to the floor once again, this time with ‘Music Man’ and ‘Over the Mountain’.
Next week our busy June Lisanally Style really takes off…. A little text will ping on your mobile next Wednesday evening (17th) to tell you of a nice website surprise… As if that wasn’t exciting enough, another text will ping again on Thursday 18th for a second surprise. We cannot wait. All you need for both evenings are a comfy seat, a nice cuppa or a refreshing, soft drink, a few little nibbles. That’s as far as I can go with providing you with information…. All will soon be revealed… Let’s just say that virtually anything can happen if we want to make it happen… virtually anything! I like it when good unexpected things happen #BetterThingsAreComing
Until next Friday… stay well.
Kind regards Sandra
I opened my diary to check what should have been happening had we been embarking on a ‘normal’ June… The madness would have started to creep into school this week – you know that feeling where you are walking around trying to smile and be nice to people but when you also feel that you haven’t got time to either fit in a smile or be nice to people! June is always a bit like that- too many loose ends to tie up, too many deadlines to be met. Some of the deadlines remain of course, but that saying of Mark Twain that ‘the secret of staying ahead is getting started’ is always a bit of a wake-up call. So… I just put my head down and got June started…
But first things first- tomorrow should have been an important day for an important group of boys and girls as they were due to make their Confirmation. While it can’t happen tomorrow, we are already looking forward to it taking place when it is safe to do so. So, don’t feel sad tomorrow- it will be even better when it does happen. Given that there are lots of things that cannot take place in school this June, we had a bit of a think about how we could end the school year with some excitement. I wouldn’t dare to let you know what’s planned, but let’s just say, I think the website will be the place to keep an eye on over the coming weeks…
A few changes to delivery of the educational programme are planned. Next Monday, 8th June will see the last download of online learning resources for this term. Instead, staff will prepare Learning Packs for the remainder of June for all pupils. These can be collected from school on Monday 15th or Tuesday 16th June. Also, during that week beginning 15th June, a couple of little treats will happen online. As I said already, I would love to tell you what they are… but that would spoil the surprise!!!!!
The June 2020 journey kickstarts tonight with a special video message in the Photo Gallery from Fr Thomas for our special Confirmation boys and girls. Also, Jo Jingles pops up again with a ‘Hello’ in another video. This week some lovely OT resources were uploaded in the Home School tab/Resources/Therapy and included an action-packed OT June Activity Calendar plus some haircutting tips. With no word of hairdressers opening yet, the DIY tips might still come in handy! So, let’s dig deep and embrace a different June. Together let’s keep going, because we did not come this far just to come this far …. Remember the secret of staying ahead is getting started #SurprisesForJune
Until next Friday… stay well.
Kind regards Sandra
In some ways, there’s been so much ‘entertainment’ during lockdown, even if it is being delivered in a different way. At Easter when 84-year-old ‘Granny’ was lamenting the fact that she was missing ‘the Easter Bingo’, we had a Zoom Bingo session! No mean feat for a younger generation more familiar with the entertainment scene in Belfast than the Co. Armagh Bingo. The teenage grandchildren learned a lot about life that night as they had the excitement of waiting for one number for a line or a house while sitting in a hallway, as that’s where the best wifi was!!!! Meanwhile Granny coolly plied her trade, marking not one but two Bingo books and never missed a single number! Two hours of concentration later, Gran left us all happy- she had had a laugh and a focus, and she felt that she had been at the Easter Bingo! As had we for that matter…
Zoom has apparently taken over the world or made it a smaller place and easier to keep in contact. Every Sunday afternoon we join a weekly Quiz. Once again it involves several generations of a very extended family, with groups of people with whom we would not normally have spent much time pre-COVID 19 lockdown. I’m no addition to any Quiz Team, but I wouldn’t miss this Zoom Quiz for the world. Slowly the teams trickle online. Another of the ‘more mature’ relatives makes a grand entrance each week starting with a lovely view of the ceiling and the remote promise of a voice. The readjustment of the ipad has improved week on week, and we’ve progressed from seeing the ceiling, to seeing the top of the picture hanging high up on the wall. It takes at least five minutes every week until we are treated to the inclusion of a head from eye level upwards. Last Sunday we saw a face to chin level. We have all acquired new skills- we have just had to be patient with each other. We are getting there, and we are all well worth the wait!
This week it was lovely for Teachers to catch up with many of you again by telephone. We are starting to plan a different pathway to take us through June 2020. Tonight, we have a video in the Photo Gallery of ‘The Dingle Dangle Scarecrow’ from our Speech and Language Therapists. Keeping with the country theme, don’t forget to check out details of the Farm Safety Poster Competition as well. So, this weekend whether you are at a Zoom Quiz, Yoga or Bingo, or catching up with family or friends, remember that it’s never too late to try something different- anything is possible when we have the right people there to support us …. we are all in this together… no point in rushing now… Until next Friday… stay well.
This was a ‘strange’ week when many of us let our minds race, hoping for a relaxation of lockdown restrictions. Thoughts wandered to indoor visits to shielding relatives or going fishing or golfing. We gained a little on these. However, at last, we got an answer to the question everyone was asking, with the announcement that schools will remain closed for the remainder of the current academic year. There was also confirmation that the reopening of schools in September will involve ‘a phased schedule with a mixture of school attendance/ remote learning at home’.
While news of schools remaining closed may add to the stress for some families, I am a great believer in ‘knowledge being power’. So now we know, and unlike in March when teachers had to change the delivery of learning almost overnight, this time around we have time during which to collect our thoughts, look at our schools and alongside DE, EA and our Governors, assess what the ‘new normal’ will look like after September. Yes, it will be different, but none of us made this happen-it just did. Yet again we have two options- we can either dwell on what we cannot change, i.e. COVID-19 and how our lives have transformed, or we can sit up, look around and say, ‘…well at the start I didn’t know if I was going to make it this far… but I did and do you know what, I think I can make it through the next part too!’ We realise that ‘being together again’ won’t be physically together until after the summer but it will feel good when it happens. Despite the uncertainty of how our school will operate, we will try our hardest to do the best we can for each and every child and young person in Lisanally, while supporting each other as friends and colleagues.
It is fitting that this week we have a video message/yoga session led by Barry McGleenan, our calm, grounded mentor. However, an even bigger reminder of the Lisanally Family lies in another surprise treat. This week our boys, girls and parents have kept a secret. We have a special video message which reminds us all of how important it has been to keep apart to keep well…. while at the same time looking forward to being together again. Get the tissues out, let the emotions flow… tonight’s video is about who binds us together, why we do what we do and why we cannot wait to share precious times again. Until next Friday… hold your head high, open your heart and let the positive people round you give you the strength you need. Tough times never last but tough people do.
Kind regards Sandra
I was thinking about how quickly the weeks pass, and I never thought I would say it, but I almost look forward to Mondays! However, it is with the hope that starting a new week will mean being closer to ‘normality’. The trouble is that by midweek, I often feel less enthused. Maybe it is related to not knowing how long all of this will last. Chalking up another week doesn’t always provide the clarity that I desire about a timeframe.
Every New Year, I enjoy starting a new ‘Family Calendar’, adding planned events for family members. I love occasions like Birthdays and family gatherings. I love holiday periods and adding details of a trip already booked. It’s not that I live a very exciting life all year round, but I do look forward to some things staying predictable and some things being new and different. This certainly has been a time for things not being predictable, and instead being new and different. During New Year 2020 planning, I couldn’t have imagined the ‘now’ as we know it. Instead, well laid plans have been postponed or even cancelled. I like things to happen. If they don’t happen, I like to make them happen. I find myself choosing to focus positively on the postponed events. At whatever stage they do occur, they will seem even more special because I will appreciate the fact that they can take place at all. Meanwhile, the problem is that I must be patient, as I still don’t know when I can finalise that calendar reshuffle!
Like me with my calendar, many of our children and young people rely on visual supports to clarify information. These aren’t easy times to help them make sense of something which is confusing even for us. While a specific roadmap with dates to signpost us beyond ‘now’ has not yet materialised for NI, there are many positive signs that what we have been doing has and is working well. Patience for us is recognising that things can happen, just in a different order than the one we had in mind. We are expecting our children and young people to cope with that when we aren’t too good at it ourselves! Together we are all playing our part… and we need to continue to play our part while staying as positive as we can… carefree days will come.
This week we have a few treats for our younger boys and girls. Jen from Jo Jingles sends a video message in the Photo Gallery. Meanwhile our Speech and Language Therapists have recorded both a Story and a Song video in the Home-School tab under Resources/Therapy/ SLT. A must for all to see! Until next Friday… stay well.
May 2020 was always going to be different anyway. When it emerged last year that the 2020 May Bank Holiday Monday was being moved to a Friday, we were all unsure as to what that would be like. In the end, having Bank Holiday Monday on a Friday during lockdown has not made much difference to any of us. Instead the current jokes about referring to the days of the week as ‘thatday’, ‘otherday’ or ‘someday’ all seem appropriate. Bank Holiday Friday has turned out to be… basically ‘day’.
This time last year, we were preparing for a school trip to Barcelona and Salou. The excitement was rising as suitcases were being packed and plans finalised. In hindsight, we ‘chose’ a good year to go and had a great trip. Ten years ago, our well laid plans to go to Paris were put on hold when relatively small volcanic eruptions caused enormous disruption to air travel across western and northern Europe over an initial period of six days in April 2010. I remember sitting in my office while talking on the telephone on the morning of the day that we were due to fly out. While trying to obtain a decision from the airline as to whether the trip was on, students were obliviously wheeling their trolley suitcases past my office door, excited about and anticipating an afternoon flight! A bit like during COVID 19, some decisions by others were left as late as possible and, a bit like during COVID 19, we tried to make the most of a less than satisfactory situation. That day when we finally received confirmation that we weren’t heading to the airport, the group boarded the hired coach and headed off on a daytrip to W5 in Belfast. We just made the best out of a less than favourable situation. That’s what you are all doing now…that’s what we are all doing now, and it is helping us all along the way.
Last week’s staff video proved emotional for us all- most staff haven’t seen each other either since school closed. Of course, there are others who are an important part of the Lisanally Family. Jimmy, our EA Music Tutor, was delighted this week to record several short videos which prove that you don’t have to have expensive African Drums to make good music. With supervision while using some of the suggested kitchen tools, there are lots of ideas in these for creating your own music. The best news of all is that you are never too old to fulfil your dream- why not join in the music making session and form your own little ‘House Band’!!! Make that May Bank Holiday Friday memorable! Even I might sound musical… I live in hope!!! Until next Friday… stay well.
Let Music Brighten that Rainbow #TeamLisanally
Today sees the start of May, a month when school staff usually start to panic a bit! While countdown to the Summer holidays begins, there is also recognition of work to be undertaken in time for the June celebrations. In May, focus turns to completion of records. Talk includes ‘Have you done …?’ or ‘Who is going to do…?’ Inevitably people are assigned the jobs that they ‘are good at’- every school has someone who is ‘good at’ making booklets or certificates, labelling photos or even locating the photos in the first place! Some are ICT whizz kids who are worshipped and crowned as being ‘good at…!’ Others debate whether to order Shloer now or who will bake the shortbread for Prize Giving in June? Preparations begin for Religious Services, Coffee mornings, Sports Day and all those end of year events. Yes, May is almost as busy as June… well usually. This year it is different. Everything is different. The effort continues while staff work from home, but without the prospect of sharing in the celebrations. When May arrives next year, we won’t complain about being busy!
Wednesday was an exciting day when Teachers made contact by telephone with a lot of parents. It was nice to catch up. There was the opportunity to reassure parents that children will not have to repeat the next school year. Equally class lists/staffing have not been planned as yet- don’t worry about any of that. In relation to increased speculation regarding an early reopening of schools- there is no date for NI schools re-opening. While believing that reopening would indicate a return to normality, DE and EA will only permit schools to do so when it is safe.
Wednesday’s parental contact also provided an update on the use of online resources. Teachers have worked hard preparing and tailoring a wealth of weekly resources which take account of a wide range of needs. However, we also appreciate that other routines and activities may be working well for your child. This has always been a time for doing what works best for each of us. Staff, while working from home, also juggle roles involving caring for family members alongside home-schooling for their own children while preparing schoolwork for Lisanally students. We need to be gentle with ourselves- we are all doing the best we can.
As the weeks have passed, one key theme among staff is how much we all miss our children and young people. We’ve had great fun in recent weeks being creative in isolation and managed to pull together a staff video for you to sit back and enjoy. Until next Friday… stay well.
Hearts apart, but #OneAtHeart
Happy Friday! Despite the possibility of all our days and weeks rolling into one, somehow every week has seemed different. Some of us are operating in a carefree mode, while others have real fears that this virus will target us or our loved ones. When looking out for friends or family, it has never been easier to make that phone call, without intruding, to check if someone is alright. Equally it is important to try to remember to properly look after ourselves, particularly if we are focusing all our energies on caring for and entertaining others. Sometimes it is alright to sit down and simply do nothing, even for a short while (… note to self!!!)
The weekly photos, emails and texts convey how busy everyone has been creating magic for our children and young people. You have shared lovely activity ideas- from COVID time capsules, doing cooking and baking, jigsaws, treasure hunts, nature walks, household chores, cycling, playing basketball, trampolining. The smiles capture so much enjoyment.
As adults we may not have enjoyed all of our range of activities quite so much- cleaning, painting, laundry, power washing, building up walls, knocking down walls; but finishing a job that’s been put off for a summer or two… well there is definitely enjoyment in that!!!! If you’ve been able to avoid some of the ‘heavy duty jobs’ then, like me, you might have been ‘sent’ to the builder’s yard for supplies. If nothing else changes after this pandemic, one of my wishes would be to slow down the people who think they have bragging rights for being in the biggest hurry. The fact remains that some people still haven’t got used to the idea that ‘a queue is a queue, FOR EVERYBODY’. My exciting builder’s yard visits (??!!!) have involved at least one person per visit wandering casually to the top of the queue. ‘The Owner/Boss’ has only one way to deal with it- he orders the ‘offender’ to join the back of the queue, no excuses, and suddenly their need to hurry disappears…just like that!
While we have gone some way on our COVID-19 journey, pacing ourselves remains even more important than ever. Taking care of ourselves is crucial as we prepare for the next phase. We are in this for the long haul, together. There is no rush when it means we can remain safe and well. This is a marathon not a sprint- let’s trundle along steadily and look after each other so we can safely reach that finish line -together. It will be so worth it. So now practice your relaxation techniques - sit back and enjoy our little video capturing some of the activities you have been enjoying at home… and, not a queue in sight!!!! Until next Friday… stay well.