Hello! My name is Clare Francis-Slater, I am an experienced primary school teacher and have taught for over twenty years in a wide variety of school settings, ranging from large urban, suburban to small country, mixed-age class village schools. In my teaching career, I have also taught in universities and colleges. I love my job and being with the kids, I like to think that it keeps me young!
In what other job, can you find yourself looking out at a sea of bright, smiling faces – queens, princess, knights, dinosaurs, fishermen, spidermen, fairies and fairy-godmothers? It was a particularly special day in school the other day, World Book Day, and the children were brimming with excitement, brandishing their decorated ‘sticks… but not sticks’ – they were of course; magic wands, swords, fishing rods etc. The children were delighted with their costumes and themselves as they scrambled for my attention, ‘Look at me!’ they called excitedly.
In how many other jobs, is it an actual responsibility to collectively look at a box of sticks and decide on the best one!
I hear myself saying, ‘Archie, stop waiving your tail around!’ and they say to me, ‘I love your nails, your lipstick, your hair! I love you! Can I hug you?’ It’s a joy and a delight to be with them. And because I am not with the same children every day, I think I get to enjoy the magic of them even more!
‘I’ve got some special skills up my sleeve!’ a five-year-old boy told me the other day with a wink. ‘Oh, have you!’ I replied, what’s that then?’ He smiled as answered, surprisingly, ‘fighting skills and best of all dancing skills.’ Then he proceeded to bust out his best moves on the spot! Amazing I thought.
Another day, I saw a little nursery boy get a couple of little chunks of cucumber out of his trouser pocket – he’d saved them from snack time earlier. Confused I asked him, ‘What are they doing in there? ‘I’m saving them for later,’ he replied, as he placed them on his eyes. It took me a moment to realise what he was talking about, and after a few more questions, he explained that he planned to take them home and relax with them, like his mum, with cucumber on her eyes! Priceless….
And I get to enjoy pieces of creative genius like these. I love the ‘ladder to get into potato city’ and the ‘three cheeses on the beach’… This boy clearly had an unusual, combined joy of cheese and beach holidays. Children are very amusing.
Since 2019, my supply organisation, ‘Tra La La Singing Supply’, has worked successfully with Claire’s School Solutions providing high-quality teaching on a supply basis – mostly focusing on day-to-day teaching, but occasionally taking on longer term contracts as well. I enjoy the variety and challenge of the day-to-day teaching and meeting new staff and children in and around Derbyshire each day; very often returning regularly to the same classes and schools and building strong relationships with the staff and children alike over a period of many years. It can be very rewarding.
Personally, I find that supply teaching suits me well, as it allows me to enjoy teaching, do the job, enjoy the children and it also affords me great flexibility, independence and time to organize myself to do other things that I also find stimulating. Not to mention, much valued family time with my own children at home. I feel that teaching as a supply teacher, gives me real balance in my life and I value that immensely.
So, with my ‘free-time’, I recently became an associate lecturer at The University of Derby and have been commissioned by them to create some multi-media video content for their new cohort of teacher training students to help them to embed a more inclusive curriculum in their daily teaching practice. I intend to make more of this video content and share it more widely. I enjoyed creating it.
In 2020, I founded a new Educational Consultancy organisation called, ‘Diversity Days Everyday’, where I provide staff training sessions in which I help teachers to embed diversity into schools, moving away from tagging it on for one month of the year – so that every child growing up in the UK can see themselves in their educational experience, feel valued and understand how they fit into the history of Britain. This is very much inspired by my own personal experienced of the education system, both as a child and as a teacher. If you know of anyone that might be interested in these sessions for their school, please contact me.
I have always enjoyed writing and find the process extremely cathartic. I have recently written my debut book called, ‘The Little Book of Balm for the Broken Soul’ which will be published and launched this spring/summer. It focuses on the importance of self-care, well-being and a gently supported recovery after a trauma, which I personally experienced in 2018. I also explore issues of race, identity and belonging from a very personal perspective, being of dual-heritage background myself – white British and Black Caribbean. Living and growing up in the UK, I reflect on my lived experiences that have impacted on me. Post my health trauma, as I began to build myself up again, I found that I was embarking on an uplifting, positive personal journey that helped me to embrace my ‘whole’ self – I share this positive journey in my book. It shows how issues such as identity and belonging are vital to us all. It also illustrates how it is possible to not just get better but thrive and even become a ‘better – ‘more authentic you’ post a trauma in your life – if only you are open enough to see it and then be it. I’m hoping it will be a beautiful little book to treasure, the illustrations are being created by award-winning artist Lynne Hollingworth https://hdart.co.uk/
As a little boy shouted to his friend in the playground today at school, ‘Come on Spiderman! We’re on a mission!’ I smiled and thought to myself, brilliant!
I think I’m on one too. To live life to the full, being my true ‘authentic self’ as often as I can, to be kind to others and myself, to find my voice and reach out to others to help them too. What’s your mission?
*Details of where to buy my book will appear on my social media pages and website soon.