By friend and co-founder Rhiannon Harman
As most of you know, I have the pleasure of hanging out with this special lady most days. We have taught together, written songs about vegetables together, cleaned up wee together; we’ve put on shows together; we transformed the mathematical ‘chunking’ method (see SATS division) into a hair style AND we’ve recently taken our friendship to a new level and co-written an anti-bribery and corruption policy (oooooooooo!) – maybe we’ve finally grown up?!
We first crossed paths at a ‘little’ red-brick school just down the road from Haywards Heath. I had been working there for a year and a position came up to work along-side me in year 3. Sheila came in for an interview.
Hilariously on the day of the interview, I had decided that for the first time ever, and in an attempt to look important and smart, I would power dress! Now people who know me know that I never wear suits, in fact I am thoroughly incapable of looking smart and I generally look as though I am housing a bird’s nest on top of my head… But there I was, suited and booted, ready for my year 3 children (and feeling rather uncomfortable and a bit awkward).
Meanwhile, Sheila rocks up covered in 100s of bangles, fingernails painted neon orange and probably wearing Ugg boots…
15 minutes with me and my shoulder padded jacket and Sheila had decided I was a preppy geek who took her flute off to band camp in the holidays and seriously needed to relax into more child-friendly fashion. Luckily it didn’t take long for me to be able to reveal my true, rather unkempt, colours!
I was asked to observe Sheila’s lesson that day and by any teacher’s standards, it was a sublime effort - oozing creativity. Tents, food, cushions and poetry, you name it, it was in there. She had the children eating out of the palm of her hand (figuratively speaking); they were learning, and they were having fun! She definitely spoke my language and I knew from that moment that I had to have her on the team!
Of course, Sheila nailed the job interview and lots of fun, laughs and tea in the hangar classrooms with the year 3 / 4 dream-team ensued.
And that’s the thing with Sheila: anyone that has worked with her will agree that work doesn’t feel like work when you have Sheila by your side. Before you know where you are, you’re working with one of your best friends and life feels much easier and happier somehow.
And if you haven’t had the opportunity to work with Sheila, it’s a bit like moving through one of those multi-stage car washes. You offer up rather a grubby, rough-round-the-edges idea and then you put it through the ‘Sheila car wash’ and it comes out glistening: thoroughly planned out, colour-coordinated and looking and feeling simply amazing! ; )
Yes, we’ve had our highs and our lows… I remember that time during a messy play planning session when we realised that Sheila’s version of ‘There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden - and his name is Wiggly Woo’ was different to mine. I didn’t think we’d get over that hurdle, but we made it through (just).
Sheila is a remarkable human being. I have never known anyone work and look so well on virtually no sleep. (I’m starting to think she may actually have vampire tendencies….). Sheila gives her absolute all to her work. Discover and Be and its success thus far is a testament to Sheila’s commitment to and passion for meaningful, child-centred teaching and learning.
Sheila is courageous and resilient: she has more than her fair share of ‘obstacles’ to face but she gets on with life and shows us all on a daily basis how to embrace the good stuff and stick two fingers up at the not-so-good stuff.
Above all, Sheila has the biggest heart. She will do anything for her family, for her friends, for her cats, her pupils, her friend’s guinea pigs, for friends’ kids, for the cat next door, for Maureen down the road… And we are all better for it!
So I’m sure that you will join me in raising a glass to Sheila on her 40th birthday and be thankful that we all have Sheila in our lives in some way, shape or form.
40 years young, chick! Happy Birthday to you! xx