On a learning curve
Sandra Carlin is a nursery assistant at Ashlea Nursery Unit which is attached to the Primary School, and uniquely, works in the same school where her sister is the cook. This week we talk to Sandra about her working life in the school, and next week her sister spills the beans about being one of the City's favourite dinner ladies.
Sandra, how long have you been the nursery assistant at the school?
Since January 1999. So that's 10 years - this will be my 11th year.
Can I ask you why you decided to be a nursery assistant, because when you think about it, you are surrounded by little people all day making huge demands on you physically and mentally...
I did it because children at that age are so 'open'. They are like a little seed in the ground and they are starting to sprout and you are a part of that and you can help them to grow and that's what I loved when working with the younger children.
Forgive me for asking, are you a mummy yourself?
I am. And a granny.
Well I was going to ask, but I didn't want to be too
inquisitive! I would imagine from listening to my own mum that you have your own brood raised and would regularly help with the grandchildren - is that not enough of weeuns for you?
No. No. No. We have 26 children here and I love every one of them.
When did the nursery unit open?
January 1989. If officially opened then, but it started in September with a reception class at that time, but the building wasn't ready until January 1999.
There is a lot to play with here. Is it just play in the nursery unit?
No they are learning through their play. They are learning their mathematics; they are learning their English;
they are learning how to glue and stick; they are learning how to use their gross motor skills, their fine motor skills. They are learning everything. It's not just play.
A lot of people think 'Oh they go to nursery and they just play'. We don't just play. They are learning through their play. You are talking to them, you are building things with blocks and you are asking 'What colour is it?' or 'How many of the yellow ones are there?' and they are learning from that and they are counting these...
I'm sorry Sandra, I think you just love playing...
It brings out the child in you does it?
It keeps me young! It keeps me young and health! I think if I was at home and doing another job I just wouldn't feel the way I feel, so...
It's interesting that you say about another job, because I know that before you were nursery assistant here you were the cleaner or caretaker here, weren't you?
I was the caretaker cleaner.
You were? That's a bit of a jump for you. How did that come about?
I originally came to the school...let's see...(counts)...I'm 25 years here, so in 1984 I started as supervisory assistant in the canteen. That's where I started.
Right...You've done everything bust been the headmaster, Sandra!
No. I haven't been the cook either! My sister's the cook! As Mr McElhinney used to say 'She's got lots of hats'. I started as supervisory assistant, and was there for a couple of years when the caretaker took sick and the headmaster at that time asked me to go and do it, because there was no pool of staff or anything where you could call someone in and people would come in and do it. I said 'No problem'.
So you were basically just thinking of a bit of overtime.
At the time yes, and then over time the caretaker came back for a year, but had to go off again and was off two years. So, once you are off two years then the Board say 'You can't keep going', so I was asked would I step into the breach caretaking and cleaning. It wasn't just caretaking.
The security though of a
building that contains young children is a pretty big
responsibility isn't it?
It's not just a matter of making sure the windows are shut and the lights are switched off...
No it is not. It's a matter of keeping an eye on it as well and I have the alarm and if it goes off in the middle of the night I have got to get up and come in and be here.
I take it you have to be the first person on the scene if there is an act of vandalism or a break-in or something like that?
Yes. The police will be called as well but they will not come into the building.You must going first and then they come in after you.
So...if there is a big man in there with an even bigger stick then you are first in line!
I've had it! (Laughs) I used to say that to them: 'You mean to tell me if there is a man just around that corner I've had it!' You have to go in and see and they come in after you then.
Have you ever had a hairy incident that you can tell me about?
Not a hairy one, we have had break-ins during summertime, where I have come out to go round the grounds and noted that people have been where they should not have been and found pens and rulers and that in the back field. I have had to go and investigate and discovered that they had wrecked Mr McElhinney's office and made their way through a classroom at the bottom and made their way up through the school and wrecked everything.
Have you ever had a break-in at the school where the
children's work has been
Not really the children's work. When we had the mobile classroom, not the one that's there now, there was an older one and people broke in and threw paint on the keyboard and over the computer and that.
It must wound the children when they see that sort of thing, because when you think about it this is the sort of place where they are supposed to be completely safe, and learn. It is a protected environment. What sort of impact does it have on little people when their space is invaded like that?
The younger ones don't really understand, but the older ones understand and they would say you know, because it's their wee drawings and paintings, and they would ask 'Why is my work all ruined?' Usually we try and calm them, reassure them saying 'I'ts OK you can do your drawings over again. Don't you be worrying about it'. They really don't , but they do ask you questions: 'Who broke in? Why did they break in? Why did they pour paint on the keyboard?' Questions like that so it's a matter of telling them it didn't happen when they were here and it happened during the night and that they re safe during the day. You have to do things like that.
So how did you come to be a nursery assistant?
When Mr McKinney came he said I was very good with children and he said 'Would you not think of taking a wee course?' So he encouraged me to reskill and I said 'Fine!' and I put in for a BTec and my sister Ann did it with me at night and came out with a BTec in nursery nursing. That took two years at night school at Strand College.
So you became a student?
We did. But I enjoyed it.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Londonderry
Tuesday 21 May 2013
Temperature: 9 C to 13 C
Wind Speed: 17 mph
Wind direction: North west
Temperature: 6 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 24 mph
Wind direction: North west