Tag Archives: Teaching

Helpful or Ego

Below is a letter I have written but NOT sent to my child’s Head Teacher. It is in response to an email about a question I had regarding the incorrect wording of a letter from the school that contradicted a school policy. It was admitted that the letter was wrong but maybe a quick chat to a member of staff would be better than my original email asking the question. However I feel that the issues are a bit more far reaching and need more serious thought by the school.

I have thought long and hard about what is best for me and the school as you will see below.

I can not decide whether my response is from my ego or self. Is it supportive of me and the school or is my ego calling the shots. I would love to know your thoughts!


Dear Head Teacher

I have thought long and hard about what is best for the school and I keep coming back to the same belief. I am sending this email as positive constructive feedback which I hope will enable you to create the school which we have talked about at length!
I whole heartily support what you are trying to achieve at the school. I believe creativity and inspiration are the key not just to your success but for the future understanding and development of the world in which our children will be living.
I have personally committed 10 afternoons of my time to help re-launch music back into the school as part of what I believe is your vision of what RPS can offer it’s pupils with all the attributes and benefits related to it.
As an example this step sets you on a positive path that I hope supports all other ideas that can enhance the learning in the school. This is all brilliant. As it grows the school can be a truly great place to learn, work and live.
We have talked about community and communication before. It is here that an ‘untrue’ picture of what you are trying to create starts to emerge. Sadly these positive steps forward are not what I hear in the RPS playground. More of a concern is that it is not what I hear at outside clubs when parents from different schools are chatting about their experiences of the different schools.
For me the problem is that it is hard to adjust this picture. Yes I promote that I support the school to these parents. I say I am giving my time for free to help create your vision, show the future is bright and on an upward path.
However the battle is against history and real experiences. You will be aware of the great talking abilities of previous (unnamed) heads! Lots of rhetoric with smoke and mirrors. It didn’t help the progress of school.
So even when I am singing the schools praises and showing a bright future it is hard to combat negativity when based in fact not just ideal gossip and moaning hearsay.
I don’t have answers to these questions when I am asked them but knowing this may help you to help me combat them in future.
– My children say they are bored by all the Maths and English. I know it’s important and often dictated by the government but why does the school – the very people teaching my children – not demonstrate what they are saying is important to my children?
Letters are often sent out with incorrect information or spelling mistakes why? It shows the document has not been given due care and attention or checked through. Does this mean the school doesn’t believe in what it is teaching? Can the staff do the job? It’s seen as just a silly mistake that doesn’t matter? But it does seem to matter to my children when they are in class?
– Does the ethos and values of the school only apply to the children not all those involved in the school? Shouldn’t the school lead by example?
– Maybe they are so stretched and it is not possible to check everything. How is that going to work when the school is double the size as planned for the near future.? If they don’t even have time to read things properly I’m not sure about the safety of my child when the school is a building site.
– I don’t like the amount of time or structure of the homework. It is a real battle at home sometimes. What really gets my goat though is that after going through all that, the homework isn’t marked properly of even correctly. I just don’t care now it’s not worth the effort!
– My child got inspired by something in school and came home and did a whole load of extra work just because they wanted to. They took it into the teacher but they didn’t really pay any attention to it. I felt so sad.
– Why do the school not see the whole picture? Going on a trip before school means there is no club? But I have paid for this club already and there is no mention of it? Do I get my money back? If I do then the club loses their money that doesn’t seem right, can’t these things be organised more in advance? How is this making the school part of a community.
– I’ve asked the same questions to my child’s teacher about something but nothing changes, they don’t get it. I’ve stopped trying. The school is fine much like all the other local schools. Not like x school they are doing x they really know what they are doing it is like a different world!
– I think the new Head Teacher is great and the children really like him. The school could be really good but some of the staff are so stuck in their ways how is it really going to change? Are we going to have to wait for them to leave or retire? My child will be long gone by then.
There are many more but you will see the bigger picture and is not the picture that we have talked about. Yes you can say that you will always have people complaining but if the complaint has any amount of truth or reality in it then it has much more fuel.
As I said I am sending this out of concern. It can feel like every step forward then results in two back. To take a rugby analogy it looks good sometimes but they keep dropping the ball and can’t move over the game line.
I’m sure some of this may be possible to change now, some will take time and some things just need shouting about in a louder voice.
Anything you can do to help me answer these types of questions so I can continue to help support the school would be very helpful.
Kind regards

It’s all about the moment!

What is the most important thing about this moment for you?

I have finished reading Sir Ken Robinson’s book ‘Creative Schools – Revolutionizing Education from the Ground Up’

I loved it. I was so taken with the sense of possibility and the examples of how people have made such a difference in schools around the world. The thing that always strikes me when I hear or read these things is that in order for this type inspirational change to occur the situation has often hit the lowest point it can. All other main stream options have not produced the results required so the school (often with a new head) is given the freedom to do things differently or creatively! Then all manner of great things happen.

This is a problem because most of the education system is kind of ‘OK’ in most peoples eyes. We want things to be better but don’t want to rock the boat too much. But these great things would happen in any school in any situation.

Why would you not want to:

-Listen to what the children say
-Have happy staff all working together with a common ethos
-Be surrounded by happy, positive people
-Enjoy being part of the whole community of pupils,staff,parents and those living around the school
-Share in the joy of learning together

The real question should be for all schools – Is what you are doing in this moment from a place of fear or joy?

I say this partly because as I finished the book I read a review from a writer at TES which absolutely slated it.
While everyone is entitled to their opinions what I was left with was my roller coaster of emotions.

I had finished reading Creative Schools and felt great, then I read the review and felt heartbroken and sad. After some thought it seemed to me that my feelings were not about what was said in the review (or the book for that matter) but the feeling I got from the writers.

One was open, positive and almost a celebration of joy and the other a fearful slamming. My interest is in why the review was written in the way it was rather than just the fact it didn’t agree with the book.

I took this thought forward into some music workshops I have been doing at an Academy School. This school is in the middle of a very poor area. There are major behavioural issues with some pupils and I know the school is changing its focus away from being creative to a more ‘traditional’ outlook. This always saddens me because I know how the arts can really speak to those children who seem so lost in school. I started to get a little despondent about the situation and the system and how things could be ‘better’ in my eyes anyway.

It sometimes seems so hard to make people see the whole picture but I realised that you don’t have to. At that moment I had the opportunity to share my joy of what we were doing with the class. My energy came from excitement and joy not fear. While one or two children still seemed to find their situation a struggle a larger proportion willed each other to a level of achievement and enjoyment not felt before. It is only for an hour a week for 8 weeks but each visit has a sense of opportunity, it opens a window of light for those children to have seen only darkness for lots of their life.

Given a blank canvass I would do the workshops in a very different way in a different system. That used to be my frustration but now I see that in every moment I can except what I can not change and show those around me what could be.

At this point every moment is opening someones window a little further and that is ‘my’ most important thing.
It is the collection of everyones ‘moments’ that helps change and it is creating a place to share these joyful experiences I want to focus on now.

Here are the links to Sir Ken Robinson’s book and the TES review. I would be very interested to know your thoughts.



Thanks for now…..


When you know you are really teaching

I wanted to share this not because of Christmas but it made me feel grateful for the knowledge of knowing when I am truly teaching.

The spirit in which you give (teach) is the most important thing.

So when you are busy, other staff are stressed, you have deadlines and targets to meet just take do time and remember what teaching is all about.

I hope this makes you feel like giving what truly matters in your classroom – inspiration – allow your pupils to dream, live and in turn give to others what you have taught them.


For the last 2 weeks I have been playing timpani with the English National Ballet.

Every show I see children looking at the stage and orchestra with a dream-like imagination filled with excitement.

‘I could do that!’ It is this state I try to create in my lessons. Your pupils may not become professional musicians or a ballerina but the excitement you can instil will enable them to become anything in life they truly desire.

Give them that gift and the rest will take care of itself.

Top 5 tips for whole class music teaching

Hello and thanks for joining me.

Today I want to share my 5 top tips for teaching whole-class music lessons.

In my experience you have to look at the progress and achievement of your lessons over a period of time. It is hard to gauge week on week. This can be for many reasons – the children may have just had a hard day,  just come back from P.E or simply it is nearly lunchtime and they are flagging!

So remember it is important as the teacher to have an overview of the skills that you are imparting but keep the framework of each lesson complete.

1. Repetition is good for learning

I start each lesson in the same way. The class sits in a circle and we play our rhythm games. Each week the sense of pulse improves, the children become more confident in speaking in front of the rest of the class and any musical or co-ordination skills I have used improve. Before very long the children are desperate to get started and have their favourite games to play. You can develop the games and make them harder but the format remains the same.

2. Keep it fun

In my early years classes I start by playing a game that is simply just ‘watch and copy’. I slowly start by using my hands to touch parts of my body e.g. knees, feet, elbow etc. I increase the speed and then do more things at once maybe by using both hands. By the end everyone is in hysterics as we are all flapping around trying to keep up. I often finish by doing the actions of ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes’ before you know it the class are singing without even thinking about it on their own. I also use my voice to make animal noises……nothing removes barriers like everyone being a cow or a monkey!

3. Keep the lesson in the present

While you may have goals that you want the class to achieve over a term or semester, remember that it is only the lesson that you are delivering now that is important. Keep it interesting, fast paced and continually praise the achievement made in the last game/activity or the great answer a child has given you. The moment you are teaching something that doesn’t seem relevant or doesn’t link to what you have previously done the children will switch off. You might think it is an ‘important skill they need to learn for the future’ or ‘something will aid them for next terms work’ but if the jump is too big and the children can’t see where you are heading you will loose their enthusiasm and flow.

4. Engage the whole class

If you can avoid it don’t work with just part of a class while others are just left with nothing to do. Chaos will quickly ensue! Either have them working in focused groups or engage everyone together in the process of what you are doing. So for example it might be that in your circle only one person at a time is saying something but if the other 29 have to follow on from the previous person or they keep a pulse going for those who are speaking then everyone is included in the same process even if the actual activity is different.

5. Be aware of the individual needs of every child

Within a class you will have a wide range of people from different backgrounds and with different personalities. Support them all individually to be their ‘best self’ today. A shy person who says one word will have achieved just as much as the confident person who sings a scale in 3rds! The aim for me is never to make the whole class the same but to create an environment where every child can grow and feel supported. From that point great results can be achieved, individually and collectively.


Happy teaching!


Check out this clip from The Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and discover more from their You Tube Channel …………. https://www.youtube.com/user/BSOrchestra

10 Pieces a new project by the BBC

This is a new project just launched by the BBC here in the UK. The aim is to inspire and expose children to classical music.

The BBC has such a wealth of experience and a national reach that I think it could achieve great things.

Have a look here. What do you think?



Khan Academy

If you are interested in education I urge you to look at Khan Academy. I first heard about this a few days ago on the BBC Radio 4 program The Educators.

Below is a TED Talk that will give you more information and I hope make you excited about how education is becoming relevant for our age.