Wish #4 – to teach abroad

January 4, 2012 2 comments

Every so often over the past few years I’ve considered teaching abroad. When I was younger I didn’t feel I had the confidence to leave my support network, but I’ve come to realise that if I’m put into a situation then I’ll rise to the challenge.

Conversations with teachers in many countries have strengthened my wish to experience other education systems. As has research, documentaries (thank you Teachers TV) and – although clearly idealised – films and dramas.

Particularly strange is the realisation that I’d be interested in working in the US, somewhere that my younger self would never have wanted to visit let alone live.

I’ll stick with the current job for the time being though…

Categories: 2012Wish

Wish #3 – to make cheese sauce

January 3, 2012 Leave a comment


Photo: Victor Mayer fotopedia.com

A quick one today.

I have made cheese sauce on a couple of occasions but I always avoid it, even though macaroni cheese is one of my favourite comfort meals. I think it’s the potential lump issue that puts me off.

But I do wish I could just be bothered to make it sometimes.

That is all I have to say about that.

Categories: 2012Wish Tags:

Wish #2 – to play the guitar

January 2, 2012 Leave a comment


Photo: Ian Britton – FreeFoto.com

Well this is one I’ve actually started on!

I’ve had a guitar since I was 16 (not quite 25 years, but close enough with rounding). It was a present from my mum for doing so well in my GCSEs. I’d wanted to play the guitar for ages; I liked the idea of an instrument I could just pick up and play wherever and whenever and with whoever, rather than the piano which always seemed quite an antisocial instrument (I’ve since learned that’s far from the truth after many raucous evenings with friends singing songs from the shows).

I never really got anywhere. I remember teaching myself a few chords, but I wanted to be able to play without working at it! When I was 17 I started going out with an amazing classical and electric guitarist. Now that was inspirational, but also frustrating as I wanted to be able to play like he could and to do it straight away, without any practice or other effort! I think he gave me some lessons, at least I remember I learned to play a relatively simple classical piece, but I didn’t get very far.

And as part of my PGCE – as my specialism was music – we had guitar lessons. All I remember is the teacher was kind, old and blind and that around a dozen of us sat in a semi-circle. I don’t remember what we learned but I’m fairly sure there was some sort of ‘test’ at the end of the year…

A couple of years later my guitarist broke off our engagement and I didn’t really play again. I could now blame that all on him and my broken heart but no, I just didn’t put any effort in – disgraceful! However, the guitar has always come in handy when teaching sound in Year 5 science lessons – you can get so much learning about vibrations, pitch, amplification etc out of a guitar!

Which brings us to now. When I packed up my office at the end of term I brought home the guitar. It (and my psaltery – look it up!) sat on the floor in my very small hall with the bags and bags of books, resources, cards and presents that I had brought home and left there till after Christmas. (Actually most of the stuff only made it upstairs into the spare bedroom, but that’s on my to do list…) When I started to sort through things I knew that the instruments could just go in the loft or maybe in my wardrobe. Or the cupboard under the stairs so the guitar could come out on party nights if we wanted a break from the piano or the Wicked karaoke.

And then I realised that actually if I left the guitar out, tucked in at the side if the piano, I might just think about playing it sometimes. So I did.

And yesterday, when I should have been sorting and storing all of the stuff from the bags and boxes that only made it to the spare room, I got the guitar out of the case, tuned it and decided to learn 3 chords (I went for D, G and A as I seem to remember not getting on well with C. Or F. Or maybe both. To be honest I’m struggling a little with G so maybe it’s all down to lazy fingers!)

I started with D and A as they looked the easiest on the chord chart Google found for me. I did lots of strumming, some arpeggios, and tried to go between the chords without having to stop and say “Wait there” like I used to as an 11 year old who’d just started to play the piano and wanted to play for her mum. And then I added G. And more practise ensued. And I had a go at singing Leaving on a Jet Plane as that was the first song I liked on the ‘Easy Songs with 3 Chords’ web site. And then my brain realised that the opening verse of Fleet Foxes’ Helplessness Blues would also work with those chords so I tried to remember how that went too.

And then I just sat and played with the chords and improvised a few wordless melodies. Which was great fun. Now if I’d decided to take that approach 20 odd years ago I might actually have had the motivation to learn more…

So now I have to hope that the guitar doesn’t just sit keeping the piano company for the NEXT 25 years… Although at that point I may be heading for retirement so the timing might be right!

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Wish #1 – to be a governor

January 1, 2012 6 comments

Photo: Humphrey Bolton www.geograph.org.uk

Well this is a relatively achievable start to the wish list, and something I’ve been thinking about for a couple of years now.

Over ten years ago I was a teacher governor, a role that I enjoyed but didn’t – at that point in my career – understand fully or make the most of. In fact the only thing I remember about it was appointing a new head teacher. Since then, as deputy, I’ve been an observer on two governing bodies. That’s a lot of governing bodies, a lot of governors I’ve worked with, and a LOT of meetings I’ve attended…

I think it would be excellent CPD for me to become a governor of a school I don’t teach in. I’m also very keen to be able to give something to my local community. There are several primary schools close to me so my thought was that I’d let the new job settle and then approach one in the summer to let them know I’d be interested if something came up.

However, last night I was catching up with an old friend who is Chair of Governors at a secondary school – all be it an independent one. It made me think that actually maybe approaching one of the local secondary schools might be something that I’d rather do. Not only would it take me out of my comfort zone more so as a challenge would allow me to develop personally, it would also widen my understanding of secondary education which would be useful both for my current role and for the future if I choose to return to school leadership.

Would a secondary school find an ex-primary school deputy head a useful governor? I would think so. Especially as my passion is for learning, regardless of age or environment. I have a lot of experience to draw on and I want to be an active governor – I’m guessing that’s a pretty good start.

To take this wish forward I will need to start finding out more about the local secondary schools as I would not consider offering to be considered unless I actually felt I had a sense of the school and could make a connection. Well there’s a start to 2012 a an actual possible action and something to aim for… As if I don’t already have the challenge of a new job to start in two days time!

Categories: 2012Wish

366 Wishes in 2012

December 29, 2011 2 comments

Following a twitter conversation with @Laura_987 and @TheHeadsOffice this morning, I am seriously considering taking on a daily posting challenge in 2012. I’ve also been thinking about the way I can continue to use this blog now that my career has taken a new direction.

The point of The Reall Battle was always to look at a variety of ‘battles’ on a general education/career/work-life balance theme. Work-life and leadership/teaching were the driving forces before, but not the only focus of may thoughts.

So I’ve decided to take on the challenge and to use it to compile a list of things I’d like to do. Some of these might be really basic and easily achievable; others might be completely fantastical and unlikely or even impossible. However, I think it might be a useful frame for my thinking and also give me a few things to aim for, as well as being able to share ideas with others.

Watch this space…

Categories: Daily thoughts

Learning v Compliance

October 15, 2011 Leave a comment

In RE Y5 are focusing on sacred texts. This week we had a discussion about what we would put into a book that we would use to guide us through our lives.

As well as words of wisdom from people that they respected, the children suggested they would includes accounts of important events in their lives or their family histories, things they’d already learned from, quotes from books, films and tv that inspired them.

They also said they’d include sing lyrics. I thought they’d suggest some of the songs we find particularly inspiring at school, such as Lin Marsh’s Believe and Howard Goodall’s Refuge (both from Youth Music’s Singbook and available on the Sing Up site), but their suggestions were much more wide ranging and included Jesse J’s Price Tag and Chemical Brothers’ Welcome to the Black Parade.

I’m not convinced my third year junior class way back in the 80s would have had that depth of thinking. I’d like to think the current emphasis on developing thinking learners rather than compliant pupils is having a positive effect that those responsible for education policy in the government couldn’t begin to comprehend.

Or maybe they do understand it all too well and it is exactly this independence of thought that they are trying to stifle…

Categories: Education, Learning, Music, Thinking Tags: , ,

Can we control the present, let alone the future?

June 12, 2011 3 comments

This started as a personal reflection of the week that was, but appears to have evolved into something rather bigger.  Although it’s now very different from where it started in a short space of time, so was that evolution or not…?

Importance of Control

I’ve really been aware of how important control is in my life.  Lack of control leaves me stressed, struggling to focus and unable to make good use of my time.  Which makes me wonder whether this is the same for everyone, and certainly makes me wonder whether the lack of control that children find in their lives at school is having a similar effect on them.  Although I do try hard to give the children I work with some control on a regular basis, most of the time is about them being controlled.  Clearly a certain amount of control is essential when so many have to occupy such a small space and all would have different agendas.

Could we start again please?

@thought_weavers blog post Being at home at school made me think, yet again, about the fact that if schools hadn’t been invented yet we would not design our education system to be anything like it currently is.  It seems that evolutionary change is the only sensible way to get our schools to a better place for our 21st century learners, but will evolution every happen quick enough?  Is this just the same discussion that all teachers have had for ever?  How can we create the school our learners need when the change to the system, buildings and professionals involved would be so great that the whole thing could come crumbling down in the attempt?