The hardest lesson to teach…

My daughters have today been at a singing festival.  They have been practising for ages and were prepared well.  Unfortunately, my 8 year old has had a ‘poorly’ throat and we had said that we might decide to say that she was going to pull out.  She rested (as much as a boisterous young girl can) and yesterday we said that she could take part.

The girls had entered two main classes, with my eldest doing an additional Unaccompanied folk song class.  They both performed well, but on the day my 6 year old gained 3rd place in both classes, complete with certificates, and my 8 year old wasn’t placed at all.  She immediately dropped her shoulders, dropped her head and her mood plummeted along with it.  

As a mum, I am immediately filled with guilt; should we have stopped her from performing because we knew she wouldn’t have been able to gain a place? Should we have prepared her more for the fact that she might not do as well this week as she did gaining a 1st and 2nd in her dance festival last week? And what about my other daughter, her achievement completely overshadowed by the failure of her big sister?

My eldest has had the biggest lesson today that I think she has ever had.  How do you deal with failure and rejection? How do you bounce back? How do you realise that sometimes what you do just isn’t what others expect ‘the best’ to be?

I asked her what would happen if she only failed in something when she was grown up?  Her answer encouraged me: ‘it would be harder’.  I continued the conversation by asking why it would be harder, ‘because we wouldn’t have had any practise at doing it’. 

Can you imagine the number of adults who struggle to deal with rejection and failure; in job interviews, in relationships, in competitions and other life event, simply because they have not had enough practise of dealing with this type of disappointment?

I am so proud of my daughters.  I am especially proud of my 8 year old, who, when faced with rejection and defeat has been able, in just 3 short hours, to become philosophical and see it as character building.  The old phrase ‘Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’ is a cliché but has a grounding in truth.  For my daughter, she is growing into a young lady who can deal with defeat and rejection and not get swallowed up in it.

I can’t wait to meet her when she is 25.


It’s Panto time…oh yes it is!

Every year, around the 3rd week in January our entire family embarks on the tradition that is the seasonal pantomime. We go to ground from Monday to Saturday evening, thinking only of the performance.

My husband is a musical director, so our household starts hearing tunes from about October. He puts a lot of work into arranging and sorting music so it fits the script. There are creative team meetings, where the decisions about script, music, costumes, setting and scenery are discussed and ironed out. If you have never been part of a production then you will have no idea how much is done even before the script is sent out to learn!

One of those backstage jobs is the one I’m doing this year. I am the Children’s licensing officer. That means that every young person involved in the show on stage has to have a performance licence. Once that paperwork is out if the way, I sort out the chaperone rota. Last year I was a principal and had to learn lines, music and moves as well as doing all the other backstage stuff. This year I’m focussing on one job!

Sunday is the ‘Tech’, actors do everything on stage but have to wait for light and sound cues to be set. It can be a long day. But from page to stage it’s an amazing process. Monday will be the dress rehearsal. This will involve the whole company, running through the entire show. Everyone steps up a gear and this is when we start to spot the magic.

I have always enjoyed the pantos. I think my husband has been involved for the last 5 or 6 years. My daughters for at least 4 years. I follow behind!

Now, the biggest thing for me is the amount of juggling I have to sort with school work this week. I will spend all Sat and Sun arranging all my resources so I can simply email them to reprographics and collect when I need them. My students will do Green pen self and peer assessments to keep up to speed on their marking and I will juggle everything else. I am just blessed with a husband who likes to cook and can keep the laundry under control! Well, we are doing Aladdin! Oh yes we are!


I don’t want Santa to come!…

And so I said goodnight to my 6year old daughter; who has expressed her desire for the gifts, but slight trepidation at the thought of an old, slight tubby, bearded old man creeping into her bedroom when everyone else is asleep. And to be honest I don’t blame her. I was filled with that slight mystical fear when I was her age. I would spend hours, after my mum had said good night, staring out of my bedroom window trying to convince myself that the stars were sleighs, the trees were elves and that passing cars had bells that jingled the arrival of Father Christmas (never Santa when I was a child).

I still believe in Father Christmas. This isn’t one of those blogs to scientifically denounce the obvious. What amazed me, and is quite frankly blog worthy, is the fact that my girls have wrapped up a present that they bought for my husband. The unusual thing is that they have labelled it to him from Santa. In one small action they have moved from wide eyed wonder of the mystical deliverer of gifts, to being conspiratorial in his perpetuation! I swore to them that I would keep their secret, and as my husband is currently peeling a lorry load of sprouts, then I am fairly safe.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. I’m going to try to go for a run in the morning, but as I have only managed it once since I broke up, I think a brisk walk to church will be more likely. We have Grandpa with us, and we will sit down to Duck. The day will be fairly relaxed. My eldest has set her alarm for 7.30am; her reasoning was that if she wakes up too early she will know because her alarm won’t be on!!?

I would like to wish you all a very Happy Christmas and Happy Holidays.
I am hoping to blog again before New Year so I will save that salutation for later. 🙂

The brown teapot

My mum was a child of the 1950’s, a very different world that seems to have been absorbed into history. What do you know about the fifties? Anyway her mum had a brown teapot. It was used every afternoon; my mum would sit there at the table and her afternoon cup of tea would be poured out.

One day my mum was given the auspicious task of making the tea. This was even more important because a guest was visiting. My mum nervously boiled the water, poured it into the warmed teapot (everything had to be warmed up in those days) the tea cosy fitted before bringing it through. The cups and milk were in place. It was at this point she handed the teapot over. Her mum poured the first cup. To be honest I’m not sure if they were milk in first people. Shock! Plain water came gushing out! In all the occasions my mum had observed her mother she had never once seen her add tea leaves (there were no bags in their house) My mum thought the brown teapot created the tea! There was a slight awkward moment and her mother took things in hand. Tea disaster averted. But it was an event that stuck with my mum so long that it was a story she told me when I was younger.

This innocent story revealed several things: something’s cannot be learned by osmosis (or is that Brownian motion in terms of tea?) some things have to be made explicit. Teachers cannot always expect students to get it just by modelling outcome, although the ‘here’s one I made earlier’ approach can really help.

No, students sometimes need to see the obvious. I have joked with primary colleagues that Primary teaching is the art of stating the obvious. Most of them have understood my gentle jibe, laced with respect. Without a firm base of basic understanding, students can have no way of building a more complex understanding.

For my mum to honestly believe that tea came from a brown teapot showed that she had glaring gaps in her knowledge. If her mum had been an educator, professionally or home based then that would never have occurred. Her embarrassment would have been averted and her confidence developed.

I have several students from various countries, a few recently arrived and part of my EAL group. This year I have had to start again. Last year’s group needed socialising support and now have gone on with their friends and manage well. This year’s group are younger, more unsure and need support with homework, ironically we had to do French yesterday! They need to fill the basic gaps in order to avoid embarrassment. Hopefully allowing them to make mistakes with me in a small trusting group, allows them to gain confidence to be sure in their normal lessons. No teapot moments for them.


Every day’s a school day

I am now crawling back from the abyss which is called ‘having a reaction to my flu vaccination’. I don’t know if you have ever considered having one, but my friendly neighbourhood doctors sent me a text message (I didn’t know they had my number) saying I was eligible for a vaccination. Not quite the same as winning the lottery or getting one of those time share hotel breaks. But still I thought someone wanted the best for me.

I had spent the summer holidays recovering from mild pneumonia and seemed determined not to have the same problems at Christmas, so I gave the doctors a call and booked my time with the nurse. All seemed well and good. The day approached; the only awkward element was having both my girls with me while I had to have the injection. My daughters are a curious 8 and an inquisitive 6. They asked me non stop questions about why I was having the injection; what it did, where it was going to go and when they saw it, the comments on how long the needle was and how much vaccination fluid was going in. It really didn’t help. You can imagine me trying to sit still, answer questions and pretend nothing much was happening while the nurse carried out her duty. I can now reveal that it really hurt! I’m not a wuss, that why I have two daughters, if I had a problem with pain I would have stuck at one. But it took a week to settle my left arm and then I had the side effects of mild flu!

I have decided to run the risk next year, especially as they seem to be herd controlling flu by giving the year 7s something they sniff up their nose. Fewer students slowly dying in the corner of my room has to be a good thing. But for now, I think my vaccination days have come to a halt. I’ll go back for one when I retire and can spend all day recovering and not pretending to kids that I’m fine!

The week in the life of a show widow

My husband is a professional Musical Director and singing lecturer at Wolverhampton Uni. He has worked with theatre groups during our 11 year marriage. In fact, on our first wedding anniversary he was at the Wolverhampton Grand doing a dress rehearsal for the first amateur production of ‘Ragtime’ – if you ever get the chance to see this musical; if you are in anyway musically inclined, then do so. It is an especially moving piece of theatre and the songs resonate with me even now, all this time later.

This week Tim is at the Lichfield Garrick with @WBOSYOUTHEATRE. They are in the middle of a run of Oliver! (Never forget the exclamation). He has also been at Uni. He has left at 7.30am and returns about 11pm. He has done this all week. As well as this he has had to keep his other plates juggling. I really don’t know how he does it. When I returned from work today I discovered him having quality time with our daughters. He also sits with us at meal times and asks the girls what they have been up to. During this week we have to run along as if on three wheels because Tim is so busy, but we love seeing him coming home with a buzz, chatting about what has happened and who was in the audience and what the cast and band got up to. It’s a special job and one I’m very happy to be part of.

I am looking ahead to retiring. I know that one day I’ll just want to teach when I feel like it, I’d like to examine more and I love the process of seeing what students write. However, I know that my husband will never retire. He loves being an MD and his enthusiasm is infectious. I can see him being in this role and working with groups for another 30 years happily. I would like to think that the Dudley Hippodrome does reopen and he can bring some of his groups closer than Lichfield, just to save him the drive home afterward!

In the meantime, I make use of the washing machine, dryer and slow cooker and hopefully by the end of the weekend we will get back to normal. The next show week is in 3 weeks time! The shows must go on!