A Flashback on Thursday.

This was number 1 on 14th March 2004.

Something really strange happened to me this week. Thursday 2nd July 2015.

My current Headteacher is retiring at the end of term and she must have been clearing out her files. She came to me with a blue file. “Look inside,” she urged, her eyes looked knowing.

I opened the file and inside were a collection of papers. On the front sheet was the title “Music Co-Ordinator- Friday 19th March 2004- Interview Arrangements”.

I was suddenly transported back to that day. I remember most of it very clearly. I was late for my interview. How embarrassing. I got completely lost despite doing a trial run the day before. The area was completely unfamiliar to me and my friend’s dad suggested the route I had used the day before would be horrific in the morning. He gave me details of an “easier” route. Easy schmeasy, I got totally lost, had to ring the school for directions and wanted to cry. I arrived 10 minutes late, then was soaked to the skin crossing the car park in torrential rain. The lovely receptionist (who has since retired) helped me dry my hair under the hand drier in the ladies toilets before taking me into the meeting I was currently missing.

Any questions?” asked the deputy head leading the meeting. I piped up “Would I be able to leave by 2pm please? I’m taking students on a trip this evening and need to be back in Liverpool by 6pm”. At that moment I wondered why I had even turned up. I felt like I was nailing my potential classroom door shut, tightly.

Looking through the sheets in the file made me feel strange. It was like looking back in time, because I actually was. Application forms with my Manchester address on it, with details of things I’d forgotten I’ve even done as it was so long ago. Training staff when I worked at Marks and Spencer and being part of the team who helped open and staff the Trafford Centre store. Working as a mentor with Warrington Youth Offending team, something I used to love doing each week. It really made me understand some of the issues that may have had an impact the students I taught and made me a more understanding person.

Reading through my letter of application was strange. When I finished reading it, the thing that struck me the most is that I still write in the same sort of style. If I was reading the letter from a stranger, an applicant for example, I would be struck by their enthusiasm, positivity, commitment to their subject and the students and also that each point was backed up by an example.

In all honesty, if I were to write a letter of application this week, although my development throughout the years of different roles in school have given me a massive variety of experience and have all helped me to develop my skills, knowledge and teaching, my letter would still convey ME in the same way. I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not- I come across the same way in person I have been told. I am guilty of letting it all spill out a bit sometimes…

The notes taken by the Head during my interview lesson said that I was “bright and breezy”, a good timekeeper, made good use of peer assessment but I didn’t use student names. I remember the lesson theme given was “major and minor” so enjoyed preparing the lesson for the interview as it had plenty of scope. Would the same things be mentioned in observations now? I’d like to think so, but I’m fab with names!

Reading through the references from my referees was very interesting as I’ve given plenty of references but never seen one of my own. They made me smile to myself with the comments, as the context of them was so long ago, a different life back then.

I think I have changed a lot in some ways, but I don’t think I’ve changed that much either. Do we really change that much personally, or is it the experiences we gain that change?

I remember feeling so disappointed with myself as I left early, I get back to the North West to take my students on a trip to the Philharmonic Hall in Liverpool that evening. I felt disappointed that I had ruled myself out with my poor timekeeping in the morning and need to leave early. The students I’d met that day made me feel disappointed; I wanted to work with them and I felt like I’d missed out. As I was driving down the A19, my phone rang so I pulled over. It was the Head’s PA. My heart sunk further, I didn’t get it, they had got the PA to ring. “The Head and the Governors know you are travelling but would like to offer you the post.” My initial reply was something inappropriate- then was told I was on speakerphone. (Another nail in my classroom door!) but I honestly couldn’t believe it. I was so happy. I remember I was listening to “Lord of the Rings- Return of the King” soundtrack and as I pulled off the hard shoulder and put the music back on, the track that was playing was so appropriate for that moment and every time I hear it, I see that moment in my mind like a snapshot.

Reflecting on this day so long ago, on the evening I was given the file made me feel quite sad. I remember the Head saying on the day “This will be my first appointment as Headteacher so I want to make a good one” and I remember thinking that if I got the job, I hope I wouldn’t let her down.

I hope she thinks she made a good appointment on that day.

R.E.A.L Projects Day 3 and 4

I’ve just one of those groggy “Where am I?” moments. I made the fatal mistake of lying beside my little boy when I put him to bed and lo and behold, I’ve skipped an hour and a half but also had a lovely nap…

Day 3 and 4 have been exciting as this is when most of the “nitty gritty” work has been happening. It’s also been when the work is getting pulled together and collated for the exhibitions which will take place tomorrow afternoon (Fri 3rd July).

As I am running my own project, I’ve not got round to see everything as much as I’d have liked and I also know that I am extremely excited to see the exhibitions tomorrow.

Updates on all projects over the last 2 days are:

21st Century Britain– the group visited the Synagogue in Gateshead and a Mosque in Newcastle to find out more information to help them answer their essential question “What is British?”

Heads covered as a mark of respect.

Heads covered as a mark of respect.

Afternoon Tea went fruit picking near Hexham to pick strawberries to make jam with on Wednesday (can’t wait to sample this!) and today went shopping to collect their ingredients for their afternoon tea they are hosting tomorrow afternoon.

Belmont Superhero were busy making their superhero movies when my group returned from our visit today so I am looking forward to seeing some of these action movies.

Community have been redrafting their work using critique and have produced their blogs which will go live tomorrow for all to see. They met with a journalist to learn about interview techniques to help them get the best out of their interview session.


Does Fashion Have a Price have been busy researching and also creating their centrepiece sculpture which will be completed in the morning before the exhibition.


Durham Cathedral is my project so I can add a bit more detail here. Yesterday students took time to respond to their critique and then re drafted their introductions to their guide to Durham Cathedral, before completing their study about their own area of the cathedral. Today we visited the cathedral for the second time to climb to the top of the tower (which was a first for all students except 2, despite them all living in a 4 mile radius of Durham City) and we were also given special permission to take pictures to add to our guides, as well as display as part of the exhibition. One student said the trip up the tower was one of the most amazing things he can remember and that the view made him realise how lucky we are to be based in Durham. Some of the students also contributed to the Open Treasure fundraising project by purchasing and adding pieces to the Lego Cathedral.

LJA arrival LJA lego LJA tower LJA window

Films have been working on their displays for tomorrow based on their research and their visit to the cinema.


Flotsam and Jetsam have been busy designing and manufacturing new products from salvaged material and also investigating ways we can sustain a recycling culture at Belmont beyond this week.

Kidz for Kidz are in the final throes of creating their own books. They have used some of our local junior school students as their focus group and one of the group members said that the highlight of this week so far was being able to read to younger children which I found heart warming.

Mood Music are in the final stages of creating their artefact in response to a piece of music. Students have created mood boards to show the beginnings of their responses and Mr Herbane has been vlogging their journey all week.

Orienteering have created three different orienteering courses in the area local to our school and will be off site again tomorrow at Hardwick completing the orienteering course there, bringing their week to a close. One of the students in this group said he has loved this week because he has helped create something that members of the public can use.

Rock Climbing spent their second day at Sunderland Climbing Centre yesterday and today have been pulling their information together for their exhibition tomorrow. Every student I’ve spoken to on this project loved that they have become skilled in a completely new activity to them and that it was so much harder than they thought it would be. I know just from speaking to some of these students that despite their skill gain, their biggest takeaway will be increased self- confidence.

Set, Props and Costumes have been full steam ahead creating some incredible work for our school musical “Grease” next week and I know when the performance is on next week, the work they have put in this week will add an extra shine into next week’s performances- including our famous Grease car!

JCO Grease

Trashion  have all their “trash” outfits made, accessorised and laid out ready for photo shoot in the morning. Some very excited girls ready to get beautified for their modelling debut tomorrow! I am really looking forward to this!


Travel Tracks visited Durham City this morning to do a treasure hunt style tourist trail before returning to school to complete their app build. Students in this project spoke very enthusiastically about their work and said they knew how to make an app and could re use the information in other contexts as well as build another app, so they have clearly learnt transferrable skills. I am looking forward to seeing their final, working apps.

Vikings have been creating their Vikings- savages or cultured barbarians? display in the Viking style after their visit to Yorvik on Tuesday.

When In Rome managed to squeeze a visit back to Hadrian’s Wall today to create short guide films before returning back to school to edit them. Students were elated that they were getting another chance to visit Vindolanda which they had thoroughly enjoyed on Monday.

Would You Feed Your Hungry Neighbour have been blogging about their findings and also fundraising round school to raise money to buy an online shop for the Durham Foodbank. Students I spoke to today in this project group said they thoroughly enjoyed their work this week and have learnt so much, particularly about poverty in our locality. Tomorrow, members of staff are preparing to be “sponge soaked” all in the name of charity- I’ll be sure to get pictures of this.

Finally Zombie Apolcalypse have been editing their zombie movies and creating their survivor diaries. One student on this project said “It’s the best week I’ve had in school- the best thing I’ve ever created”. Some of the videos I’ve seen in this project are fantastic.

I am really looking forward to tomorrow’s exhibition and seeing all of the work students have created, facilitated by staff, standing side-by-side in our display arena.

Onwards to the final day- although when I say final day, it is just the start of a new adventure!

R.E.A.L Projects- Day 2

Yesterday was just a quick round-up as I had been out of school on my fact finding mission for my own project- “Durham Cathedral through your own eyes”. Today I was in school and as well as developing our Durham Cathedral guides, I got the chance to do a quick whistle-stop tour around school to investigate how other projects were taking shape.

Before the school day even started, there was a real buzz walking along the corridors. I had a few quick chats with colleagues before heading to collect some resources. I noticed Deputy Head Dan Brinton in one of the classrooms, busying himself away. He was very much looking forward to the day ahead and already had the classroom prepared and was raring to go- more about this project later though.

Community project

Community project

In my own project, today we planned the information we were going to use in our “guides to Durham Cathedral” and which method we were going to use to create our guides. Despite being in an age where we are surrounded by technology, I felt pleased that many of the students chose to create a handwritten guide, mostly because they were inspired by the artwork and patterns they saw whilst visiting the cathedral yesterday. I also did a “how to be a good critique partner” session, similar to the one I did with full staff but adapted for my students. They really took to heart the need for kind, helpful specific feedback and I backed this up with Ron Berger’s Austin’s Butterfly. This made our gallery critique session very easy to facilitate and was a positive experience. Tomorrow we are developing specific areas of interest in the cathedral, based on the information students found interesting yesterday, then planning what still needs to be found out in our final visit on Thursday, where we will climb the tower and have been given permission to take pictures, so they can be used in our exhibition as well as in our guides we produce. For me, today was very positive and I was very impressed at the maturity and genuine interest showm by students in something I am very passionate about.

Peer to peer critique

Peer to peer critique

Critique workshop creation

Critique workshop creation

Creating creatures for critique

Creating creatures for critique

In my walk round I popped in to as many projects as I could. Today was the busiest day for visits as well.

Would You Feed Your Hungry Neighbour were visiting the Trussell Trust foodbank in Chester-Le-Street to do some volunteer work to develop a further understanding of how a foodbank works and operates day-to-day.

Making food parcels

Making food parcels

Creating food parcels

Creating food parcels

Flotsam and Jetsam were visiting Seaburn Beach and North Dock to “scrat” for reusable material discarded and washed up by the sea. There was already an impressive array of exciting material in the technology workshop so I am very curious to see the exhibits on Friday.




Vikings were spending the day in York collecting information for their project after their launch day yesterday.

Rock Climbing spent the first of their two day visit to Sunderland Climbing Centre, being given instruction and developing their climbing skills, to help them answer their essential question, “Could you climb Mount Everest?”. One of the students studying this project told me that he really enjoyed his day climbing but “It was so much harder than I thought. I think I’m going to ache tomorrow”. This was a totally new experience for him and he was pleased he had pushed himself out of his comfort zone.

Orienteering spent the day in Hamsterley Forest developing their skills to help them create a community orienteering project during the rest of the week.


Films were visiting the cinema at the Metro Centre to view a film to assist them in their quest to find out “Do Films Dictate Our Morals?”

Seaham were also beach-bound to visit our local beach and finding out facts to enable them to answer their essential question “Will we be able to visit Seaham beach in 50 years?”

The most popular project during student selections was Zombie Apocalypse. Today the group were split, with 30 students visiting Taught in the Wood to take part in bushcraft, survival skills and building shelters. One of my tutor group went on this visit and said “It’s one of the best trips I’ve ever been on” and spoke so enthusiastically about the skills she had learnt today. The other 30 students remained in school to make their survivor video diaries and the groups will swop over tomorrow.

aco 1 aco 2 aco 3

Trashion were busy planning and creating the clothing they are going to make from recycled materials and spoke eagerly about what they were doing. The students were very articulate and used specific terminology for the context of their project.

SRO 1 SRO 2 sro 3

Belmont Superhero students were using their critique to redraft and improve their superhero logo and costume designs- I think every student in the classroom I visited wanted me to photograph their work- they were very proud of their designs and I was proud of their enthusiasm.

rem 1 rem 2

Back to the Community project. One group were working on their interviews skills with Julie Ryder and another group were using the Fox Thinking Tool to help them to develop deeper questioning skills, in preparation for their interview. Dan has recently visited the amazingly innovative XP School in Doncaster and used some of the techniques he saw there in his session. I know how inspiring visits to these schools can be, myself visiting School 21 in Stratford, London earlier this year.

dbr 2 dbr 3

Dan also had an “expert”- Billy Elliott, from Beamish, where the group visited yesterday, in to answer questions and also to perform traditional folk music for the students. My initial reaction to seeing this was “Wow!”

Round the corner I found the When In Rome… project who visited Vindolanda and this was most enthusiastically spoken about by the students. They were begging me to ask their the project leader Lee Ferris to take them back later in the week. They had also been treated to a latin lesson by departing Y11 student Jacob, and used this information to translate and create texts.


Does Fashion Have A Price was a bit further down the corridor and I found project leader Jill Logawood and students beginning to put together her giant sculpture which will be displayed as the project exhibition.


In the LRC, the Kidz for Kidz book project used local junior school students for their focus group, before beginning to plan out their ideas for the books they are going to create. Students were working hard on this and they had some excellent ideas- I can’t wait to see the end products on Friday!


Then it was a quick dash back to the Performing Arts block to my base, where the Set, Props and Costumes project were working hard on their presentations and backdrops for the scenery, while the costume group searched through the archives to see what we had and what would need to be created, found or purchased.


The only projects I didn’t manage to see today were Travel Tracks and Mood Music so I will endeavour to see these tomorrow.

I thoroughly loved seeing the students in totally different contexts today and the enthusiasm and the massive variety and content of each project has really made me a very proud teacher indeed. Not many schools have staff as strong, resilient and creative as ours and walking round the school today, albeit a very quick tour as I wanted to get back to my own project, made me feel as a school, we have created something very special indeed.

I will do a joint day 3 and 4 blog on Thursday as I am at a Teachmeet tomorrow evening.

R.E.A.L Projects- Day 1

Today I had some (small) sort of idea what it felt like being the Head. I had to turn up at school and let staff deliver what they had planned, how they had planned it. It felt very exciting. There was a real buzz around the corridors. Students and staff were excited

As my project- “Durham Cathedral through your own eyes” was out of school on a fact-finding mission today, I didn’t get to see all of the exciting work happening in school. I hope to get round the projects in school tomorrow to see some of the amazing projects planned by staff collaboratively, in action and post a more detailed diary of events tomorrow.

Just some of the work that staff have sent me from today are:

TRASHION: Today students have been very busy sourcing suitable recycled materials for their theme, creating inspirational mood boards and using all of this information to influence their initial design ideas. Lots of creativity, inventive ideas and hard work today.

rashion 3 Trashion 1 Trashion 12.

Set, Props and Costumes: Today students visited the Theatre Royal in Newcastle to have a set and situation workshop, as well as look at set, prop and costume use in different contexts.

Presenting ideas

Presenting ideas

Orienteering in the Local Community: Today was spent investigating possible location for control points for the course that will be created. Tomorrow the group visit Hamsterley Forest to learn and develop orienteering skills.

Orienteering 1 Orienteering 2 Orienteering 3 Orienteering 4

Does Fashion Have a Price: Spent today at Northumbria University in the fashion department meeting the Head of Fashion and viewing some student project collections, as well as visiting Café Royal for afternoon tea.


When In Rome…visited Vindolanda on a fact finding mission to complete research for their projects. This is somewhere I have always wanted to visit and seeing these photos have made me want to visit more. Definitely one for the holiday list!


Community: Today students visited Beamish Museum to find out about the impact the coal industry had in our area, as well as visiting the mine within the museum.


Until tomorrow’s update….

#NRocks2015- My Takeaways.

I started this post 2 weeks ago but became snowed under and didn’t finish it so have started again.

I want to be concise but also comprehensive about my takeaways from Northern Rocks 2015.

I was lucky enough to attend the inaugural event in 2014 and in all honesty, as I booked my 2015 ticket I really thought to myself “Will it be good enough?” as I completely loved the 2014 event. I needn’t have worried- I loved the 2015 event more and Debra Kidd and Emma Hardy should be proud of what they have achieved in such a short space of time- well done ladies!

My biggest takeaway from the event is that I’m so lucky to work at Belmont Community School. From the moment the panel debate started to the moment we got on the train back to Durham, I found strong content and examples of work that links directly to our school’s vision and I felt proud. Lucky. It reinforced that what we do, are doing and are working towards is worthy, true and more importantly, best for our students in the currently ever-changing face of education.

My highlight of the day, and possibly my year so far was the “Learning Without Limits” session I attended held by Dame Alison Peacock. The whole session had my hair on the back of my neck standing up. You know when you have been to a concert and you have one of those “moments”, well this was like that for me.

Listening to the beautiful “culture of trust” created at The Wroxham School, enabling the best environments possible for staff and students together, eradicating labels of “high/ low ability”, using challenges that are right for the students themselves, listening to the students themselves articulating their learning in student led conferences (learning review meetings at Wroxham) and being genuinely excited by their learning made me feel almost elated. The words “assessment” or “level” were not mentioned once by the children, but all were able to explain their learning in a very detailed and enthusiastic way.

Two days earlier we had our very first round of “student led conferences” with parents, following our curriculum re-design last year and although the conferences were successful and parental feedback was very complimentary, I couldn’t help feeling there was something missing. When I was sitting in this session, it was a lightbulb. It was just not there yet. The children on the screen had grown as part of this culture in Wroxham School, we were developing it. It takes me back to the first sentence I wrote- culture. It takes time to grow a culture within a school and that’s what we need. We are on our way in the journey but it will take time.

Other sessions I attended- click on the links for videos of the sessions.

Martin Illingworth-

  • Takeaway- How many “facts” can you remember from school? What do we need to teach our students to allow them to survive in 15 years time?

David Cameron- Lessons from A Small Island

  • Takeway- Contexts to change are vital. Adapt change rather than adopt. Education is moving children from who they are, to who they might become.

David Weston- Developing Great Teaching

  • Takeaway- I am lucky to work at Belmont.

My next steps:

  • Holiday reading- Learning Without Limits.
  • Investigate The Wroxham School further- I love the culture they have created and am keen to find out more about this.
  • Review the progress in my department this year and what still needs to be done- as part of the wider school context- where are we and what do we still need to do to get there.
  • Review my own personal progress this year- update my CPD file.

RAG Marking- Update

This is my presentation from recent Teachmeets at Sunderland University, Heworth Grange and also Talk on the Tyne at Jury’s Gateshead.

I decided to present RAG Marking as it’s had a big impact on my workload (ie cutting my marking time) but hasn’t compromised on the quality of feedback given.


Feedback is important but only if it supports improvement in performance or is used as a basis for improvement. It needs to move learners on.


I use RAG in several different ways to give feedback.


I used colour coding in all KS’s and in several different ways. I kept and tweaked the ideas that worked and discarded the ideas that didn’t work so well. Tweaking is key; some ideas work well, some work in different environments and some did not have the desired impact, these were discarded.


I stuck with ideas that had a good impact and that worked well. Using coloured dots during listening tasks allowed me to give instant feedback during tasks without interrupting the flow of the lesson. This then gave discussion points for a more convenient point in the lesson. Boxes allow more space for writing and were ideal when students needed to assess their knowledge in different areas. This then meant I could use “green people” as experts to check and clarify knowledge and support each other. It also gave me a good indication of what the most urgent issues need to be addressed in class, so I could plan accordingly. Gold stars are great for identifying excellent work to use as examples for others.


After further investigation on Twitter, I found Kev Lister (@ListerKev) on Twitter who had formalised his use of colour coding into #rag123. I read his blog then very cheekily asked if he would send me his marking guide and what a superstar- he did. I tweaked (vital for your own classroom) and used initially to test out the success.



My classes took to this very quickly and more importantly it didn’t dilute the quality of feedback given as it was specific. Responses were also good as it made the students think about WHAT they had to do to improve and why, without being actually told by me what EXACTLY it was- more work for them than me. Despite it working well, I had some more tweaks to make and also implemented RAG within my department and also using individual outcomes matched with RAG criteria.


This is evolving all the time and I doubt this will be the final tweak; the tweaks are important as each class, student and subject is different so I will change this as often as I need to. The system works really well though and I know 1) it works 2) it’s quick and 3) the students understand it well so as long as it works in my classroom, I will use it.

Most Prized Possession 

Over the last few weeks I’ve become re-acquainted with one of my longest-held items. Something that I’d lost touch touch with and almost forgotten about. I hadn’t realised quite how much this item has had on my life. 

My Besson Sovereign baritone has been attached to my life since the beginning of my last year at school- 6th Year in Scotland. I remember the day my  parents and my music teacher had a discussion about the need for a new instrument and lying wide awake at night in awe at the prospect of my parents parting with several thousand pounds to help me become a better player and have my own instrument rather than one loaned from school or my local brass band. The investment they made and their belief in my ability and potential made me determined to make them proud, gaining my music degree, PGCE and playing in brass bands at the highest level for the best part of 15 years. 

Fast forward to today, 17th March 2015. I have had 3 years out of full time playing. My family needs me first. At the start of the year I was asked by a colleague if I would help his brass band in a few engagements. I had no reason not to, I was available on the dates but since I hadn’t played for a while I had a lot of work to do. 

Over the past few weeks I have realised how music making is so very important and the journey that my little gold baritone has had with me but also what important lessons it has helped me learn.

Developing relationships

As a musican and as a member of an ensemble, both in school and in the local community, it was a chance to mix with people older and younger and still is. Developing these lasting friendships and relationships are one of the most pleasurable aspects. Some of my lifelong friends are ones I met in local, county and national ensembles and it makes me happy when I see my students doing the same things. The cast of our musical ranges from year 7-11 and they all know each other. They become tight knit, almost like a family. In no other subject or activity will they knit together like this, and develop such friendships, culture and family. 


As more milestones are met as a performer, confidence grows. As confidence grows, performance standards get higher, motivation improves and another milestone is met. The cycle continues. We are developing some very confident, resilient and motivated performers in our PA department in all areas and every day I am filled with pride with some aspect of student work. 

Rehearsal and resilience

A bit of a growth mindset lesson really. I remember as a very young player rehearsing a section over and over and over again in my bedroom, to get it right in the next rehearsal. It was a solo part another player was to play but they had been missing at the previous rehearsal but I didn’t have the confidence to play it on my own. I was determined to play it at the next rehearsal if the player wasn’t there but I had to make sure I was able to do it. My parents were sick of hearing the passage I was rehearsing so diligently- the mantra of “play it until you can’t play it wrong” clanging along in my head each time. As it happened, the player was at every rehearsal since but this didn’t deter me from making sure I was ready, if I had to be. The time just wasn’t right. Constant rehearsals, perform, rehearse means that students become resilient through rehearsal and can self and peer critique constantly. Indeed, my parents can still sing that passage may years later! 

Dealing with nerves

I completely feel for students who become so nervous that their performance is affected. The only way this can be overcome is to perform more. Dealing with anxiety head on. I feel a bit hypocritical writing this as I identified last year that I needed to get better at speaking in public as I always felt very nervous but as a performer, on stage I generally am pretty solid. I had to think why there was such a variation in nerves and performance in what essentially is the same sort of activity. Experience was my diagnosis. I had to take more opportunities to speak publicly. In my students case, I needed to do the same for them and needed to address their confidence levels as well as create more performance opportunities for them. This was addressed in KS3 planning and also re designing KS4 choices. I have watched some nervy performances but have also now got a lovely track of evidence to show these students how much they grow each time they perform and how dealing with nerves is part of the rehearsal process. Effective rehearsals then lead to increased confidence and then that leads to the circle referred to earlier.

Emotional intelligence 

This links with dealing with nerves, part of helping others deal with nerves, part of linking music to emotions and memories, as well as building memories with performances and people. Anyone who knows me knows that I am deeply reflective and become very affected by my own and other people’s emotions. Part of building a culture of family within a group of students and staff means that emotional intelligence is also built and developed. They are a tea and everyone counts. 

Performing in public

I used to dread school concerts as I became very nervous if my parents were in the audience. Nerves appeared in the form of clumsiness; tripping up steps, knocking stands and plants over, bumping into others trying to make a sharp exit. Awkwardness; taking bows and acknowledging applause, taking compliments- I still find this difficult and am still awkward in this situation. Audience situation; concert, competition, sponsor, school. Performing is the essential part of any performing arts subject and I have been very fortunate to have played in some very prestigious venues all over the country. None of this prepared me for the nerves I felt delivering CPD to all staff in a session last year. The same sort of nerves as if my parents were there in the audience. I understand why the students get so nervous performing in class as I feel it too. Peers and family are the hardest audience, concert halls full of strangers are easy. 

I am on stage in this picture taken in the Royal Albert Hall, this performance was enjoyable with minimal nerves. Rehearsing for months for one public performance is exciting; the same excited, enjoyable nerves our students feel performing their showcase, pantomime, exam pieces after months of development. Performing in public adds an extra dimension to the experience of a performer and addresses all the other points I have made above. 

Managing time

Fitting in rehearsals and engagements, schedules, family, work and social commitments is difficult. Until my family grew, I found it fairly easy to fit most things in quite well. I didn’t fit things in very well though, just quite well. I needed to prioritise so I could fit things in VERY well. I had to take a back seat from my band and although I miss performing as often as I did, at the standard I once did, I know I am doing my family justice and also a better job at work because of this. Do less, better. Teach less, better. Working with young performers, we demand a lot of their time for rehearsals, commitment to learning a part, believe in them to be confident on stage, rely on them to guide and lead others and allow themselves to be guided and led by others too. Following schedules, attending regularly and punctually and keeping up with work in school are excellent disciplines to have and also to develop.

On Sunday past, I performed in my first competiton since my maternity leave. Although it was lovely winning (yey!) the rehearsals I attended last week were so enjoyable, the piece we were rehearsing was so lovely to play and gradually by the end of the week I felt my “lip” return to form. Muscle memory, movement memory and flexibility had all returned and whilst absorbed completely in a piece of music during rehearsal, I suddenly found myself thinking about how lucky I was to have had all the opportunities I have had as a performer thanks to my parents. I also felt tinged with sadness that I can’t go back to performing full time yet to the level I once did. At some point the time will be right but the time is not now. Not yet. 

But last week also made me realise that my forgotten gold baritone has helped me develop so many skills that I wouldn’t have been able to otherwise and that’s why it’s probably one of my most prized possessions. It just took a while to realise this.