Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Took my Russian degree, teacher-trained in English but got awards for teaching Music

So, teacher-training only in your specialism! Here's my educational story which proves, I like to think, that a teacher can teach just about anything:

I was 5 when I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was in my second primary school. After a few months in a Luton primary school, where I was made to stand in the bin for taking a marble from off the draining board, we were now in Frampton-on-Seven. The teacher asked us to draw what we wanted to be. I drew a nurse because all my friends did. Then we moved villages and I went to Whitminster School for a few months. The headteacher offered to “tan my hide” for going into his office to retrieve my satchel.

Now I am 7 at Silver Street Silver Primary School in Wythall near Birmingham- my fourth school. I stayed over two years in this one, and was given the Observer’s Book of Pond Life for coming top of the class.  I asked for piano lessons aged 8, and got them. Rather than the expected joy of music, they sucked the life out of me for the next eight years until I begged to be released. 

I was planning on being a female Cliff Richard, but Mrs Kidger at Silver Street told me I was too tuneless to sing in the school concert, and I certainly not being given the expected starring role, so my mother asked if I could mime. And mime I did, in concerts, assemblies, at weddings and folk clubs until I was 28 when I did in fact start writing songs and even singing them (and that was a journey no one should be asked to take). But Mr Parker thought I might be the next George Elliot [whoever "he" was], and I took heart from his approval.

I was 9 when we packed up the book of Pond Life and moved to Leeds, and after that we didn't change town again. After life in the country, Harehills Primary was a shock. I went on to Leeds Girls High. And then, oh no another change, to Allerton Grange Comprehensive. Terrified, I truanted every other day.
Cathy, Charlotte, Sarah , Kaye, Romaine. Stevie, Richenda, x? at LGHS

Still I was good at English and turned my thoughts to being the next George Elliot. A school swot initially, I was expected to grace the cloisters at Oxbridge, but being led astray by a family "friend", and my parents' protracted divorcing turned all my grades upside town, and I ended up, not taking English, but Russian at Liverpool University. I had already  Russian O and A level and there were only a handful of students in any one year.

I never ever got over the shame and disappointment of my underachievement at school. However, I loved, adored Russian literature, so put up with Russian history, politics, and language [and even Old Church Slavonic!] and got a good degree in the end.
me and Romaine being childish at LGHS

When I came, nearly a decade and two children later to teacher-train, I naturally took English as my main subject, and was happy as happy can be. But the English department at Foxwood School was stuffed full of talent, which is why I ended up moving into PSE, and then to Music via the Section 11 Steel Pans. (Music, in which I had once probably reached piano Grade 6 equivalent)
Foxwood at Meanwood Community centre late 80s

I went on to enter more candidates than any other school in Leeds at GCSE; when the school closed I became a steel pan specialist for Leeds Music Service, and also a Special Needs Music specialist. Co-author Diane Paterson and I wrote a book on including children with SEN and were short listed for TES/NASEN award. In steel pans I was awarded the Fellowship of the Royal Society of Arts for devising the Foxwood Songsheets, a system of notation for steel pans and tuned percussion, and  in 2009 I took my city-wide steelband to the Albert Hall as a M4Y award-winner. 
Foxwood  Band in Foxwood School Hall late 80s

At Foxwood, in the early nineties, Peter Brown once asked me, if I had read up on cadences the night before. I told him he should be grateful that I had.
Foxwood on the docks, Leeds centre 1990s

So no, I can't imagine why anyone should have to stick to their degree subject for teacher-training. Of course I could go back in time, ask my parents not to divorce in my teenage years, and to keep an eye on my choice of friends. I could have asked that my dad would stopped changing jobs. But actually it’s a life experience that made me what I am, and I think I became a better teacher for that, and a more understanding music teacher for the steps it took me to get here..

Leeds Silver Steel Sparrows walking on stage at the RAH

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