Category Archives: Contemporary issues

“You’re Such a Child!”

When was the last time you skipped down the street, dressed up as a princess, marveled at the sound of snow crunching beneath your feet, pretended to be a fictional character, had a dance party or made up a silly song? I am not embarrassed to admit that I have done all of the above in the last couple of years (if not many of these in the last couple of days)! When engaging in such activities I have been met with a mix of reactions. On the one hand there are those who find my playful nature somewhat intriguing and “refreshing”. Perhaps those who know me better are the more likely group to laugh and say

 “That’s just Rachel” or jokingly exclaim,

“You’re such a child!”

Of course these are just off-hand remarks but similar examples have really started to make me question when it is that many of us lose a lot of our ‘child-like’ qualities. By this I mean, at what point do we lose the natural ability to wonder, explore, question and play without giving it second thought?

A more important question to consider is perhaps, are these qualities really lost and can we find them again? I would argue that they are not lost, just buried beneath societal and self expectations, fear of standing out and the need to conform as a way of feeling a sense of belonging. We simply need to dig down deep beneath the pile that has formed inside and get back in touch with our inner child.

At no point in life are we handed a rulebook which states that becoming an adult means that all forms of play and fun should be suppressed, or worse banned. It is only natural to have a higher expectation of yourself as you grow up, potentially due to a feeling of greater responsibility or the need to act as someone who has it ‘all together’ as other younger people may look up to you. As children many of us cannot wait to be adults, yet as soon as we enter this significant milestone we have a tendency to look back on the ‘good old days’ and may wish to experience the freedom of childhood once again.

One of my favourite hoodies has “I can’t adult today” printed on the front of it. On one occasion when wearing this hoodie my dad asked me what it was about being an adult that I couldn’t do. At the time I was reluctant to answer this question because it was one of those days when I did not want to think about what it was that I was trying to avoid – I am sure we have all been there! However, I said something along the lines of, “I just want to play and have fun without worrying about all the responsibilities that come with being an adult”. His response to this is something that has really stuck with me. He asked me to consider a third option. Not to see adulthood as hard and stressful but to bring the joys of childhood into the situations that my adult life presents me with. At the time I was not ready to hear this – after all it can sometimes appear easier to just immerse ourselves in the many woes of life – but of course he was right. Why do we feel the need to leave behind the aspects of our lives that we hold so dearly in our memories?

Why, as adults, are we so easily embarrassed to just be a little bit silly? How many people would be comfortable to randomly break out into song and dance, in front of others, without being under the influence of alcohol? How does your answer to this question make you feel? Is there a sense of longing to care that bit less and feel that bit more free? There are of course situations (such as being under the influence) that as a society we see as ‘more acceptable’ for allowing ourselves to get in touch with our playful tendencies. Other examples of when we may deem it ‘more acceptable’ to openly see the world with the wonder of a child are: big celebrations e.g. getting very excited about Christmas and birthdays; when on holiday abroad away from  everyone we know; when it snows and we build snowmen, go sledging, make snow angels and have snowball fights. These examples may bring up other ideas of situations which you personally feel more able to slip into that care free, child-like mindset. But why should we have to limit the amount of time we spend feeling excited, care free and having fun?


From a teaching perspective, it is important to consider how early we are feeding children this idea that when you grow up you do not need to play. Unfortunately, we are still seeing examples of practice which suggest that play is only for children in the Early Years. Why? Is this a message we want to keep passing on to the next generation? How wonderful would it be if we all felt comfortable and able to play, without fear of judgement, throughout the whole of our childhood and adulthood? However, if this is to be the case, teachers, parents and whole communities will need to fully enter into the spirit of what it means to reconnect with our inner child. If we want the children in our schools to play, enquire and explore then we need to show them that this is something that we are committed to and that it is a valued outlook, which will continue to support them as they develop in their adult lives.

Now this is where a skeptical person might say, “Yes, in an ideal world…” but why strive for anything less than what we perceive to be ideal? We may not get it perfect but we will never know what could be if we do not jump on board with the magical question that is, “What if?”

So, I have a theory. Somewhere along the lines we, as adults, have lost the confidence that we had as children to not give two monkeys about what other people think about our funky moves, wacky tutus and wild imagination! It appears that we need to relearn how to be as carefree as a child. And who better to teach us than children themselves? Granted, it may have been a while since you yourself were a child but if you take the time to talk to any pre-school child, I can almost guarantee that you will be amazed by their natural ability to see the world as it is, without over complicating things, to express each emotion as they feel them and to use their imagination to see the world in the most magical way. Take a few minutes to watch this clip and notice how confident the children are at simply being themselves, saying what they think, asking and answering questions and engaging in play scenarios.

I am not suggesting that convincing all adults to reconnect with their child-like selves is an easy task, but it just takes a few people to fly the flag for viewing the world in a more explorative way, to intrigue others to ask those burning questions once deemed ridiculous; dance around and sing a funny song; and marvel once more at the many wonders of life.

So the next time someone comments that I am acting like a ‘child’, I will take it as a compliment. I challenge you to spend a little bit of time each day reengaging with your inner child – I promise it is in there somewhere! Don’t be ashamed to ask the crazy questions, laugh until your stomach hurts, roll down a grassy hill or wonder how many ants it would take to lift an elephant. Tell an exaggerated story, have a pillow fight, make a fort, do some role play. However you choose to reengage, remember to share the joy of your new outlook with others and promote the idea that is ok to care less about what others think, no matter what age you are.

The Power of Music

This is a topic that I have considered writing about for some time now, particularly in the lead up Christmas where music plays a big part in my own life and, I am sure, in the life of many others.

Music is something quite unique to anything else in life. It holds power. The power to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times. However, there is another power at work behind music that is perhaps of a more controversial nature. For recently, although the good tends to outweigh the bad, I have found that music can sometimes have the power to make people feel excluded or ‘lesser’ than others. You may be wondering how it could possibly be the case, that such a simple thing can contain the power to simultaneously unite and reject?

To put this idea into a context, I invite you to imagine a young child called Sam. Sam spent every day singing everywhere; in the shower, in the street, in the middle of a supermarket, you name it! Sam had a song for everything. It was not only the words and melodies of songs that resonated with this child but the feeling of familiarity and freedom that they sensed when singing- an emotional outlet that could not be otherwise replicated. One day, Sam decided to audition for the school choir. Although a little nervous, they sensed a great feeling of anticipation and excitement waiting to be heard by the music teacher. After belting out their favourite tune with the greatest gusto, Sam looked up to see the music teacher with head in hands. The teacher looked up and laughed, not only did they laugh but they told Sam that they would never stand a chance in the ‘music business’ and that singing really ‘wasn’t for them’. Sam was confused. No one had ever been so brutally honest. Was this honesty? Sam froze to the spot but managed to hold in the tears until home time. Sam did not sing again that night, that week, that month or in fact that year. Whenever the thought entered their head all they could think of was those words telling them they could not and were not good enough. Having lost this outlet, Sam found it difficult to express them self and decided to put up barriers to any experience that may involve singing in front of others.

It was not until many years later, when Sam was at a friend’s birthday party that- after a few drinks- they found them self joining in with a session of karaoke. Sam’s friends watched in awe as they had never seen or heard their friend sing and could see the immense joy in their friend’s eyes as they sang each word with a deep sense of conviction. After the performance Sam burst into floods of tears. They had forgotten the powerful feeling of expressing them self through song. The performance was not ‘pitch-perfect’ but it did not matter. The support given and love felt in that moment was a turning point in Sam’s life. Gradually they started to find more opportunities to sing, and although the niggle in the back of their head telling them they were not good enough was smaller, it always remained.

Although this is a completely fictional tale, I am sure there are many of us who know a ‘Sam’ in our lives; whether that be a friend, a family member, a child in your class or maybe you can relate directly to this experience. As someone who has had a very musical upbringing, this is the kind of story which deeply saddens me. However, it is not something I am unable to relate to in any way. I would argue that, in life we naturally look in longing at those we would consider ‘better’ than us, ‘smarter’, ‘more talented’ and wonder why we could not be something more than who we are. I would therefore argue that it is not actually music itself that has the power to make a person feel ‘lesser’ than who they are, but they language we use around music and the expectations we put on ourselves to always be something more than what we are. It is important that we do not lose sight of the word ‘expressive’ in the title ‘Expressive Arts’. Music is not just about playing or singing every note in tune, with perfect rhythm and largest range. It is about expression and the freedom that comes with letting go of the things that we bottle up inside of us. Have you every been moved to tears by a piece of music? What was it that had this effect on you? Was it the performer’s ability to sing each note perfectly in tune or was it the emotion they conveyed their story with?

In this way, Music and Health and Wellbeing work hand-in-hand, but how often are we encouraging children to think about how music makes them feel? The Scottish Government (undated) highlights ‘feelings’ as a core experience in both of these subject areas.

“I have listened to a range of music and can respond by
discussing my thoughts and feelings.” EXA 1-19a / EXA 2-19a

“I am aware of and able to express my feelings and am developing the ability to talk about them.” HWB 0-01a / HWB 1-01a / HWB 2-01a

Therefore, I would urge you to consider the language you use around music ‘ability’. Not just when talking about others’ strengths but when talking about yourself, as a way of modelling this positive language to others. In response to the phrase:

“I can’t sing”

I would suggest a humorous answer, along the lines of:

“You may not be able to sing like Freddie Mercury but that does not mean you can not sing.”

Followed by the explanation that, by definition, to sing is “to produce musical tones by means of the voice” (Merriam-Webster, 2018). Not to be the best musician in the world or to even produce a recognisable tune, simply some ‘musical tones’, which separate singing from every day talking. I would like to encourage that we value music and singing particularly as an expression of the self, a way of letting out what is inside and learning to accept that this is part of who we are and that we are all enough. It is then that we will be able to feel the truly wonderful power that music holds to bring people together, to share stories of joy and sadness, to move people, to make people move, to encourage stillness, silliness and to celebrate good times.

Image available at: (accessed 16.12.18)


Merriam Webster (2018) Definition of sing. Available at: (accessed 16.12.18)

Scottish Government (undated) Curriculum for Excellence: Experiences and Outcomes. Edinburgh: Scottish Government.

“Not long to go, we’ll just get through it”

Image not my own. Available at

It is fair to say that I have not engaged with blogging as an activity for quite some time now, however I personally believe that this is a topical issue worth sharing some insight into. As the title partly implies, this is my last year of teacher training and I am going to be perfectly honest and say that it has not been an easy first couple of months. I like to think of things in a visual way so imagine a juggler. This juggler represents a fourth year student. The juggler starts by throwing one ball up and down in the air- this ball represents the first task the student has been set for the year. Sounds easy enough? Over time the juggler is thrown more and more balls from university, family, friends and other outside commitments, and is expected to keep juggling, no matter how many are thrown their way.  This idea that the juggler will simply manage to keep up-skilling them self by finding new ways of balancing all the balls that life has thrown at them, whilst remaining happy and stress free, is hard to fathom. Did I mention that the juggler had never been taught to juggle more than three balls at once? 

While this all comes across as very negative, and you may be sitting thinking “get a grip”, “that’s just life” or what many of us are told at the moment “you’ll get through this”, this is the reality that many people are facing and do not know how to cope. But what if we didn’t focus so much on just pushing through? Once reaching the end of one stressful period there may be a short time of bliss before the next ball is thrown our way. Do we really want to live life “getting through” every day, more importantly, is this what we want to teach the children in our schools?

Resilience is one of the ‘buzz words’ going around at the moment and I agree that it is vital that we help our children to become more resilient in order to face the challenges that life presents. However, as someone who has grown up in an education system, and largely in a society, that teaches to the next test and puts huge emphasis on academic achievement, it can be hard to recognise resilience within myself at times. If this is true of other teachers and future teachers then how can we possibly teach children to be resilient if we are unsure of what it means to ourselves? Is it maybe time that we support teachers in looking at their own wellbeing and how we can lead healthier and happier lives?

I am very lucky to have been brought up in a loving, supportive family and with a strong faith that has given me a good foundation to build on. This is something I will always be grateful for but with a rise in social media use, particularly among young people (myself included) and a strange trend among students to talk more about the negative aspects of our lives than the aspects we are thankful for, it can be hard to come back to those roots.

This is where it comes down to the individual.

The book  “What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing” (Ferguson, 2008) is what has inspired me to write this post. In her writing Ferguson identifies some of the major pressures that teachers are put under but also highlights that we are our own agents of change. We have the power to choose how we feel and how we respond to what life has to throw our way. We can sit and feel sorry for ourselves, blaming others for how unjust life can be (a pattern I have shamefully adopted for too long now) or we can bite the bullet and spend more time nourishing ourselves and looking after our wellbeing. The poster below is something I have created, with words taken directly from Ferguson’s book, as an important daily reminder to myself.

It reads:

  1. What am I going to do today that makes the best use of my time and energy?
  2. How much energy am I prepared to invest in each situation and how does that nourish or deplete my wellbeing?
  3. What boundaries will I put around me to protect myself from situations that may detract from my wellbeing?
  4. What am I going to do today that nourishes me as a person? (Ferguson, 2008, p93)

“Appreciate the force of your personal power and feel the strength in choosing your attitude” (Ferguson, 2008, p93)

Ferguson (2008) also makes a valid point that when we are physically injured or sick, we stop and take time to let ourselves heal but this is rarely the case in terms of when we are not well mentally. I think it is crucial that we are supporting and encouraging not only teachers but our friends, families and colleagues, across society, to put their wellbeing first. If we are not able to look after ourselves, how are we supposed to teach others to do just that?

Let’s revisit the juggler. Imagine they decided to put every ball in a box and take out one at a time, reflecting on how much this ball nourished or depleted their wellbeing, continuing to only juggle those which enhanced their sense of wellbeing. They would still be juggling the remaining balls but perhaps with a smile on their face.



Ferguson, D. (2008) What Teachers Need to Know About Personal Wellbeing. Camberwell: Australian Council for Educational Research.

Calling out for peace

The terrible news of the terrorist attack in Paris on Friday 13th November will not be new to many people. It is a story that has really struck a chord with me and makes me question; what kind of world are we living in? When innocent lives are being taken, and for what?

One of the biggest outcries on social media over the last couple of days has been the need to highlight more of these tragedies that different countries, around the world, are facing everyday. Just today there was another attack, this time in Kenya. (See article below)

How are we now meant to move on as a society? What can we do to make a difference? And, most importantly, how can we as teachers address such serious issues in the classroom? It can be difficult to know where to start and whether or not children are ready to hear about some of the horror stories we are subject to every single day.

I think it is really important that, from an early age, children understand that violence is not the answer to solving problems. It always amazes me that people think that the way to achieve peace is through war. If people had the ability to see past hatred and violence and focused on loving one another then the world would be a much safer and happier place. This is a message that is important to share with children as we want future generations to live in peace. Psychologist, Marshall Rosenberg, has a very interesting take on the topic of ‘Compassionate Communication’ which I encourage you to read:

Another issue that has been raised after the recent terrorist attacks is the increase in Islamicphobia. I find it absolutely ridiculous that people are blaming all Muslims for the actions of a minority group who practise the same religion. This is why it is vital to teach religious education in schools, to help children understand that there are always going to be stigmas attached to certain religions but that doesn’t make all those who practise that religion bad people.

One way of helping children to understand such big issues is through music. There are so many beautiful and meaningful songs that really get the simple message across that it is important to strive for peace. Some examples of simple songs that can be used in the primary school are in the links below.

Overall, I think it is important that we inform children of world issues when they are at a stage of development when they are not going to just feel scared about these stories but will actually be able to communicate how they feel about the issues. It is important that we don’t cause them to live in fear but encourage each individual to make a difference. Something as simple as a session on reflective writing, poetry or through song could be a really effective lesson to cover some of the harder topics that are important to address.

What is school really about?

Whilst reading through some articles on ‘The Guardian’ website I found something that I thought would be useful to share with you. This article states that ‘Schools Minister Nick Gibb’s lack of flexibility over term-time holidays is not in the interest of children’.

The article focuses on the topic of school holidays and whether or not parents should be allowed let their children be absent from school during term time. Something that really struck me was that Gibb had said,

“Children must turn up to school whatever the circumstances – maybe a day for a funeral here and there might be permissible, thanks, but no moping about grieving.”

The term ‘moping about‘ really angered me because it makes it sound like the loss of a loved one is something people should just get over immediately, when in fact these periods can be the most difficult time in any adult’s life never mind a child’s. Also that it ‘might‘ be permissible to be absent due to a funeral. I believe that if someone wants to say goodbye to someone dear to them by attending a funeral then nothing is more important.

This really made me question the purpose of the education system as it currently stands. The author of this article argues that school, including primary, ‘is no longer a way of rounding out a whole personality: it’s just a way of feeding the economic machine.’ Is it more important that a child is present in the classroom every single day or that they are given space to grow as a person in the best possible environment?

In my opinion it is vital that the whole child is taken into consideration. I’m not suggesting that children only go into school every second week but there are plenty of opportunities for learning outside of the classroom. If a child is really ill and can’t focus properly, is it really worth them coming into school and sharing the germs with the rest of the class and the teacher? I am a strong believer of the fact that everyone is unique and so something that works for one child might not work for another. If a child is really stressed and in need of some moral support then it should be the parent’s decision whether they are fit enough to attend school that day or not.

It is important to realise the potential of each child and that they are more likely to grow and develop as confident young people if they are not under the pressure of society.

A last point which really resonated with me was at the end of the article where the author has written,

“I don’t want my children to be food. I want them to be fed”.

I would love to hear your opinions on this discussion topic.

Gender TDT- How did your gender affect you when you were a child?

As a child I never felt particularly categorised or stereotyped because of my gender but after our discussions in the lecture this morning, I realised that it played quite a big role in my primary school life. At the time it seemed perfectly normal to be sat ‘boy, girl, boy, girl’ in the classroom or to be partnered with a boy for social dancing. Thinking back on this now it all seems quite ridiculous that so much depended on whether we were a boy or a girl.

I remember a teacher who always used to say,
“Come on boys, the girls are beating you again!”
As a girl I was given the impression that boys were silly and didn’t care about their work because they always distracted us or got into trouble for not concentrating hard enough. I was always the well behaved, hard working child who had to sit between two boys if they were distracting one another. This happened on several occasions and I distinctly remember the teacher apologising to me and saying that it wasn’t because I had been bad but because I was a good influence on the boys. Not once do I remember a boy being sat between two girls for the same reason.

In the playground we used to play ‘boys chase girls’ or ‘girls chase boys’ which shows how the two genders actually teamed up against each other. Similarly, at sports day we had the ‘girl races’ and the ‘boy races’. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.